Friday, January 4, 2008
It was 15 years ago, yesterday, that the Buffalo Bills engineered the greatest comeback in the history of professional sports. I was an impressionable 14-year old at the time, and it's hard to think of a time in life when sports means more than when you're in that 14-15 year old range - no driver's license, no hint of a girlfriend on the horizon, senses haven't begun to be dulled by the effects of alcohol, your veins are already pumping with that teenaged agnst and emotion... 1993 really was a perfect sporting storm for me, so it came as no coincidence that the year offered up the three most important fan-moments in my life ("The Comeback", Borschevsky's goal, and Joe Carter's Home run).
But it all began with a blacked-out game in Orchard Park. Amazingly, the Bills didn't sell enough tickets to lift the local ban, so I was forced to listen to this classic on my clock-radio in my bedroom. When it was 28-3 at the half, I could have just as easily gotten on with my life by moshing alone to Nirvana, but I decided to stick with it because, even at such a young age, I was a masochist. This was one of those rare occasions when it actually paid off.
Everybody knows that Frank Reich was the man who led the Bills into that ridiculous second half (Hall of Famer Jim Kelly missed the game with a bad knee - he'd injured it the week before in a 27-3 beating at the hands of, improbably: The Oilers), but what I'd completely forgotten about was the fact that Thurman Thomas, all-world RB and future Hall of Famer, had to leave this game 3 plays into the second half with a bad hip. After Frank Reich threw an interception that Bubba McDowell returned 58-yards for a TD, the Bills were down 35-3, and fans began heading for the exits.
Cue the greatest comeback in the history of modern civilization (Recap Courtesy of www.buffalobills.com):
After allowing the INT-return touchdown, the Bills drove 50 yards in 10 plays on their next possession, capping the drive on a Kenneth Davis' one-yard touchdown run. Houston 35, Buffalo 10.
Bills kicker Steve Christie then recovered his own onside kick. Four plays later, Bills quarterback Frank Reich, starting for an injured Jim Kelly, connected with Don Beebe on a 38-yard touchdown. Houston 35, Buffalo 17.
The Bills' defense produced a three-and-out on the ensuing Houston possession and Buffalo took over on its own 41-yard line. Five plays later, Reich hit Andre Reed for a 26-yard touchdown. Houston 35, Buffalo 24.
Two plays into the Oilers' next drive, Bills safety Henry Jones intercepted a deflected Moon pass and returned it 15 yards to the Houston 23-yard line. The Bills gained five yards on three plays and faced a fourth-and-five. Time out, Buffalo. Reich convinced Levy to go for it on fourth down. He then saw Reed break away from the safety and hit him on the goal line for 18 yards and a touchdown. Houston 35, Buffalo 31.
In a span of six minutes and 52 seconds, the Bills had cut their deficit from 32 points to four.
After the teams traded punts, Moon led the Oilers on a 76-yard drive early in the fourth quarter over seven-and-a-half minutes. Houston then caught a break. A Buffalo interception was wiped out by a penalty called on the Bills' for a late-hit foul against Moon.
The Oilers reached the Buffalo 14-yard line and set up for a field goal. It was then that the Bills received some help from above - it started raining. Montgomery fumbled the snap and kicker Al Del Greco recovered but the Oilers had turned the ball over on downs.
Buffalo then drove 74 yards in seven plays into the wind, taking the lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Reich to Reed - the duo's third scoring connection in little more than 16 minutes. Buffalo 38, Houston 35.
Moon then led Houston 63 yards in 12 plays, setting up the game-tying 26-yard Del Greco field goal with 12 seconds remaining. Buffalo 38, Houston 38.
The game went to overtime and the Oilers won the coin flip but after two completions for seven yards, Moon faced a third-and three from the Houston 27. It was then that Bills safety Nate Odomes stepped in front of a Moon pass at the 37 and returned it to the 35. The Bills gained 15 more yards on a penalty when Odomes was grabbed by his facemask.
After two Davis rushes for six yards, Christie kicked a 32-yard field goal 3:06 into overtime. Buffalo 41, Houston 38.
By the time Christie (the pride of Oakville, ON) drilled that 32-yarder, my buddy Dunner was over at my place listening to the game with me in my bedroom, and I tackled him in an uncontrollable homoerotic man-hug of joy reminiscent of the homoerotic man-hug by which all homoerotic man-hugs are judged. To that point, it was the single greatest moment of my life.
Inexplicably, there isn't a decent YouTube clip of "The Comeback" available out there. For the time being, all I can give you is this:
Feel free to skip ahead to the 3:30 mark, but do so with the knowledge that you'll be skipping over a sporting montage set to Van Halen's Top of the World.