5. St. Louis Cardinals – 25: It was the Cardinals final season in St. Louis before becoming the Arizona Cardinals. The team finished 7-8 and missed the playoffs in the midst of a players’ strike.
By Week 9 things were back to normal when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to town. Led by Neil Lomax the Cardinals were down 25 points in the third quarter when Lomax connected on three touchdown passes. They would also recover a fumble to complete the 31-28 comeback.
4. Buffalo Bills – 26 Points: 1997 was the beginning of the end for Hall of Fame players’ Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith as quarterback Todd Collins took over the reins. The Bills would miss the playoffs for only the second time in ten years but the bright spot was the second-largest comeback in NFL regular season history when they overturned a 26-0 deficit. The Bills trailed the Indianapolis Colts, 26-0, with six minutes left in the second quarter. Buffalo’s hopes for a victory that fall afternoon against a team that was 0-3 appeared less than bleak.
“Orchard Park High School kids could have beaten us in the first half,” defensive end Phil Hansen said to Vic Carucci of The News. “I don’t even have an answer for the way we looked in the first half. It was not a team that deserved or demanded respect.”
Buffalo started the rally late in the first half with 10 quick points, including a touchdown pass from Todd Collins to Lonnie Johnson. In the second half, Antowain Smith ran for three touchdowns, while Collins threw another scoring pass to Quinn Early. Marvin Harrison caught a TD pass for the Colts with 14 seconds left, but the two-point conversion failed and the Bills had a victory.
3. Indianapolis Colts – 28 points: In one of the most entertaining playoff games of the 2013 season, the Colts erased a 28-point deficit in the 2013 AFC Wild Card Game.
Led by Andrew Luck, the second year quarterback threw three early interceptions and was down 31-10 at halftime.
Nothing seemed to go right for the Colts until Luck found his stride. Luck finished 29-of-45 for 443 yards, four touchdowns and those three early three interceptions.
“He’s a second-year guy, so technically he’s still a kid in the league, but he plays like a grown man,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. – ESPN.com
With less than five minutes remaining in the game Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for a 64-yard touchdown. “He kept telling us, even at 38-10, ‘We’re going to win this game,'” offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo said.
The remarkable comeback was the second greatest playoff comeback in NFL history.
2. San Francisco 49ers – 28 Points: It was Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana’s second season with the 49ers, but they failed to make the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. The bright spot? The greatest regular season comeback in NFL history against the New Orleans Saints.
It was December 7th, 1980 at Candlestick Park and only 48 degrees. The Saints came out early and struck with three touchdowns. The 49ers would strike back but only to allow the Saints to score twice more and go into half down 35-7.
Not many realized this would be the first of many 4th quarter comebacks by Joe Montana, but after four consecutive touchdowns and holding the Saints scoreless, the game was brought to a tie. Ray Wersching would end the game with a 36-yard field goal. It still stands as the largest comeback during the regular season.
A cold and windy day at Rich Stadium both the Bills and Oilers came in as wild card teams.
Both teams faced off just the week before as the Oilers defeated the Bills, 27-3 in Houston. The real story was the injury to star and now Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He would suffer strained ligaments in his knee which left backup Frank Reich to start the wild card game.
The first half was dominated by the Houston Oilers, now the Tennessee Titans. Warren Moon was on fire completing 19 of 22 passes for 220 yards and 4 touchdowns. The high-powered Buffalo offense was left off the field and only managed 3 points trailing by 25 at the half.
Most thought it was over and started to leave the stadium at that point. Little did anyone think things could get worse, but they did.
In the third quarter, Reich threw a pass that bounced off the hands of tight end Keith McKeller and went into the arms of defensive back Bubba McDowell, who returned the interception 58 yards for a touchdown.
Houston had a commanding 32-point lead, 35-3 and to make matters worse the Bills also lost star running back and future Hall of Famer, Thurman Thomas with an injury.
The Bills were left without the two focal points of the entire franchise and the famous statement was made by a Houston radio announcer. “The lights are on here at Rich Stadium, they’ve been on since this morning, you could pretty much turn them out on the Bills right now.”
That is when things started to miraculously change.
Buffalo began their rally with a one-yard run by Kenneth Davis and when Christie recovered the ensuing onside kick, Reich took over the show. He calmly directed the offense as he connected first with Don Beebe and then hooked up with Andre Reed for three more touchdowns. The Bills’ flurry put them ahead 38-35 with just under 3 minutes to play. With seconds left in regulation, the Oilers’ Al Del Greco tied the score with a 26-yard field goal kick to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, defensive back Nate Odomes intercepted a Moon pass which set the stage for Steve Christie and the game winning kick.
Fans could not “Bill”eve what had just happened that day in Buffalo. From screaming profanities at the team and walking to the parking lot to attempting to climb back over fences just to get into the stadium to see NFL history.
In commemoration of the game, Steve Christie’s kicking shoe from the game has been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
GB Bongiovanni is the owner of TPF and can be contacted at GB@GMAEnterprises.com or @GBBongiovanni