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PRO FOOTBALL : Bennett Helps Bills Shut Down Broncos, 21-14

November 09, 1987| From Times Wire Services

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Denver Broncos, the NFL's top offensive team going into Sunday's game against Buffalo, were limited to 215 total yards and ended up losing to the Bills, 21-14.

The Broncos were averaging 387 yards per game.

One of the defensive stars for the Bills was recently acquired rookie linebacker Cornelius Bennett. Bennett, playing outside linebacker on obvious passing situations, sacked Denver quarterback John Elway once, made two other tackles and assisted on another.

"We did not have any films to study (of Bennett)," Bronco Coach Dan Reeves said. "We knew he would be a force to reckon with. He wasn't drafted that high (second overall) for no reason."

Buffalo Coach Marv Levy said: "I thought he did some good things. He put some pressure on. I think he's a heck of an addition."

Said Bennett: "It was super. I knew I had to use my speed to pressure the quarterback. I think I did a decent job. Elway told me, 'Welcome to the NFL,' and that was about all he said."

Buffalo, who gained only 21 total net yards against Washington the previous Sunday, gained 258 yards rushing and 428 total in running 82 plays compared to 55 for Denver. The Bills ran 58 times.

"The key to the game was their ability to run the ball," Reeves said. The Broncos, meanwhile, gained only 76 yards rushing.

Buffalo led, 21-0, early in the second half as Jim Kelly threw a touchdown pass and the Bills turned two blocked punts into safeties. Buffalo (4-4) then held off Denver (4-3-1) after the Bronco offense finally came to life.

The Broncos cut the lead to 21-7 on Sammy Winder's six-yard touchdown run with 5:33 left in the third quarter, then narrowed it to 21-14 when Elway hooked up with Vance Johnson on a 15-yard touchdown pass play with 5:50 left in the game.

Buffalo return man Steve Tasker fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Denver's Marc Munford recovered at the Buffalo 21. Two plays later, however, Winder fumbled and the ball was recovered by Buffalo defensive back Nate Odomes.

A steady 25 m.p.h. wind off Lake Erie played a large role in the game, forcing both teams to concentrate on the run, at least in the first half. And the Bills did a better job.

"I want to give credit to our offensive line for the running game," Kelly said. "They did one hell of a job. After the pounding we took last week, we handed it out this week."

Buffalo running back Robb Riddick, who rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, also made a big play while playing on the punt-return special team, blocking a Mike Horan punt at the Denver 10. Ricky Porter, who almost recovered the block in the end zone, was credited with the safety when the ball went past the end line.

Riddick, the AFC's scoring leader with 42 points going into the game, closed out a 75-yard drive late in the first half with a one-yard touchdown run that gave Buffalo a 16-0 lead.

Denver's problems weren't over. After failing to move the ball on three downs, Horan again went back to punt on the last play of the half. This one was blocked out of the end zone by Steve Tasker.

Buffalo increased the lead to 21-0 on their first possession of the second half, with Scott Norwood kicking a 30-yard field goal.

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