Jag-gernaut hits Buffalo

Sterling performance carries Packers in '93

Lowery's toe can't spoil Marino's 4th-quarter show in '90

Montana magic lifts Chiefs past Steelers in '93

  Sunday, Jan. 3 11:05am ET
Buffalo's wild comeback in '92 the obvious choice
From ESPN SportsCenter

As if there was any question as to the greatest wild-card game ever played.

  This is the fifth in a five-part ESPN SportsCenter series on the best NFL Wild Card Games of all-time, selected by a vote of ESPN.com users earlier this month. Follow the series on-air and on-line as ESPN brings you the best of the best.

A 32-point comeback -- in the second half no less -- tends to sway the vote a little. And ESPN.com users were swayed. Nearly 75 percent who voted, did so for the Buffalo Bills' wild comeback victory over the Houston Oilers in the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game.

The other 25 percent must have been Oilers fans.

Nonetheless, what happened at Rich Stadium was memorable to say the least. For Frank Reich, it was a game of a lifetime. For the Oilers, it was a game the organization has never fully recovered from to this day.

As the 1992 playoffs approached, Buffalo found itself in an unfamiliar position. The two-time defending AFC champions made the playoffs -- but as a wild-card team -- and limped into the postseason after losing three of the final five regular-season games.

 Frank Reich
 Frank Reich rallied the Bills from a 32-point deficit in the second half.

Houston, meanwhile, was making its sixth straight playoff appearance -- all as a wild-card team. The Oilers' high-powered, run-and-shoot offense sported nine Pro Bowl players, led by quarterback Warren Moon.

Fasten your seatbelts. It's time to recall the best wild-card game ever played.

The greatest comeback in NFL history was actually made possible by a Houston drubbing of the Bills in the final week of the regular season. And when the Oilers took control from the outset, it looked like a repeat performance.

Moon got things started with a touchdown toss to Curtis Duncan. The Oilers defense then matched the offense with a touchdown, as Bubba McDowell intercepted Reich and returned it all the way for another six points.

As the third quarter started to unfold, the Oilers took advantage of a shaky Reich to stretch the lead to 35-3 and began to start looking ahead to the divisional playoffs. But that's when a couple of big offensive plays by the Bills turned into a comeback of unparalleled proportions.

"The guys on this team were so encouraging," Reich said. "They kept me up when it could have been real easy to get down, especially after the interception to start the second half."

"We make changes at halftime. We always do," said Buffalo coach Marv Levy. "Sometimes they work well, sometimes they don't. And sometimes you get lucky, and it makes it look like they work better."

The historic turnaround started with Kenneth Davis running around the left side of the line and just getting inside the pilon to make it 35-10. The Bills then stunned the Oilers with an onsides kick, which kicker Steve Christie recovered.

"I think the turning point was when Christie recovered that onsides kick," the injured Jim Kelly said. "Everybody's eyes opened up real wide. All of a sudden you look on the other sidelines, people were arguing back and forth, and I had a feeling something good might happen."

Reich quickly found Don Beebe with a bomb to make it 35-17 and continue the stunning turn of events. With 4:29 still left in the third, it was suddenly a game again.

The Bills weren't through in the third period, either. Reich's got a hot hand, and on fourth down, he found Andre Reed from 18 yards out. The Oilers couldn't believe what was happening. The Bills were now down only 35-31.

"It was a pretty easy one, and I think that was a big one because any time you have to come back that far it's nice to get an easy one," said Reich of his touchdown pass to Don Beebe. "Then we got another one in the third. I think those guys over there had to be sitting and wondering, 'Is this third quarter ever going to end?'

"That's the wildest quarter of football I've ever seen."

"We only have so much time that we have to make a gutsy call," Reed added. "We gotta call this play. Frank audibled at the line, made the right call. Two deep, right down the middle."

Buffalo had erased 28 of the 32-point deficit in less than a quarter. Then, with less than five minutes to play in regulation, the unthinkable happened -- the Bills took a 38-31 lead on Reich's second touchdown toss to Reed.

It was bedlam at Rich Stadium. Pandemonium. Fandemonium.

"I didn't want to get off the field," Reed said. "I was like, 'Hey, another quarter.' It was that type of situation, that type of adrenaline flowing. Not only from me, but from the team standpoint. You could just see it coming out of people's pores."

Now it was the Oilers' turn to show some resolve. With time running out on their season, they managed a game-tying field goal. But with Moon's interception inside Oilers' territory in the opening minutes of the overtime, the inevitable arrived for Houston.

Christie booted the game-winner, and the Bills completed the greatest comeback in NFL history with a 41-38 victory.

"It took almost perfect execution from all 45 players out there in the second half to win and that's what happened," Buffalo center Kent Hull said.

"Oh, what can you say? You really can't say, '(Wait 'til) next year,' " Oilers safety Cris Dishman said. "I don't know what going on, it's as simple as that We choked. We choked as a team. We choked as management. Everybody in this organization just choked."

The greatest wild-card game ever? Absolutely.

Copyright 1995-98 ESPN/Starwave Partners d/b/a ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form. ESPN.com Privacy Policy (Updated 01/08/98). Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service (Updated 01/12/98).