Biggest 180s: Bills overcome 35-3 deficit to beat Oilers in 1992 wild card round

Scott McLaughlin
November 19, 2018 - 2:57 pm

Long before the Patriots gave us 28-3, there was 35-3.

During the wild card round of the 1992 AFC playoffs, the Houston Oilers appeared to be cruising to an easy win over the higher-seeded Buffalo Bills. Warren Moon had thrown four first-half touchdown passes to give the Oilers a 28-3 halftime lead.

Given that the Bills were without injured starting quarterback Jim Kelly, and that the Oilers had beaten Buffalo 27-3 in the regular-season finale just one week earlier, the game seemed destined for an anticlimactic second half.

Things only got worse early in the third quarter when star Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas went down with an injury, and then the Oilers returned an interception for a touchdown to make it 35-3. Little did anyone know that the Bills were about to mount the biggest comeback in NFL history.

Backup quarterback Frank Reich drove the Bills down for their first touchdown of the game. Then they recovered an onside kick and drove down for another touchdown. Then they forced a quick punt and drove down for another touchdown. Then they picked off Moon, converted a fourth down on the ensuing drive, and scored their fourth touchdown of the quarter on Reich’s third touchdown pass of the quarter.

The Bills had outscored the Oilers 28-7 in the third quarter to cut the once-32-point lead all the way down to four.

The score remained 35-31 Houston for much of the fourth quarter, until Andre Reed hauled in his third touchdown catch of the game with 3:08 remaining to give the Bills a 38-35 lead. After surrendering 35 straight points, the Oilers salvaged a late game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime.

That wasn’t enough to kill the Bills’ momentum, though. On the third play of overtime, Buffalo’s Nate Odomes picked off Moon and set up the Bills at Houston’s 20-yard line. A couple plays later, Steve Christie kicked a game-winning 32-yard field goal to cap off one of the biggest 180s in sports history.

The Bills went on to beat the Steelers and Dolphins on the road to reach a third straight Super Bowl, where they would suffer a third straight loss, a 52-17 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys.


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