Buffalo came back from a 41-3 deficit to win their game against the Houston Texans, becoming just the second team in NFL history to do so. How did they pull off this incredible feat? Find out here.
The “biggest comeback in nfl history regular season” is a game that the Buffalo Bills pulled off. The game was against the Dallas Cowboys, and the score was 38-3 at halftime. The team came back to win their final game of the regular season by beating the New York Giants 41-38.
6:50 a.m. Eastern Time
ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg
NEW YORK — BUFFALO, N.Y. — Steve Christie isn’t as quick to turn off blowout football games as he once was.
Even if certain leads seem insurmountable, the former Buffalo Bills kicker will turn on the television and wait to see how it all plays out. He’s seen too much and tasted the adoration that comes with doing the seemingly unattainable.
“Because, after all, you never know. You never know what may happen “Christie said.
The Buffalo Bills were behind 35-3 in the third quarter of a wild-card playoff game against the Houston Oilers in 1992 before storming back. Christie’s game-winning field goal in overtime capped the greatest comeback in NFL history, a performance that even the players on the field did not believe was possible. When you consider that the Bills were led by a backup quarterback in Frank Reich, the record becomes even more astounding.
The Bills and Oilers, who eventually became the Titans in 1999 after moving to Nashville in 1996, had played in the regular season finale of 1992, with the Oilers prevailing 27-3 in Houston. In the game, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly hurt his knee, forcing Reich into the starting lineup. After stepping in as a reserve in the second part of his undergraduate career at Maryland, Reich led the largest comeback in NCAA history at the time vs. Miami (a 31-point deficit).
The Bills would make it all the way to Super Bowl XXVII, where they would lose for the third time in four years.
The Bills are attempting to reclaim their former glory decades later. For the fourth consecutive season, they will play the Tennessee Titans (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) on Monday night. But there’s a lot more history between those two clubs.
What happened on Jan. 3, 1993, at Rich Stadium that contributed to that incredible comeback? How did the Bills maintain their composure in the face of almost overwhelming odds?
Former Bills coach Marv Levy stated, “If we went down, we’d go down fighting.” “I was completely absorbed in the game. What are our options for the future? The game isn’t done yet. ‘It’s not over ’til it’s over,’ declared Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees. As a result, we persevered.”
Here’s how it went down.
“I felt prepared, yet I sensed the severity of the situation,” Reich says. We’d previously played in two Super Bowls and lost both times. We know we have a terrific team, and we’re on a quest for a Super Bowl. This is our third postseason season, and we’re aiming to make a Super Bowl run, so there’s a lot of pressure when Jim gets injured.
Despite less-than-ideal conditions with gusts as high as 24 mph, the Oilers got out to a fast start behind quarterback Warren Moon’s four touchdown throws. Because it wasn’t a sellout, the game was blacked off on Buffalo television. At halftime, the Bills were booed into the locker room.
Oilers 28, Bills 3 at halftime
Tight end with the Bills Pete Metzelaars (Pete Metzelaars): “What exactly are we doing? We couldn’t stop them on defense; they were simply running up and down the field with their run-and-gun attack, and we couldn’t get anything going on offensively. ‘What in the world is going on?’ I was thinking.”
Special teams ace for the Bills Tasker, Steve: “We were conversing at halftime, and I was asking [wide receiver] Don Beebe when he was leaving town. We were discussing how quickly he planned to leave town after the season ended.”
The safety of the Edmonton Oilers Bubba McDowell: “We had everything going for us and never in our wildest dreams did we think the second half would be so horrible.”
Metzelaars: I’m Metzelaars, and I’m “The defense was shouting and yelling at each other, hopping up and down and yelling at each other. The defense was more excited, but on offense, we were simply saying, ‘Guys, we’ve got to take care of business, we’ve got to execute lot better than we’ve been doing.’ ‘Let’s go out and make this respectable; this is humiliating,’ was the attitude. I don’t believe we had the mindset that we were going to win.”
Organizer: “‘I don’t know whether we’re going to come back and win this game, but I’ll tell you this: don’t allow anybody say you quit when it’s done,’ [Levy] says. I believe he appealed to our masculinity, our professional pride, and our affection for one another.”
Levies: “At halftime, I approached Frank, who was sitting in front of his locker, his face solemn. ‘Frank, I understand you led college football’s greatest comeback,’ I remarked. Today you will lead the greatest comeback in the history of professional football.’”
Reich: I’m Reich, and I’m “I don’t like to admit that I believed he was kidding; we were behind by a significant margin. It wasn’t a joking subject, but it was classic Marv Levy to be serious while still being stunning. You just know he thinks it can happen when he says it, and he’s simply given me the confidence to believe it can happen.”
Levies: “[Reich] just nodded, as if to say, ‘Yeah, sure.’ ‘Coach, the best comeback was 28 points, we’re only down 25,’ our [quarterbacks coach] Jim Shofner remarked as we walked back up the tunnel. ‘Oh, Frank isn’t aware of that,’ I replied. He threw an interception for a score on the opening play of the second half.”
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“That play was the moment at which the crowd realized we hadn’t given up,” Tasker says.
On the next drive, wide receiver Don Beebe caught a 38-yard touchdown pass, but he was shoved out of bounds before the grab. It went unnoticed by the officials.
Beebe: I’m Beebe “My left foot crossed the line when [Oilers cornerback Jerry Gray] pushed me and my momentum took me — I’ve watched the clip 1,000 times — I had no idea at the time.”
Gray is a color “Sometimes referees make errors that everyone can see, but if the person doesn’t take off his hat and toss it on the ground, I mean, he clearly stepped out of bounds. It was something you tried to contest, but the last thing you want to do is go nasty on the referee, because then they won’t perceive you in a favorable manner.”
Gregg Williams, the Oilers’ defensive quality control coach: “I saw it from the box and grumbled about it down below, but we didn’t have any challenges back then. I’m not sure whether there are any images of our sideline with those men, the coaches protesting or yelling at the refs, because I witnessed it and we discussed it over the headsets.”
Oilers 35, Bills 17 is the final score.
The Oilers struggled offensively in the second half. The Oilers failed to get a first down in the third quarter, then in the fourth, holder Greg Montgomery bobbled a snap on a botched field goal attempt, squandering a scoring chance.
In the fourth quarter, the Oilers missed a chance to extend their advantage when holder Greg Montgomery couldn’t handle the snap on a short field goal attempt. Bill Sikes/Associated Press
Gray is a color “Instead of attempting to win the game, I believe we adopted an attitude of not losing the game, which is a significant difference. Many individuals don’t realize that if you play not to lose, you’ll almost certainly lose.”
“From a game-management standpoint, when the weather was bad, we shouldn’t have passed the ball; we should have been running the ball, throwing incomplete passes, stopping the clock; there were several things that we did that were, in my opinion, not good decisions at the time, based on the conditions of the day,” says Oilers safety Marcus Robertson.
Reich fired two touchdown passes to Andre Reed in the third quarter after the Beebe touchdown. The Bills’ offense stalled on one series, but because to the Oilers’ offensive and special teams woes, they were able to seize the lead in the fourth quarter on a third touchdown throw to Reed.
Bills 38, Oilers 35; Bills 38, Oilers 35; Bills 38, Oilers 35; Bill
McDowell: I’m McDowell “We were simply allowing Andre down the seam for some reason; he was murdering us down the seam, and we couldn’t even do that right. We were just trying to swap [cornerback] Chris Dishman and [move safety Steve Jackson] because Chris was a better man-to-man cover person, and we were just focusing on Andre because he was the only one who was killing us.”
Reich: I’m Reich, and I’m “[I reflect on] the fourth touchdown throw, the third to Andre, the one that put us ahead. It was a 20-yard touchdown throw up the right seam that was clearly a key play in the game, and it was one of those plays as a quarterback where there’s really only one place the ball could go, so there wasn’t a lot of room for mistake.”
Andre Reed, a wide receiver with the Buffalo Bills, had eight receptions for 136 yards and three touchdowns. Bill Sikes/Associated Press
McDowell: I’m McDowell “Someone needed to call a break to gather these men and bring everyone back to normal. That was not the case. We didn’t do it for the whole second half; instead, we simply continued playing through it. What’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on”
Williams: I’m going to say something “We had no control over the time. We didn’t have any say in how many snaps Buffalo received on offense, so we didn’t have a chance to manage it. It’s a whole team effort.”
On a 26-yard Al Del Greco field goal, the Oilers pulled together one last drive to tie the game and send it to overtime.
“They put together a nice drive at the conclusion of the fourth quarter to grab the lead,” Metzelaars said.
Beebe: I’m Beebe “It was like, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to win this game!’ when [Reed] scored a third one and we were up three points. Then they go down and score a field goal to tie the game. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ we say. We’ve gone this far, and now they’ve tied it, so we’ll go to overtime.”
Organizer: “Surprisingly, nothing occurred for the Oilers to stop the team’s momentum. They never took any action. Even the field goal that forced overtime did not derail the game’s momentum.”
End of regulation score: Oilers 38, Bills 38.
Fans were originally barred from returning to the stadium after leaving, but they climbed over barriers to do so. They were eventually permitted in for safety grounds. The Oilers had the ball first, but on the third play of OT, Bills cornerback Nate Odomes intercepted Moon.
In overtime, Bills cornerback Nate Odomes’ interception set up Steve Christie’s game-winning field goal. Bill Sikes/Associated Press
“We still felt we had a shot to win the game in overtime,” Gray says.
Metzelaars: I’m Metzelaars, and I’m “We kicked off to them and felt confident that our defense would produce a stop, giving us field position and an opportunity to go down and score. After a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Oilers, Nate Odomes throws an interception, and we receive the ball [at the Houston 20-yard line].”
Gilbride: I’m glad you asked “‘What did you do?’ I recall asking. ‘What’s the difference?’ asked [Moon]. We needed to get it on third down. We weren’t going to stop them if we didn’t get it.’ He reasoned that we hadn’t stopped them for the whole second half, so he stuffed it in there. You can’t play like that, I’m saying. You’ve got to think they’ll stop them this time.”
Christie: I’m Christie, and I’m “‘Well, that’s it, I best get ready,’ I told myself as soon as [Odomes] picked it up. It’s over, we’re going to win this thing.’ It’s like, “Yeah, I’m hoping I get the opportunity.” I pray to God that it goes in, and that I can just go home after this, because this has been the craziest postseason I’ve ever seen. That was my first game in the playoffs.”
Christie’s game-winning 32-yard field goal was watched by a big audience after the Bills executed two running plays.
The final score was 41 for the Bills and 38 for the Oilers (OT)
Beebe: I’m Beebe “‘Well, we have one of the top kickers in the league,’ we say at that time. We’re going to win this game because he’s going to make this.’ And as it went in, I remember racing out there and attacking Frank [the holder], and I’m on the ground on top of him in his face, shouting and joyful.”
“Everyone had this concept that we can’t believe this occurred,” Christie says, “but there’s also that sense of relief that it’s done and we’re going on.”
McDowell: I’m McDowell “They made a lot of noise. I sat astonished at the conclusion of the game and couldn’t move for about 20 minutes, just hearing the crowd behind me. A handful of people approached me and attempted to lift me off the bench. ‘Geez, this didn’t simply happen,’ I thought.”
Reich: I’m Reich, and I’m “I remember celebrating with my teammates, and then rushing off the field, looking up into the seats where my family was seated, my wife and perhaps 20 members of my family all seated there, watching them go wild up there. That was a unique experience.”
Organizer: “There was a point in the game when the comeback became unavoidable for everyone in the crowd and on both sides of the field. I believe that was a memorable feeling from the game for the majority of folks. There came a moment when everyone knew it was going to happen before it did. And I believe that is what distinguishes it.”
“After all of the jubilation in the locker room after the game, Frank eventually said to me, ‘Coach, I knew you said I’d lead the greatest comeback, so that’s why I threw that interception,” Levy recounted.
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