ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., DEC. 23 -- First and foremost Buffalo Bills quarterback Frank Reich wanted to thank God. "And of course a great offensive line didn't hurt," he said.

For the last six days Reich, a career NFL backup and the former University of Maryland quarterback, had the hopes and playoff dreams of the city of Buffalo sitting on his shoulders. Reich admitted being nervous at mid-week, but the main thing he wanted to do was fill in for just enough time so Jim Kelly could recover and take back control of the offense.

Reich did more than fill in for Kelly in the Bills' 24-14 win over the Dolphins today. It was as if the Bills' offense never really missed Kelly, who is out with a knee injury but is expected back in time for the divisional playoffs on Jan. 12-13.

Reich was one of several backups in action this weekend as 12 NFL quarterbacks suffered injuries in the last two weeks that cost them playing time. Several have been injured seriously.

Chicago's Mike Tomczak replaced Jim Harbaugh, Green Bay's Blair Kiel was in for Anthony Dilweg, who had replaced Don Majkowski. Jeff Hostetler of the New York Giants replaced Phil Simms, Cleveland's Mike Pagel was in for Bernie Kosar and Atlanta replaced injured Scott Campbell with Hugh Millen.

Today the quarterback epidemic continued as two more stars were sidelined with major injuries. Dallas's Troy Aikman went out with a separated right shoulder against Philadelphia and Houston's Warren Moon, who leads the league in touchdown passes, dislocated his right thumb in a loss to Cincinnati. Babe Laufenberg replaced Aikman and Cody Carlson took over for Moon. Even hapless New England got into the act when Marc Wilson came on when Tommy Hodson sprained his ankle.

On Saturday Minnesota's Wade Wilson returned to the lineup after missing three months and separated his right shoulder. Last week Steve Deberg dislocated his left pinky finger but managed to play and play well today.

And the biggest star at the position, Joe Montana of San Francisco, sat out today's loss to the Saints with a pulled abdominal muscle.

All of the injuries gave the backup quarterbacks a rare chance, but none had more on the line than Reich, who was 3-0 last season when he replaced Kelly who suffered a separated shoulder. Since the Bills won today they captured the AFC East and home-field advantage for the playoffs. A loss instead would have given both to Miami if the Dolphins had defeated Indianapolis in the season finale.

"There has been a lot of pressure on me all week," said Reich, who missed only six passes in 21 attempts and threw for a career-high 234 yards and two touchdowns. "I just like to say that this is a great feeling. I told Jim I just wanted to get this back into {his} hands.

"The big question all week was: How is the no-huddle {offense} going to go without Jim?"

And the answer is: pretty well.

Said Miami Coach Don Shula of Reich: "A couple of times late when we were blitzing he was able to pick up the blitz and make the right call and hit the receiver against the blitz."

And as wide receiver Andre Reed said: "That's what a backup is for. When you have a chance to take over, you take over."