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So what do the Buffalo Bills do?

Go conservative, and trust Frank Reich only to move the ball from center to the gut of Thurman Thomas?

Stick with the wide-open, pass-happy approach that has played a major role in their climb to the top of the American Football Conference?

The answer won't be known for certain until Sunday's showdown against the Miami Dolphins.

But as of Monday, the Bills' decision-makers were insisting there would be no drastic changes in their strategy because starting quarterback Jim Kelly is sidelined with a knee injury. They stressed that Reich was perfectly capable of running the no-huddle attack and everything else that was available to Kelly before he was knocked out of action in Saturday's game against the New York Giants.

"Frank doesn't have any limitations," offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda said.

"I think the game plan will be pretty much the same (as it would be for Kelly)," Reich said. "I hope it is, because I feel comfortable with everything that's in our offense."

What separates Kelly and Reich -- besides more than $2 million per year in their average salaries?

When it comes to deep passes, there isn't an overwhelming difference in distance.

"Frank's arm is maybe 2 yards shorter than Jim's," wide receiver James Lofton said. "And (third-stringer) Gale Gilbert outdistances all of them. But Frank can put the ball out there deep."

"Frank has a strong arm," Marchibroda said. "I think the only question is that maybe he's just not quite as accurate as Jim (on the long pass). But we won't have to hold back a pattern because he can't throw it."

That includes the 20-yard out, considered the most difficult pattern for a quarterback because it requires a great deal of strength and accuracy.

Both quarterbacks are almost equal when it comes to having the proper touch on short- and medium-range passes.

Kelly, who had been the NFL's top-rated quarterback, is the league's no-huddle master. But Reich has demonstrated efficiency with it as well.

One will recall that in his debut last year as an NFL starter, Reich twice used the hurry-up in the final 2:23 to engineer touchdown drives of 86 and 64 yards in leading the Bills to a 23-20 Monday night victory over the Los Angeles Rams. And he worked without any timeouts.

In fact, Reich might even be less prone to making a poor throw under those conditions because he will seek higher-percentage plays than Kelly. Following a progression of reads from one receiver to the next, he'll locate the best pattern to beat the coverage, rather than trying to do it all with his arm, which is a Kelly trait.

"Throwing a high-percentage pass isn't necessarily throwing a short pass. It's throwing to where you should be against that particular defense," explained Reich, who has completed 14 of 28 passes this year for 147 yards with no interceptions.

"Sometimes, that may be downfield, like the one I threw last Saturday to Don Beebe (for 43 yards). Normally, he's the fourth receiver on that play."

"The important thing with Frank is that he plays within himself," Marchibroda said. "And that's hard for people to do."

It's also hard for a quarterback to step into regular duty after taking an average of about five percent of the snaps in practice (except for last week, when Reich took none).

That's where "visualization," a practice technique Reich has used since his days at the University of Maryland, comes in.

"Jim's in there actually dropping back, and I'm behind him thinking, 'What would I do? Who would I throw to?"' Reich said. "So even though I'm not throwing the ball, mentally, I'm still getting the same reads I would be had I been in there doing it."

Lofton offered one amusing comparison between Reich and Kelly.

"If you put them both in a foot race, you might fall asleep waiting for a winner," he said. "But they're both good quarterbacks. Frank is very intelligent and he does not get ruffled out there. We wait for him to get excited and pumped up, but it never happens.

"He's Mr. Calm out there."
The Bills have no plans to acquire another quarterback so they'll have three healthy bodies at the position Sunday, according to coach Marv Levy.

They'll go with Frank Reich as the starter, Gale Gilbert as the backup. If both are injured against the Dolphins, running back Don Smith, an option quarterback in college, would be pressed into duty.

Kelly was named the Bills' top offensive player of 1990 by the Monday Quarterback Club.

The organization selected Bruce Smith as the team's top defensive player, while giving its special teams and rookie-of-the-year honors to Steve Tasker and J.D. Williams, respectively.

Offensive guard Jim Ritcher (sore back) was added to the Bills' injury list, which already included Kelly, Wolford (knee) and linebacker Ray Bentley (torn pectoral muscle).

All but Kelly are expected to play Sunday.

Pro Bowl ballots were distributed Monday to players and coaches throughout the NFL. The league is expected to inform teams Wednesday of which players have been selected to participate in the Feb. 3 all-star game at Honolulu.

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