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REED, IRVIN LEAVE WITH FIRST-HALF INJURIES

The Buffalo Bills lost two starters in the first half of Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Wide receiver Andre Reed suffered bruised ribs in the first quarter and cornerback Ken Irvin sprained his left foot in the second quarter while defending a receiver near the goal line. Both were taken into the locker room for X-rays and did not return.

Bills coach Wade Phillips said Irvin's sprained foot is severe enough that he could be lost for the season.

"It looks like he's out," Phillips said. "Andre got hit in the ribs and we'll just have to wait and see."

Buffalo played without starting running back Antowain Smith, who was placed on the inactive list before kickoff. Smith didn't practice last week after aggravating his sprained right big toe in last Sunday's 19-17 loss to the New York Giants. Jonathan Linton replaced Smith in the starting lineup.

Right tackle Robert Hicks missed his second straight full game with a high ankle sprain. He might be back for the trip to New England next Sunday.

The Bills offensive line got a game ball, but if one guy deserved to be singled out it was left tackle John Fina for his job against Cardinals defensive end Simeon Rice.

Rice entered the game ranked second in the NFL with 13 1/2 sacks. He was credited with a sack when Bills quarterback Doug Flutie tripped and fell in the backfield. But for the most part, Rice was a non-factor with three tackles.

Much of the credit goes to Fina, who more than held his own against the Pro Bowler.

"I knew I was going to have my hands full, and I did on every play," Fina said. "He's a tremendous football player."

Rice usually lined up wide to give himself a better angle to get by Fina. But Fina was able to simply push Rice up the field and behind Flutie.

"Well, that's the plan," Fina said. "If that's the way he wants to go, you want to put the pressure on him."

Defensive end Bruce Smith, who didn't practice all week with a sore shoulder, was able to play Sunday night. He was questionable going into the game.

"It's a little sore," he said. "I tried to make a one-handed tackle and I wasn't able to extend as much as I wanted. I'm glad I was able to get in there and play. This was a big game and we needed everyone to contribute."

The Bills defense came in expecting a Flutie-clone in Arizona quarterback Jake Plummer. But what the defense got was something they hadn't seen on film.

"He didn't do any scrambling and running around and making big plays," Smith said. "We did a good job of bottling him up and keeping him in the pocket. But we knew he's a dangerous quarterback, so we had to stay on our toes all night."

This was the seventh meeting between Arizona and Buffalo, but the first since 1990. Sunday's game ended the Bills' longest period between games with an NFL team. Next in line is Tampa Bay, which the Bills last met in 1991.

Reed, Smith and Thurman Thomas are the only players on either side who played in the last Bills-Cardinals game. Buffalo leads the series, 4-3. The Bills haven't played the Cardinals on the road since since Sept. 9, 1984 when the franchise was in St. Louis.

Playing in Arizona holds some special memories for Bills wide receiver/return specialist Kevin Williams. As a member of the Cardinals in 1997, Williams set club records for kickoff returns (59) and yards (1,458) in a season and kickoff return yards in a game (207). He also set a team mark with 1,920 combined kickoff and punt return yards that season.

The crowd of 64,337 included several hundred Bills fans, many of whom live in the area. . . . Wide receiver Eric Moulds extended his streak of games with a catch to 30. . . . Flutie has thrown a touchdown pass in 12 straight games. The Bills record is 18 held by Jim Kelly. . . . The Bills are 9-4 on Sunday night, including wins in their last three outings. . . . Besides Antowain Smith, Bills' inactives included offensive guard Joe Panos, linebackers Jay Foreman and Keith Newman, guard Victor Allotey and wide receiver Kamil Loud.

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