This past Sunday evening, the Buffalo Bills qualified for the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1999. The team doesn’t appear to be a real Superbowl contender on the surface, but then again, stranger things have happened. Like back in 1993, twenty five years ago today on January 03, when they were a wildcard team and had to face the offensive powerhouse Houston Oilers. And they had to do it without their starting quarterback Jim Kelly, their starting tailback Thurman Thomas, and one of their best linebackers, Cornelius Bennett. At least they were getting to play in their home stadium though.
My old man and myself decided to watch the game that afternoon. My Dad was just a casual football fan and rarely watched a game unless it was the Superbowl, and even then I think it was just because it was a national event, and not because he personally enjoyed it so much. As for me, I was really getting into football at that point, and watched full games every week, and was excited for all the playoff match ups. What we thought was going to be just an enjoyable playoff game, turned out to be one of the most exciting NFL games ever played, and featured the greatest comeback in NFL playoff history.
At halftime, with the score being 35 – 3 in favor of the Houston Oilers, my Dad decided he had seen enough, and changed the channel to some western movie most likely. Even though the game was a blowout, I decided I wanted to keep watching it and headed off to my bedroom to see the rest of it.
As the Bills started their comeback and continued to rack up points, I tried to keep my Dad informed by yelling from the bedroom to the living room, “THE BILLS JUST GOT A TOUCHDOWN! IT’S 35 – 10!”. “THE BILLS GOT AN ONSIDE KICK!”. “THE BILLS JUST GOT ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN!!! IT’S 35- 17!!!”. It wasn’t until they had come all the way back and took the lead that he became interested once again and changed the channel back to the game. I rejoined him and we watched the closing moments of regulation where the Oilers tied the game with a field goal with just a few seconds left.
But that was just a formality, as destiny was clearly on the side of the Buffalo Bills. The defense picked off a Warren Moon pass that set up the winning field goal from Scott Christie to set the Bills on a course to the Superbowl, and left the Houston Oilers on the wrong side of history.
Now if you’re relatively new to the world of football, you may read that and think that maybe destiny will shine on the Bills again this year in their first trip to the playoffs in eighteen years, but as Lee Corso would say, “NOT SO FAST”. Because the Bills have also been on the wrong side of history in the playoffs before, and matter of fact, it was the last time they were in the playoffs.
Back in 1999, on a cold and snowy Saturday here in the Appalachian mountains, I took a ride with my brother to look for some carpeting for his house instead of just laying on the couch watching football all afternoon. At the carpet outlet, they had a television set up and were watching the wildcard match-up between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans. The game was a low scoring affair, but I had a seat and focused on the game while my brother was doing his browsing and haggling with the salesman. When he was ready to leave, the game was half-way through the 3rd quarter.
We got back home, and I turned on the game, and he decided to sit and watch the end of it with me since it was a close game. After just a few minutes, we watched the same Steve Christie kick what was thought to be the game winner with just 18 seconds left to play, but this time, the Bills WERE NOT the Cinderella team. The Tennessee Titans were as you’ll see in the clip below.
So as the Bills enter the playoffs for the first time in eighteen years, I have to wonder if Lady Luck will shine on them again this time, or will she be riding shotgun with their opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars. One thing is for sure, with their history of dramatic playoff games, I’ll be tuning in, and I’m sure all those nostalgic memories of their games from the past will come flooding back again, and take me back to the 90’s, and my early teen years. Maybe I should call up my Dad and brother and see if they are up for watching one more Bills playoff game together….