NFL rewind: 5 greatest comebacks in NFL history
1. Buffalo Bills – 32 Points
To this day it is still hard to believe that the Bills found a way to beat the Houston Oilers that January 3rd in 1993.
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 lott 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.
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.
3. Buffalo Bills – 26 Points
Odd to see a team twice on this list but the comeback kids did it again in 1997 against the Indianapolis Colts and Jim Harbaugh.
1997 was the beginning of the end of Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith as quarterback Todd Collins took over the reins as the Bills would miss the playoffs for only the second time in ten years.
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.
The Cardinals final season in St. Louis before moving to Arizona was a bust. The team finished 7-8 and missed the playoffs.
The 1987 season was marked by a players’ strike where regular play was canceled for a month as NFL owners stocked up on replacement players. Games were canceled during the 3rd week but as replacement players filled the line ups they played for an average of four weeks.
By Week 9 things were back to normal when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to town with rookie quarterback Vinny Testaverde but started Steve DeBurg.
Led by Neil Lomax the Cardinals were down 25 points in the third quarter when Lomax connected on three touchdown passes and they would also recover a fumble to complete the 31-28 victory.
5. 13 Times tied at 24
There are 13 times that a team has comeback to win when they were down by 24 points. The most recent would be in 2011 as the Detroit Lions came back against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys has a 27-3 lead going into half-time, but then Bobby Carpenter returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown, and soon enough, the Lions had a 34-30 victory.
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