In record cold, the Buffalo Bills didn't need a record comeback. Just a couple of mini ones.
Ignoring sub-zero temperatures and a wind-chill that reached minus-26, the Bills rode the hot passing of Jim Kelly and two touchdown catches by Bill Brooks to a 29-23 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders Saturday.Buffalo is 7-0 at Rich Stadium in playoff games and is one victory from a record fourth consecutive Super Bowl appearance - and a shot at improving a more infamous number: 0-3 in the NFL title game.
"We can't jump for joy right now," Kelly said. "We have one game next week and one after that, hopefully."
Buffalo will entertain either Houston or Kansas City next Sunday in the AFC championship game.
In the coldest game in Bills history, the warm-weather Raiders looked comfortable enough in building a 17-6 lead with 1:57 left in the first half. Napoleon McCallum, who scored three times in last week's playoff victory over Denver, had a pair of 1-yard scores.
Then the resilient Bills, who rallied last year against Houston from a 35-3 deficit for a 41-38 overtime victory, turned it around.
"We don't care about that Houston situation," running back Ken Davis said. "I don't think you can really look at that. I think you have to look at the idea that everybody wrote us off, but we're 13-4 and people never thought we'd be that way."
Buffalo got considerable help from the charitable Raiders, who were damaged throughout by penalties. A 37-yard interference penalty on Torin Dorn against Andre Reed set up Thurman Thomas' 8-yard TD run with 50 seconds left in the half.
"We kept our poise," Kelly said. "We've been through this before and knew we had to keep our poise."
Brooks gave Buffalo, the AFC East champion, the lead 19-17 with his first postseason TD, a 25-yard pass from Kelly. The extra point was blocked.
The Bills, who led the NFL in forcing turnovers, then recovered McCallum's fumble at the Raiders' 30. Steve Christie made a 29-yard field goal for a 22-17 lead.
Back came the resourceful Raiders. Tim Brown caught a short pass over the middle behind Mickey Washington and raced untouched for an 86-yard TD, the longest in team playoff history. Jeff Jaeger's extra point hit the upright, leaving the score 23-22. The play provided the Raiders' only second-half first down.
"I feel we did have a better team," Dorn said. "But the scoreboard said that we didn't have a better team today."
So Kelly, having one of his best games, guided Buffalo on a 71-yard drive, helped by one of four offsides calls against Howie Long that negated big losss. Brooks beat double coverage to catch Kelly's floater for a 22-yard score and a 29-23 lead.
"Jim put it right on the money," said Brooks, whose only previous playoff experience came in a loss with Indianapolis in 1987. He was signed as a free agent last year. "I wanted to make sure I looked it in; the play before, I dropped the ball."
He and Kelly were too tough for the Raiders.
Kelly finished 27-for-37 for 287 yards and two scores. He led the Bills on a clock-killing march that lasted the final 5:42 to ice it.
"We felt going in that if we were going to win, we'll win with the pass," Kelly said. "The key was the guys on the offensive line did an outstanding job so that we could pass."
In the first half, Jeff Hostetler hit his first five passes, but the Raiders didn't score until after his first incompletion. They got a 30-yard field goal from Jaeger at the end of a 58-yard, 11-play drive 1:13 into the second period for a 3-0 lead.