In a forewshadowing of another great playoff football
game the Music City Miracle
, the Buffalo Bills
played the Houston Oilers
(later to become the Tennessee Titans
) in an incredible wild card
playoff game forever to be known as simply, The Comeback.
Down 28-3 at the half the Bills looked beaten. Their star quarterback, Jim Kelly, had been hurt in the first half, and backup Frank Reich had little NFL experience. When Reich threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown to start the third quarter, all seemed lost. Down 35-3 the Bills would have to stage the greatest comeback in NFL history to win the game.
That, of course, is what they did.
After the Oilers' touchdown, the Bills scored on their next possesion. Bills coach Marv Levy called an onside kick which Bills kicker Steve Christie recovered. Four plays later the Bills scored on a Reich pass. That score put them down 35-17.
After two stops on defense and two more passing TD's from Reich, the Bills trailed just 35-31 with eight minutes to go in the game. Bills fans, who had left dejected at the half or after the interception, now forced their way back into the stadium to cheer their team on.
Finally on fourth and five with 3:08 to play in the game Reich connected on his fourth touchdown pass of the half (the Bills fifth score of the half), and Buffalo pulled ahead 38-35.
The Oilers (on offense at least) weren't going to go without a bit of a fight. Veteran quarterback Warren Moon drove Houston down the field for a field goal from the games greatest ever kicker Al Del Greco. That sent the game into overtime.
On Moon's first pass in overtime, the Bills' Nate Odem picked the ball off, and a few plays later Christie ended the greatest comeback of all-time with a 30 yard field goal that gave Buffalo a 41-38 win.
The next day Houston fired their defensive coaching staff.
Oddly, Frank Reich also holds a college record -- for largest comeback in a game. His Maryland Tarrapins were down 31-0 to the vaunted 1984 Miami Hurricanes, and Reich led a comeback to defeat the 'Canes 42-40.