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How the Buffalo Bills pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL history

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Steve Christie does not flip off blowout soccer video games as early as he used to.

Even when some leads appear insurmountable, the previous Buffalo Payments kicker will depart the TV on and see the way it ends. He is seen an excessive amount of, skilled the adulation that comes from successful the unattainable.

“Since you by no means know, proper? You simply by no means know,” Christie stated.

The Payments trailed the Houston Oilers 35-3 within the third quarter of a wild-card playoff recreation within the 1992 postseason earlier than storming all the best way again. Christie kicked the game-winning discipline purpose in additional time to cap the most important comeback in NFL historical past, a feat even the gamers on the sphere did not suppose was doable. Add in that the Payments had been quarterbacked by a backup in Frank Reich, and the report is that rather more spectacular.

The Payments and Oilers, who later moved to Nashville in 1996 and have become the Titans in 1999, had met within the finale of the 1992 common season with the Oilers successful 27-3 in Houston. Corridor of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly injured his knee within the recreation, thrusting Reich into the beginning function. In 1984 throughout his faculty profession at Maryland, Reich led the most important comeback in NCAA historical past on the time vs. Miami (a 31-point deficit) after coming in because the backup within the second half.

These Payments would advance all the best way to Tremendous Bowl XXVII and would lose their third of 4 straight Tremendous Bowl appearances.

A long time later, the Payments are attempting to make it again. Monday night time they are going to face off in opposition to the Tennessee Titans (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) for a fourth straight season. However the historical past between these two groups goes far past that.

What led to that nice comeback on Jan. 3, 1993, at Wealthy Stadium? How did the Payments grasp in regardless of seemingly insurmountable odds?

“If we went down, we might go down preventing,” former Payments coach Marv Levy stated. “I simply was immersed within the recreation itself. What ought to we do subsequent? And the sport is not over. [New York Yankees catcher] Yogi Berra as soon as stated, ‘It is not over ’til it is over.’ And so, we saved plugging away.”

This is what it took.


Reich: “I felt ready, however I felt the enormity of the second. We had already been to 2 Tremendous Bowls and misplaced. We all know we’ve got an ideal group and we’re on a quest for a Tremendous Bowl and that is our third playoffs, and we’re attempting to make a Tremendous Bowl run, so when Jim will get damage, there’s loads of strain.

The Oilers bought off to a scorching begin behind quarterback Warren Moon’s 4 landing passes, regardless of less-than-ideal climate with winds as excessive as 24 mph. The sport was blacked out on TV in Buffalo as a result of it wasn’t a sellout. The Payments had been booed into the locker room at halftime.

Halftime rating: Oilers 28, Payments 3

Payments tight finish Pete Metzelaars: “What are we doing? We could not cease them on protection, they had been simply sort of dinking, dunking up and down the sphere with all of the run ‘n’ shoot stuff, and we could not get something occurring our offense. That was similar to, ‘What on the earth is occurring?'”

Payments particular groups ace Steve Tasker: “We had been at halftime, [wide receiver] Don Beebe and I had been speaking, I used to be asking Don when he was leaving city. … We had been speaking about how briskly he was going to get out of city after the season was over.”

Oilers security Bubba McDowell: “We had every little thing going and by no means in our thoughts thought that it could flip for the more serious the second half that unhealthy.”

Metzelaars: “The protection, they had been yelling and screaming and going loopy and leaping up and down and yelling at one another. … The protection was extra animated, however the offense, we had been similar to, ‘Guys, we bought to maintain enterprise, we bought to execute method higher than what we have been doing.’ … The perspective was, ‘Let’s exit and make this factor respectable; that is embarrassing.’ I do not suppose we actually had an perspective that we had been going to win.”

Tasker: “[Levy] goes, ‘I do not know if we’ll come again and win this recreation, however I am going to say this: When it is over, do not let anyone say that you just stop.’ … I believe he appealed to our manhood, to our pleasure as professionals and to the love we had for one another.”

Levy: “At halftime, I walked over to Frank, sitting in entrance of his locker, very downcast. I stated, ‘Frank, I perceive you led the best comeback in faculty soccer historical past. At present you’ll lead the best comeback in professional soccer historical past.'”

Reich: “I do not need to say I believed he was joking; we had been dropping by loads of factors. It was no joking matter, however that was classic Marv Levy, to have the ability to be each critical and simply hanging. When he stated it, you simply know that he believes that it might probably occur, and he is simply given me the boldness to know that it might probably occur.”

Levy: “[Reich] simply nodded his head, like, ‘Yeah, certain.’ Once we’re strolling again up the tunnel, our [quarterbacks coach] Jim Shofner stated, ‘Coach, the best comeback was 28 factors, we’re solely down 25.’ And I stated, ‘Oh, Frank does not know that.’ The primary play the second half, he threw an interception for a landing.”

McDowell picked off Reich on a tipped move off the palms of tight finish Keith McKeller that went proper into the protection’s arms. He ran it again 58 yards for the rating.

McDowell: “I used to be breaking on the ball on the out route. I do not know if I’d have gotten there [had it not tipped off his hand]. I’d have gotten there to positively make the sort out. It could have been an enormous hit as a result of I used to be full pace. The ball bounced, and it bounced completely into my hand as I used to be striding down the sideline. I did not even break stride.”

Oilers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride: “All people that is an Oilers fan is cheering him on to take all of it the best way again, apart from me, as a result of I knew the best way my little receivers had been freezing chilly. If I did not get them out on the sphere quickly that they’d quite simply keep on that heat heated bench.”

Metzelaars: “In some unspecified time in the future within the third quarter after they made it 35-3, [Tasker] and I had been standing subsequent to one another. … We determined that subsequent weekend, we had been going to fly to Florida and go play some golf, simply to get out and get away from soccer and get away from Buffalo. We’re not successful this recreation.”

Reich: “You sort of hit the reset button at halftime, you suppose, ‘All proper, right here we go. We’re gonna go one play at a time, we’re gonna go down and rating a landing.’ After which the following factor you realize, you throw an interception. Truthfully, I believed I’d get benched.”

Rating: Oilers 35, Payments 3

Followers started streaming towards the exits after the play. However on the following drive, following a nasty kickoff by the Oilers because of the wind, the Payments scored their first landing of the day on a 1-yard run by backup working again Kenneth Davis. (Starter Thurman Thomas was injured.)

Metzelaars: “One among their linebackers dropped proper beneath [a pass on that drive] and jumped up, and the ball went proper via his palms and saved coming to me, and I find yourself catching it and getting a 24-yard achieve. I inform individuals if [Oilers linebacker Eddie Robinson] had caught that ball that went proper via each his palms, the sport would have been over with.”

Oilers linebacker Al Smith: “It was a state of affairs the place every little thing that would go flawed did go flawed.”

Rating: Oilers 35, Payments 10

The Payments executed an onside kick to begin the next drive that was recovered by Christie.

Christie: “It is referred to as the shock center onside kick. … I keep in mind telling myself that the ball has to go not less than 10 yards, however I might prefer it to go 11. …They left a niche, not a lot of a niche, however due to [Mark] Pike and [Mark] Maddox [blocking] there was sufficient room to get it. … I slid in there and the ball was there. After which Tasker grabbed me and stated, ‘Get out of there, they are going to kill you.'”

Tasker: “That play itself was the purpose at which the followers appreciated that we had not given up.”

Huge receiver Don Beebe scored a 38-yard landing move on the following drive, however he was pushed out of bounds earlier than the catch was made. The referees missed it.

Beebe: “When [Oilers cornerback Jerry Gray] shoved me and my momentum carried me — I’ve seen the spotlight 1,000 instances — my left foot touched the road. I by no means realized on the time.”

Grey: “Generally referees, they make errors, and everyone clearly might see it, but when the man does not take his hat off, and throw it on the bottom, I imply he clearly did step out of bounds. … It was one thing that you just attempt to dispute, however the factor you do not need to do is go destructive on the referee, as a result of abruptly, they don’t seem to be going to see you in a constructive mild.”

Oilers defensive high quality management coach Gregg Williams: “I noticed it from the field, and was complaining about that down there, however we had no challenges again in these days. … I do not know if there’s any footage of our sideline with these guys, the coaches complaining or hollering on the referees, as a result of I noticed that, and we did discuss that over the headsets.”

Rating: Oilers 35, Payments 17

Within the second half, the Oilers struggled offensively. Houston didn’t have a single first down within the third quarter, and within the fourth, the Oilers wasted a scoring alternative when holder Greg Montgomery bobbled a snap on a botched discipline purpose try.

Grey: “As an alternative of attempting to win the sport, I believe we sort of modified the mindset to not dropping the sport, and that is an enormous distinction. Lots of people do not perceive that, whenever you play to not lose, you are most likely going to lose.”

Oilers security Marcus Robertson: “From a managing-the-game perspective, when the climate was unhealthy, we should not have handed the ball, we should always have been working the ball, throwing incomplete passes, stopping the clock; there have been a number of issues that we did that had been on the time [not] good selections in my private opinion, primarily based on the situations of the day.”

After the Beebe rating, Reich threw two touchdowns to Andre Reed within the third quarter. The Payments had one offensive drive that stalled, however with the Oilers’ offensive and particular groups points, the Payments had been capable of take the lead within the fourth quarter on a 3rd landing move to Reed.

Rating: Payments 38, Oilers 35

McDowell: “For some purpose, we had been simply letting Andre down the seam, he was killing us down the seam, we could not even get that proper. … We had been attempting to only attempt to sort of change [cornerback] Chris Dishman and [move safety Steve Jackson], as a result of Chris was a greater cowl man, man-to-man cowl man, simply on Andre, as a result of he was actually the one one which was killing us.”

Reich: “The fourth landing move, the third one to Andre, the one which put us within the lead [I look back on]. It was up the proper seam, a couple of 20-yard landing move that was clearly an enormous play within the recreation, and a type of as a quarterback the place there’s actually just one place the ball may very well be, it wasn’t a complete lot of margin of error.”

McDowell: “Anyone needed to take a timeout and regroup these guys and get everyone settled down. We did not try this. We didn’t try this the entire second half, we simply saved enjoying via it, saved enjoying via it. Guys on the sideline simply, OK, what’s taking place, what is going on on?”

Williams: “We did not management the clock. We did not management what number of snaps that Buffalo bought on offense to have an opportunity to manage. It is a complete group factor.”

The Oilers put collectively one final drive to tie the sport on a 26-yard Al Del Greco discipline purpose, which despatched the sport into additional time.

Metzelaars: “They’d put collectively a very good drive on the finish of the fourth quarter to take the lead.”

Beebe: “When [Reed] scored a 3rd one and we went up three factors, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re gonna win this recreation!’ After which they go down and eventually rating a discipline purpose to tie it. We’re like, ‘You bought to be kidding me.’ We come all the best way again this far, after which they tie it, now it will go to additional time.”

Tasker: “The stunning factor was that nothing occurred for the Oilers that broke that momentum. They by no means did something. Even the sphere purpose that despatched it into additional time, it didn’t break the momentum.”

Rating: Oilers 38, Payments 38, finish of regulation

Followers weren’t initially allowed to reenter the stadium after leaving, so that they climbed over fences to get again in. Ultimately, they had been allowed in for security causes. The Oilers bought the ball first, however Payments cornerback Nate Odomes intercepted Moon on the third play of additional time.

Grey: “Extra time, we nonetheless thought we had an opportunity to win the sport.”

Metzelaars: “We kicked off to them and felt like our protection was going to get a cease and we had been going to get discipline place and get an opportunity to go down and rating. Then Nate Odomes will get the interception, and we get the ball [at the Houston 20-yard line after a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Oilers].”

Gilbride: “I keep in mind saying, ‘What did you do?’ [Moon] stated, ‘What is the distinction? It was third down, we needed to get it. If we did not get it, we weren’t gonna cease them.’ We hadn’t stopped them the entire second half, that is what his pondering was, so he sort of compelled it in there. I am saying, you simply cannot play like that. You gotta imagine that they are gonna cease them this time.”

Christie: “As quickly as [Odomes] picked it off, I used to be telling myself, ‘Effectively, that is it, I higher prepare. We’re gonna win this factor, it is over.’ It is sort of like, yeah, I hope I get the possibility. I hope to God it goes in, and I hope I can simply go house after this, as a result of it has been the craziest playoff. And that was my first playoff recreation.”

After the Payments ran two working performs, a big crowd witnessed Christie’s game-winning 32-yard discipline purpose.

Remaining rating: Payments 41, Oilers 38 (OT)

Beebe: “At that time, we’re like, ‘Effectively, we bought among the best kickers within the league. He is gonna make this, and we’re gonna win this recreation.’ And when it went in … I simply keep in mind my response … going on the market sprinting and tackling Frank [who was the holder], and I am on the bottom on high of him in his face simply in elation and screaming, euphoric.”

Christie: “All people sort of had this complete concept of we won’t imagine this occurred, however there’s additionally that sense of aid that it is over, and we’re transferring on.”

McDowell: “They had been loud. On the finish of the sport, I simply sat, like surprised and I could not transfer for most likely like 20 minutes, simply listening to the followers behind me. A few guys got here and bought me and tried to get me off the bench. And I used to be like, ‘Geez, this didn’t simply occur.'”

Reich: “I keep in mind celebrating that with my teammates, and the following factor I keep in mind working off the sphere, wanting up into the stands the place my household was sitting, my spouse and doubtless 20 members of my household all sitting up there, them going loopy up there. That was fairly particular.”

Tasker: “For every particular person within the stadium and on each sidelines, there was a second when the comeback grew to become inevitable. I believe that was a sensation that most individuals would keep in mind from that recreation. There was one level the place earlier than it occurred, everyone knew it was going to. And I believe that is the factor that units it aside.”

Levy: “After all of the celebration within the locker room after the sport, Frank lastly stated to me, ‘Coach, I knew you stated I might lead the best comeback, that is why I threw that interception.'”

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