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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Happy days are still here

   December 22, 1996 -- If you've been paying attention during this century, playoff appearances by the Buffalo Bills are worth celebration. Therefore, the celebration was on when the Bills wrapped up a postseason spot here.

   The Bills defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 20-9, in Rich Stadium before 68,571. That meant the Bills would start the postseason at home the following week.

  "It is kind of a new beginning," wide receiver Steve Tasker said to The News' Vic Carucci of the Bills' eighth playoff appearance in the last nine seasons. "Now, we get a chance to wipe the slate clean. We're 10-6, and up until this week, we looked like we were stumbling into the playoffs . . . if we got in."

   This one was all field goals in the first three quarters, as the Chiefs took a 9-6 lead. Then Buffalo responded with touchdown passes from Jim Kelly to Tony Cline and Quinn Early. Kelly was great that day, going 20 for 29 for 279 yards. Not bad for a guy who came down with the flu the night before the game.

   "Jim was hurting pretty bad," said Tasker, who caught four passes for a game-high 87 yards. "I walked down the tunnel with him before the game today, and he looked like the air had been let out of him."

--- Budd Bailey

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