Smith, who has long been among the game's top pass rushers, entered yesterday's contest with more postseason sacks (12) than anyone else in NFL history.
But the best he could do against Boselli was pressure Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell twice. Otherwise, Smith was not much of a factor, with three solo tackles. His missed tackle of Natrone Means -- a play on which the rest of the Bills' defense seemed to relax for a second -- led to a 30-yard touchdown run by the Jaguars running back.
Boselli had some blocking help from tight end Pete Mitchell, and Smith occasionally lined up inside and rushed Brunell up the middle, where Boselli got additional help. But the Jaguars' 6-foot-7, 323-pound franchise cornerstone also frustrated Smith in numerous one-on-one battles. He even tossed Smith to the ground several times.
"I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Bruce Smith is a great player. Everybody knows that," Boselli said. "I came in with a lot of confidence that I could handle him, and I just thank the Lord for giving me the confidence and the ability to do it."
Said Smith: "He [Boselli] did a pretty good job. I think they had a very good blocking scheme. They were sliding to protect him, and they kept the tight end in sometimes. I give him credit. He's going to be a very good offensive tackle in the years to come, and he played well today."
Bills coach Marv Levy told the media after the game that quarterback Jim Kelly wouldn't be meeting with them after a fourth-quarter hit left him reeling:
"Jim has a concussion. He is in the training room with the doctor and he is not wanting to communicate," Levy said. "He is lying down and resting."
Bills score early, not often
The Bills had trouble all year getting their offense on track early. During the regular season, they scored just three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Yesterday, Buffalo scored twice in the first quarter, courtesy of a 7-yard pass reception and a 2-yard run by veteran Thurman Thomas. After that, Buffalo managed only two field goals on offense.
Jaguars' end run
One of the NFL's unwritten laws states that the team that runs well advances deeper into the postseason. In that light, the Bills' first loss in 10 playoff games at Rich Stadium isn't too surprising.
While the Jaguars thrived on the ground yesterday behind the rejuvenated Means, averaging 5.3 yards on 35 carries, the Bills failed to run the ball effectively, much as they have failed all season. The Bills averaged 3.2 yards on 29 carries, slightly lower than their 3.4-yard regular-season average.
The low point came with 6: 48 left in the first half, when a quarterback sneak by Kelly on fourth-and-one came up inches short at the Jaguars' 16. Six plays later, Means ran 30 yards for the score that put Jacksonville in front 17-14.
Simmons comes up big
Jacksonville defensive end Clyde Simmons was all smiles after the best postseason effort of his 11-year career. Simmons had three tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection.
But the play he'll savor the most came with 6: 26 left in the first quarter, when he picked off an attempted shovel pass from Kelly to Thomas and ran 20 yards for a touchdown.
"I just rumbled, tumbled, bumbled, whatever it took to get to the end zone," Simmons said.
Yesterday's game drew 70,213 fans, about 10,000 short of a sellout. The game was blacked out on local television, which sent hundreds of fans driving across the Canadian border to watch the game at a bar of their choice. With his two touchdowns yesterday, Thomas took over the all-time NFL lead with 20 postseason touchdowns and 120 points. Brunell had thrown 128 straight passes without an interception before he was picked off by Jeff Burris.
San Francisco or Philadelphia at Green Bay, 12: 30 p.m., chs. 45, 5
Jacksonville or Indianapolis at Denver, 4 p.m., chs. 11, 4
Pittsburgh or Jacksonville at New England, 12: 30 p.m., chs. 11, 4
Dallas at Carolina, 4 p.m., chs. 45, 5
12: 30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
6 p.m., New Orleans
Pub Date: 12/29/96