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MONDAY BILLBOARD

Big Picture: Talk about living on the edge. The Bills, given life when New England's Adam Vinatieri missed two potential game-winning field goals, finally prevailed in overtime, 13-10, to move a step closer to a berth in the playoffs. The Bills can clinch a playoff spot if Miami loses tonight against the Jets.

Play of the Game: With two seconds left in regulation, Vinatieri pushed his 33-yard field goal attempt well wide to the right, keeping the Bills alive and sending the game to OT.

Player of the Game: Doug Flutie. He made more big plays than anyone on a cold, windy day. Most of them came in the fourth quarter and overtime, when he completed his last 12 passes and moved Buffalo into position for the game-winning field goal.

Game Balls: Bruce Smith, Sam Rogers, Thurman Thomas and Antoine Winfield. Smith recorded his second two-sack game of the season. Sam Rogers also had two sacks. Thomas had 33 of his 84 rushing yards in overtime after Jonathan Linton had struggled badly in regulation. Winfield was solid at left corner in his first career start in place of the injured Ken Irvin.

Unsung Hero: Thomas. Thurman made a strong case for himself as the feature back by gaining 84 yards on 15 carries in a performance reminiscent of the early '90s. It was the most yardage he's gained in a game since Nov. 30, 1997, when he had 104 against the Jets.

Quotable: Ruben Brown on Thomas -- "He's special. You all know it. I'll be there when he's inducted into the Hall of Fame saying he's special."

Zebra Report: If the officials have become more cautious about how they throw their flags in the aftermath of the Orlando Brown debacle, you wouldn't have known it Sunday. The zebras continued to throw them at players. On one play, an official threw one right through the legs of Bills offensive tackle Robert Hicks.

Best Sign: An airplane flew overhead pulling a banner that read, "Is that one of Santa's elves or Doug Flutie?" All we can say is he was a jolly old elf when it was over.

Injury Report: Bills center Jerry Ostroski sprained his knee in the third quarter but finished the game. The Pats' Terry Glenn (big surprise) missed the game with the flu.

Sleeveless in New England: Flutie began the game with a long-sleeved jersey, presumably because of the cold. By the second series, he had cut the sleeve off his right arm. By the third series, the left sleeve was gone, too.

It's Still 99: Vinatieri needed five points to become the first full-time kicker in Patriots history to score 100 or more points in four consecutive seasons. But he'll have to wait until the new millennium to reach the century mark. He's still at 99 after missing those two potential game-winning field goals.

Counting the House: The Patriots distributed 60,292 tickets, their 60th straight sellout dating to the start of the '94 season. But 5,298 fans decided it wasn't worth braving the cold to watch a team that was out of the playoff picture.

Coming Attractions: The Bills finish the regular season by hosting the AFC East champion Colts on Sunday, with Indy now in the running for home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

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