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Unsportsmanlike conduct avoided

The weather was gorgeous. The game was entertaining. The Bills led all the way. And, of course, they won.

Perfect ingredients for the Ralph Wilson Stadium fans to be on their best behavior during Sunday's home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- except for one element: a 4:05 p.m. start that lengthened the pregame drinking by three hours and left tailgaters leaving the parking lots in the dark.

Law enforcement officials had a long day, but by all accounts, the crowd was pretty well behaved.

"I would say it was relatively routine," Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz said. "I think it was steadily busy for us the whole time but nothing out of the ordinary."

Orchard Park police and deputized security officers logged a total of 26 arrests Sunday, similar to last year's opening-day total of 28.

A check of last year's records shows an average of between 30 and 35 arrests per game, with a low of 16 for one game and a high of 50 for the Monday night game against the Cleveland Browns in November.

Law enforcement officials noticed the same thing that fans saw Sunday, an apparent shortage of fan disturbances and fights in the crowd.

Traffic woes appeared to be a mixed bag. Many drivers noted the relatively short time it took to get to the game, due largely to the pregame traffic being stretched over more hours for the late-afternoon start.

The usual long lines of traffic appeared after the game, but drivers seemed well aware of two major glitches that had been well publicized beforehand: the closings of parts of Big Tree Road in the Town of Hamburg and the northbound Niagara Thruway in Buffalo.

One trouble spot after the game appeared to be the Peace Bridge, where some fans grumbled that some of the Canada-bound lanes were not open. Canadian Customs officials could not be reached to comment on reports that a significant number of employees called in sick Sunday.

State police conducted a sobriety road check on Transit Road in Elma, from roughly 7 to 10 p.m. The idea is to check for drunken drivers a significant distance from the stadium.

The checkpoint, along with roving patrols nearby, yielded five arrests. Arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated were Kristen E. King, 30, of Kenmore; Brandon J. Glowacki, 31, of Depew; Frank W. Napierala, 40, of Bennington; Sean R. Gallagher, 44, of Pittsford; and Jason J. Lehmann, 25, of Fairport, according to state police.

State police Lt. Kevin M. Barnas noted the Monroe County hometowns of Gallagher and Lehmann. "That's a long drive, from Orchard Park to Rochester," he said. "If you're allegedly in an intoxicated condition, the chances of being involved in a crash increase even more."

Barnas said the eight to 10 troopers at the checkpoint talked with the drivers of between 700 and 800 vehicles.

The checkpoint showed that at least part of law enforcement's message may be getting across. More than a handful of drivers had the same reply when asked whether they had been drinking at or after the game: "No, I'm the designated driver," they replied.

"That's an encouraging sign," Barnas said.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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