After Scott Norwood's winning field goal split the uprights Sunday, Pete Metzelaars began to jump up and down, in chorus with everyone else in a Buffalo Bills uniform.

Then he looked around Rich Stadium and noticed several fans climbing out of the stands.

"I just saw about 10 of them, and I didn't think anything of it at first," the Bills tight end said. "The next thing I knew, there were a hundred out there. And then a thousand. And then I started worrying if I was ever going to get off the field.

"When I finally did get off the field and into the tunnel, I just stopped, turned around and watched . . . it was an amazing thing to see."

What Metzelaars saw after the Bills' 9-6 overtime victory over the New York Jets was a sea of humanity as fans celebrated the team's early clinching of the AFC Eastern Division title.

Most of his other teammates who managed to escape the crowd also stopped to watch -- albeit from a safe distance -- and let out yelps and screams in joining the euphoria.

But once they reached their dressing room, they became somewhat reserved, making it perfectly clear they weren't stopping with a division crown.

"I think the feeling right now is, 'Hey, we won it. We did what we had to do, and let's get the playoffs under way,' " said nose tackle Fred Smerlas. "I'm happy, but I want a ring. This is not my Super Bowl.

"You could tell by the emotion around here that this wasn't anybody's Super Bowl. Guys are happy, they put their clothes on and went home. This team has a lot of focus."

Linebacker Darryl Talley compared the Bills' season to a hands-and-knees journey through the Sahara Desert.

"You look at all of the oases along the way, and finally you get to that puddle of water," he said. "You start drinking it and you say, 'Ahhhh! This is it.' We've made it to the division championship. But that's all it is -- the division championship. Now, you have to get back in the desert again, and go another thousand miles. We have to go to Cincinnati next week, and that's like going into a meat grinder."

Running back Robb Riddick said it was better to "get it (the title) out of the way" than wait until next week or the week after.

"Now, just don't slack off," Riddick said. "We know we're in there, but to be champs, you have to keep on playing and take it all the way to the playoffs."

Bills owner Ralph Wilson was asked how winning the AFC East in 1988 compared to winning it in 1980.

"This is far better," Wilson said. "Not even close. I don't think the team has played a bad game all year. They've played hard all game, and that's what makes me happy.

"The improvement has come so fast. In just a little over a year, this team has gone from the bottom to AFC Eastern Division champions."

Said Metzelaars: "It's a tremendous feeling to travel the whole road from 2-14 in 1985 to where we are now. It's a great feeling to still be around from that era. It was a long, difficult road."