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BENNETT’S MISSION IS TO CONTAIN ELWAY

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Slap a fedora on Cornelius Bennett. Put him in a trench coat, give him a code name, hook up a phone to his shoe. On Monday night, the Buffalo Bills linebacker is playing spy.

His mission, and he eagerly accepts it: contain Denver quarterback John Elway, No. 7, licensed to scramble."If need be, we'll spot me. And may the best man win," Bennett said. "I've had some pretty good success doing that."

Yes he has. And so have the Bills, who have managed to control Elway the way few teams have.

In five games against Buffalo since 1984, Elway has completed just over 50 percent of his passes for an average of 172 yards. He has never topped 300 - his best was a 221-yard effort in the 1990 regular season.

The last time he came to Rich Stadium was 1991 in the AFC Championship game. He went 11 for 21 for 121 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception.

The Bills won 10-7. Overall, Elway is 2-3 against Buffalo.

This year has been an off-year of sorts for Elway. After throwing for 690 yards and four touchdowns in his first two weeks, Elway was 14 of 33 for 151 yards and no TDs.

In all three games, he has had an interception returned for a touchdown. Most importantly, the Broncos are 0-3.

Twice, he kept the Broncos close enough to be in position for one of his patented last-minute comebacks. But, like it says, the Broncos are 0-3.

Might Elway be trying too hard to do it all himself?

"I think it's probably the case," Phillips said. "We're hoping he returns to form."

Form for Elway would be much more like his first two games, when he completed 78 and 69 percent of his passes, instead of his third, when he was good on just 42 percent. The 48-16 loss was Denver's worst since 1968, which also is the last time the Broncos have started 0-3.

The way things have been going for the Broncos, the Bills may not need to shadow Elway.

"It depends on the way the game goes," Bennett said.

And coach Marv Levy was evasive when asked if he would spy on Elway.

"Not until game time," he deadpanned.

"You have to be aware of it," he added. "I don't want to say what we're going to do."

Levy said that putting a shadow on an opposing quarterback doesn't necessarily solve everything. And even if Bennett does go into spy mode, it doesn't mean his teammates can forget about Elway.

Defensive end Bruce Smith, who tied a career high with four sacks against Houston last week, said Elway's scrambling takes away his inside rush. And the rest of the Bills will have to be extra careful about staying in their lanes when they pass rush, Smith said.

"Don't forget that when you spy, you're either taking a lineman out of pass rush or a linebacker out of pass coverage," Levy said. "It's not a matter of getting a 12th guy out there to spy."