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Bills Win Their Sixth Straight

After 0-4 Start, Buffalo Is Making a Run at the Playoffs

Monday, December 27, 2004; Page D11


49ERS 7

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 26 -- Willis McGahee's knee felt pretty good after all -- and after flattening the pathetic 49ers, the Buffalo Bills were feeling great about their playoff chances.

Willis McGahee, left, celebrates one of his two touchdowns with Bills teammate Ryan Neufeld. (Lou Dematteis -- Reuters)

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McGahee rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on an injured knee, Lee Evans caught two scoring passes and the Bills easily earned their sixth straight victory, 41-7 over San Francisco on Sunday.

Drew Bledsoe went 21 of 32 for 172 yards and a touchdown for the Bills (9-6), whose longest winning streak since 1990 has them alive in their quest to become just the second team in NFL history to make the playoffs after starting 0-4. Buffalo also clinched its first winning record since 1999.

From linebacker Takeo Spikes's menacing tackles to Evans's impressive catches, the Bills haven't looked much better this season. They jumped to a 17-0 halftime lead, holding San Francisco to 83 yards -- and then they poured it on, forcing four turnovers and scoring almost at will.

McGahee made two short touchdown runs, while Evans caught eight passes for 92 yards, scoring on throws from Bledsoe and backup Shane Matthews. Reserves played much of the second half in Buffalo's biggest victory since a 38-point win over Indianapolis in 1992.

Buffalo threw the ball more than normal in the first half, perhaps attempting to save McGahee's strength. Bledsoe mercilessly picked on San Francisco cornerback Jimmy Williams, who was forced to make 10 tackles before halftime while chasing the Bills' receivers.

The Bills also were able to rest McGahee and Bledsoe in anticipation of next week's big game against Pittsburgh. Matthews played most of the second half, and Shaud Williams rushed for a score while spelling McGahee, who was questionable for the game after missing practice earlier in the week.

Kevan Barlow rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown with 6 minutes 19 seconds to play for the 49ers (2-13), who stayed on track for the first pick in the upcoming draft by reaching the lowest point yet in a horrendous season for this once-proud franchise.

Though the crowd at the home finale appeared to be the 49ers' smallest of the season, the halftime boos were the loudest. It was the Niners' second 34-point loss of the season, following their shutout defeat at Seattle on Sept. 26.

San Francisco could match the worst record in team history with a loss at New England next Sunday.

The 49ers played without defensive starters Andre Carter, Jamie Winborn and Anthony Adams, who all were lost for the season during the week. Adams, a defensive tackle, was ruled out after doctors discovered a stress fracture in his kneecap on Friday.

Quarterback Cody Pickett got his first NFL snaps after Ken Dorsey was sidelined with a bruised finger, but Pickett threw two interceptions and looked lost.

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