He was a long time leaving the trainer's room. When he finally appeared, Richard Todd looked as if he had participated in a gang fight or guerrilla warfare.

His left arm was in a sling, and he was hobbling on a sore left ankle. There were no more comebacks left for this latest idol of New York City.

"We made a great comeback, we just didn't finish it," Todd said as he reached for his jacket, really not interested in replaying the New York Jets' 31-27 loss to Buffalo in the AFC wild-card game today at Shea Stadium.

"I thought we were going to win it, just like we did against Miami," he said, referring to the Jets' 16-15 victory over the Dolphins, achieved in the closing seconds here five weeks ago.

"We had plenty of chances," Todd continued. "Even after all our mistakes, we could have won it at the end. It came down to the last play."

As Todd crouched under center at the Buffalo 10-yard line with 10 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock, a Jet victory seemed a possibility, even though they had trailed, 24-0, in the second quarter.

"It was a bad read by me," Todd said, trying to explain Bill Simpson's leaping interception at the goal line. "I never saw Simpson until he caught the ball. I was looking for (Derrick) Gaffney and I thought he was open."

Gaffney, playing in place of Lam Jones (who pulled a hamstring in practice last week), had caught four passes for 64 yards and thought he was going to grab the game-winner.

"I was the prime receiver," Gaffney said. "I think I had the pass lined up. I thought it was high enough, but Simpson made a great play. He came out of nowhere. If he doesn't, we win."

That is how close this game was, although the Jets seemed to self-destruct every time they got into touchdown territory in the first three quarters.

After finally scoring on a 30-yard pass from Todd to reserve tight end Mickey Shuler late in the second quarter, the Jets had an opportunity to reduce their deficit to 24-14 at intermission.

Outside linebacker Greg Buttle made a leaping interception and returned it 29 yards to Buffalo's 14. After a one-yard loss, Todd completed a seven-yard pass to Wesley Walker, but his third-down pass was inches too high for Shuler, and the Jets had to settle for a 26-yard field goal.

"It was a two-touchdown difference, so we needed a third score anyway," Coach Walt Michaels said when asked why he decided not to try for a touchdown. "Three yards is tough territory down there under tough weather conditions."

Buttle made his second interception early in the third period, and this time the Jets reached the Buffalo one before stalling.

On third down, Todd had to call time out when a tight end lined up on the wrong side. The play decided on at the sidelines was a pass-option run, but Todd was dropped for a yard loss by Mike Kadish and Mike Humiston. Again, Michaels elected to take a field goal.

"They really played it well," Todd said. "Their end crashed and their linebacker filled quickly. There was nothing I could do."

The Jets got still another opportunity when cornerback Donald Dykes made an interception on Buffalo's next possession. This time, however, Todd returned the favor, throwing over the middle on second-and-eight from the Buffalo 19 and giving Simpson his first interception.

"Turnovers," Michaels said. "You just don't win in the playoffs with a lot of turnovers."