TAMPA, JAN. 28 -- A subdued Buffalo Bills team left its hotel today to make the 2-hour 45-minute flight home. "I think it's safe to say that it will be a long and quiet plane ride," said linebacker Hal Garner.

The Bills were a somber lot today, thinking about what might have been in the wake of their 20-19 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday in the closest Super Bowl ever. Players and coaches were still shocked that they had come so close and lost.

And while the Giants continued to celebrate, the Bills were tired. They didn't sleep very well Sunday night.

"I don't have anything more to add," said Buffalo Coach Marv Levy. "I talked until I was blue in the face last night. I'm tired of you guys."

Bills assistant general manager Bob Ferguson slept for about 90 minutes. Ferguson stayed up until 7 a.m., long enough to say goodbye to his wife, who caught an early flight back to Buffalo.

"I need a break," he said. "I'm beat."

But the season isn't over for linebackers Cornelius Bennett and Darryl Talley, defensive end Bruce Smith and quarterback Jim Kelly. They didn't sleep at all, waiting up to take an early flight to Honolulu to begin preparing for the Feb. 3 Pro Bowl.

The Bills were devastated not only because they lost, but also by how they lost. Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal wide right with four seconds left. Backup quarterback Frank Reich, the holder, said it could have been made from 55 yards, but that Norwood didn't follow through.

"You don't get a second chance in that situation," Norwood said after the game. "What more can I tell you? I let a lot of people down."

Kelly said the loss put a damper on the season "for the time being because we realize we wanted to win, point blank. But those things happen. Somebody's got to win, somebody's got to lose. This time we were on the short end of the stick. But we have a lot to be proud of.

"We've been working since July to get here. Fifty percent of our goal was attained. The other 50 percent will have to wait."

"It wasn't his fault," Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., said today of Norwood. "You don't blame an entire loss on one person. That was a long kick."

Wilson spoke at length in the lobby of the team's hotel, expressing his disappointment in the loss, but his satisfaction with the Bills' 15-4 season.

"We couldn't have had a more exciting game," Wilson said. "That was the most exciting game I've ever been associated with in my 31 years with the Bills. We played hard. The Giants won by one point. I take nothing away from the Giants, but we played hard and we should have won.

"People say we're going to be back next year. Who knows if we'll be back next year? I don't know if we're going to be back next year, but I do know that we will try hard."

When asked what the mood of the team was immediately after the game Wilson said, "Nobody went into the locker room and started crying."

On the Bills' final drive -- in which they moved from their 10-yard line to the New York 29 -- Wilson said he watched intensely, all the time thinking that the drive would end with his team claiming the Super Bowl title.

"I thought we were going to win it," Wilson said, "but things didn't quite go our way. The Bills lost by one point in the championship game and that's not too bad. I'm not crying, I'm not {upset}. But we were so close."

Said Garner: "No one made a lot of stupid statements after the game. No one was really pointing fingers and blaming anyone. I think we've matured a lot this year. When you win it you got it. We didn't win it so we're looking forward to the future."

Which starts with a vacation.