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Vikings Better in Long Run

September 01, 1997|From Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Robert Smith had to go back to his high school days in Ohio to find a hole bigger than the one he used to put away the Buffalo Bills.

The gap Smith broke through on a 78-yard touchdown run Sunday was so big even a guy with two bad knees could get through. And it was big enough to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 34-13 victory.

"[The hole] was bigger than any one I saw in college [at Ohio State]," Smith said. "It was amazing. I've never seen anything like that where you just don't have to beat anybody. I was laughing at about the 20-yard line."

The best day of Smith's career overshadowed a new era in Buffalo with quarterback Todd Collins, who became the first player other than Jim Kelly to start a season opener for the Bills in 11 years.

Smith, coming off his second major knee surgery, finished with a career-high 169 yards in 16 carries. His previous high of 133 yards came against Tampa Bay last season--a game in which he tore up his left knee.

The Vikings had a 13-10 lead when Smith, on a broken play, went off left tackle and whizzed past defenders Bryce Paup and Bruce Smith before going untouched into the end zone.

"I've been visualizing this game for a while," Robert Smith said. "I was looking forward to getting back and picking up where I left off last year. I'm right up there with the leaders in the league."

Minnesota linebacker Jeff Brady put Buffalo away when he picked up a fumbled snap and ran 30 yards for a touchdown with 11:03 left.

Collins was solid but not spectacular in completing 25 of 39 passes for 299 yards and a 19-yard touchdown to Jay Riemersma.

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