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SUPER BOWL XXVII : Bills Can't Finish What Tasker Starts : Buffalo: He blocks punt that leads to 7-0 lead, but things go downhill from there.

February 01, 1993|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Buffalo locker room was extremely quiet after the Bills' third consecutive Super Bowl loss.

No words were spoken, no fingers pointed. Only silence as the Bills tried to grasp what had happened in their 52-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at the Rose Bowl.

"Basically, no one had anything to say," Buffalo special teams captain Steve Tasker said. "All Coach (Marv) Levy said was that he understood the grief and that he would defer any comments to a later date."

Many of the Bills appeared stunned when they staggered out to meet the media. Like zombies, they awaited questions they had heard before.

However, their day of disaster did not start out that way. In fact, the Bills could not have scripted a better beginning than they had Sunday.

The Buffalo offense was unable to sustain a drive on its first possession, but the Bills' defense stopped Dallas on three plays and forced a punt.

With the ball at their 16-yard line, the Cowboys went into punt formation.

That set the stage for Tasker, who earned his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl this season for his special teams play.

As Buffalo overloaded the right side of the Cowboys' front line, Tasker lined up to the left of center Dale Hellestrae. On the snap, Tasker sneaked inside a block by linebacker Robert Jones and broke free to deflect Mike Saxon's punt.

That gave the ball to Buffalo at the Cowboys' 16-yard line. Five plays later, Buffalo had the first lead of the game on a two-yard touchdown run by Thurman Thomas.

"Our special teams coach felt that we had a chance to block a punt before the game and it worked," Levy said. "Tasker just did what he does best."

It is not rare for a team to feel it has a chance to block an opponent's punt going into a game. But the Cowboys had not had a punt blocked in more than three years. The last time Saxon had one blocked was against the New York Giants on Dec. 16, 1989.

So, unlike last year's Super Bowl loss to Washington, Buffalo had gotten off to a fast start. The Bills led, 7-0.

"Yes, I was surprised to see them block one of our punts," said Dallas offensive coordinator Norv Turner. "It had been awhile since we had one blocked."

But after forcing Dallas to punt again on its next possession, the Bills' charity drive began. It took quarterback Jim Kelly only four plays to get the Bills' turnover-thon started as he was intercepted by James Washington at the Dallas 47.

The Cowboys needed six plays to score, on a 23-yard touchdown pass play from Troy Aikman to tight end Jay Novacek.

"Once we fell behind, we didn't panic," Novacek said. "We knew that there were a lot more plays left to be played."

By not pushing the panic button or turning the ball over themselves, the Cowboys stayed in the game and two plays after tying the score, they took the lead on a sack by Charles Haley and a fumble recovery by Jimmie Jones for a touchdown.

From there, it was all downhill for the Bills as they finished with a Super Bowl record nine turnovers and gave up 52 points.

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