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SUPER BOWL XXVII : Kelly Joins Elway and Tarkenton at Zero for III

February 01, 1993|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After matching Denver's John Elway and Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton for Super Bowl futility with his third loss as a starting quarterback, Buffalo's Jim Kelly wanted badly to accentuate the positive.

"We've got a lot to be proud of," Kelly said after the Bills' 52-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at the Rose Bowl in Super Bowl XXVII. "We've been in the Super Bowl three times. A lot of teams haven't made it once."

It was a game effort by Kelly, but that also proved futile.

"Any time you lose a Super Bowl, it's like a nightmare," he said, surrendering to his disappointment.

"Why? Why did we deserve to lose the way we did today? Why did it have to happen like this? Jesus!"

Standing with the aid of crutches, Kelly spoke to reporters outside the Buffalo dressing room. Most of the other prominent Bills were ushered to an interview area about 100 yards away, but Kelly could not walk that far without pain.

He left the game with 6:52 remaining in the second quarter on a play in which a blitzing linebacker, Ken Norton Jr., was flipped into the air by running back Kenneth Davis and landed on Kelly's right knee.

"As soon as I was hit, I felt it pop out," he said.

After hobbling to the sideline with help from the Bills' trainers, Kelly was driven to the dressing room on a cart. Dressed in street clothes, he returned to the sideline in the second half to watch the rout.

"It wasn't a beautiful sight," he said. "Emotionally more than physically, it hurt."

Buffalo doctors reported that Kelly had a sprained right knee, the same injury that forced him to the sideline in the final regular season game, a loss to Houston, and that prevented him from playing in the first two playoff games.

He returned in the AFC championship game two weeks ago against Miami and could not have appeared more sturdy, completing 17 of 24 passes for 177 yards in a 29-10 victory over the Dolphins. If the Bills were concerned about the condition of Kelly's knee in practice last week, they did not talk about it.

But even though the injury cut his playing time short, he will remember it as a long day.

In a little more than a quarter and a half, he completed four of seven passes, but he also threw two interceptions and fumbled once. All three mistakes proved costly.

The fumble occurred only 15 seconds after Dallas tied the score, 7-7, with a 47-yard drive that began after a Kelly interception. On first down at the Buffalo 10, Kelly was sacked at the goal line by defensive end Charles Haley and fumbled the ball into the hands of defensive tackle Jimmie Jones, who dived two yards into the end zone for a Cowboy touchdown.

"I just got blindsided," Kelly said. "I never even had a chance to throw the football. Everything went their way."

That became more apparent on the Bills' next possession, a 57-yard drive to the Dallas one. Facing fourth and goal, Buffalo Coach Marv Levy decided against a field goal attempt and called a pass play that he hoped would result in the tying touchdown.

Instead, Kelly, almost buried amid the Dallas rush, threw an interception to safety Thomas Everett in the end zone.

"I saw (tight end) Pete (Metzelaars) and (running back) Carwell (Gardner)," Kelly said. "I just threw the ball up and hoped they could make a play. If I had gotten sacked or thrown the ball out of the end zone, we still would have lost the ball because it was fourth down."

Kelly would not second-guess Levy's call.

"He thought it was the right play," Kelly said. "If it had worked, it would have been the right play."

On Buffalo's next possession, Kelly was knocked out of the game.

"It hurts, it hurts, it hurts deep down," he said, referring to the loss, not the knee.

"I busted my butt. Everyone on the team did. You work so hard all year and lose the way we did today and, all of a sudden, we've got to start from scratch next year.

"But, on one leg, or no legs, I'll be out there. We'll try our best to put this behind us and come back again, just like we did this year. Maybe we'll win it the fourth time. There's no other thing to say."

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