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I’m not that old, so I don’t feel qualified to make such a list (at least, not by such a title.) But, after the game this past Friday night by the Sabres, and perhaps in anticipation of more to come in game two tonight, I began making a list with a friend of the best games I can recall. I said I would probably continue that thought on my blog page, so… here it goes.
Now, you’ll likely notice that the top games mostly involve my team winning. Yes, I’ll admit it right now, I’m a homer. I love my teams, and that’s part of what makes these the greatest games. BUT, the main part is that these were fantastic contests (for the most part)… back and forth, lots of action…. just phenomenal!
TOP TEN SPORTING EVENTS I’VE WITNESSED
- #10 – The Music City Miracle – January 8th, 2000
This is the only game on the list that my team lost. I think it makes the list because 1) it was a great game, and 2) it fits with the other games against this franchise (the Oilers/Titans) that made my list. There have been some pretty amazing games between these two teams.
This one started out totally weird as coach Wade Phillips decided to start QB Rob Johnson, instead of Doug Flutie who had been brilliant all season, and was a definite fan favorite. Flutie played right up till the end of the season, and the coach decided to start Johnson. Crazy.
Well, Johnson did alright. The game was 12-0 Titans at half time, but the Bills came back to take a 13-12 lead. They would relinquish that momentarily, until Johnson led the team to what appeared to be a game-winning 51 yard field goal by Steve Christie. With only seconds left on the clock, the Bills lead the game 16-15 on the Titans’ home turf.
That’s when it got ugly.
Christie kicked to the Titans, TE Frank Wycheck got the ball, and threw a “lateral” to his team mate Kevin Dyson, who ran all the way for a score! They called it the Homerun Throwback. Problem was, from several angles, you could see that it was not a throwBACK, but in fact it was a forward pass. Replay after replay, review after review, the refs finally said, “Play stands as ruled.” Argh. Bad ending for the Bills, but I have to admit, it was a great game, and deserves to be on the list.
- #9 – NY Jets at Buffalo Bills – Bills Clinch AFC East – November 20th, 1988
I think I remember this day being the day I was officially hooked. We were in attendance – I believe my first NFL football game ever. It was raining. The final score was only 9-6… in over time. But I was hooked.
I remember Fred Smerlas blocked a Jets FG attempt with 25 seconds left in the 4th quarter. It was wet, it was certainly wild, and I have been a Bills fan ever since!
The crowd stormed the field after the winning field goal. They tore down the field goal posts on the tunnel end. The security guards could do nothing, and I’m not certain they wanted to. They were probably joining in the fun also. At least in their hearts. 🙂 The win sent the Bills to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, and signaled the start of a great era for the Bills. They would be one dropped pass away from going to SIX STRAIGHT AFC Championship games from 1988-1993. (In 1989, Ronnie Harmon dropped the potential game-winning TD pass from Jim Kelly in Cleveland, that would have sent the Bills to another AFC Championship game.)
A great day in Bills history, and the beginning of years of fun (and heart break?) for me. 🙂
Read A recap in Fred Smerlas’ own words at BuffaloBills.com.
- #8 – Michigan State Spartans vs Kentucky Wildcats – 2005 NCAA Tournament – March 27th, 2005
Switching gears here, let’s talk NCAA basketball. To be fair, there have been plenty of games in the March Tourneys I have seen that could rival this one, but this game is in my recent memory, and was certainly a fantastic contest.
The Spartans went to the final four in 2005, and this game almost kept them from that. It was back and forth till near the end when the Spartans took a decent lead to the final seconds of regulation. In the waning moments, Spartans now leading by only 3 points, the Wildcats get several attempts at a tying bucket, until with no time remaining, their 3-pt ace gets an open shot, fires, ball bounces about FIFTEEN times on the rim, and finally falls to tie the game!!
But wait… TV replays show that his foot was on the line!! Minutes and minutes of reviews finally end up being inconclusive, and they count the bucket. The teams battle again, going into double overtime, with the Spartans finally prevailing!!! What a game!!!
For a recap from the UK perspective, click here.
- #7 – Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills – September, 1990
Another game that I was able to be at. We also taped the game and watched it all again when we got home. This game had everything. Offense, great defense (including defensive scores), and even blocked kicks. The most amazing part about this game is how the Bills won.
Denver controlled the game with a powerful rushing attack. The dominated for most of the contest, leading the Bills 21-9 with only 20 minutes to go in the game. Things were looking bleak. Until lightning struck — three times.
The Bills scored 3 times in 77 seconds. Nate Odomes started the scoring fest by blocking an easy field goal attempt, that Cornelius Bennett returned 80 yards for a score. Sixty seconds later, Leonard Smith returned an interception 39 yards for another TD. The Bills missed their second extra point of the game, so the lead was only 22-21. But they were not done. The Broncs started the next drive at their own 5 yard line, and the Bills recovered a John Elway fumble, which Kenny Davis turned into a TD one play later. 20 points in 77 seconds, Bills win 29-28 in the end. Incredible!!
There’s a nice recap here.
- #6 – Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers – September 13th, 1992
I was a freshman at Michigan State University when the Bills played this 4pm Sunday afternoon game. I was glad to be able to watch it, since that was rare in that town. This was another offensive showcase. Back and forth they went. Combined, the teams racked up over 1100 yards of offense, and for the first time in NFL history, neither team attempted a punt!
The Niners took a 14-3 lead, but the Bills kept coming. With the offense in high gear, the Bills end up winning the game with a late TD by Thurman Thomas (his second of the game), 34-31. Thomas had 179 total yards from scrimmage. After the go-ahead TD, the defense held Steve Young and the Niners on their final attempt to tie or win. I was smiling about this game afterwards for quite some time!!
- #5 – LA Raiders at Buffalo Bills – AFC Championship Game – January 20th, 1991
Bills fans never, ever could have expected what happened on this day. I was lucky enough to be there in person. The atmosphere was obviously quite charged. Everyone was excited at the good possibilty that we would be going to the Super Bowl. First time in the franchise history. That’s quite an accomplishment, and long-awaited by many in attendance that day. The Bills had a great season in 1990. They were perfect at Rich Stadium. Things were looking good.
It was really cold. I remember something close to 30 degrees BELOW ZERO wind chill. Bruce Smith (among others) played with bared arms, perhaps to intimidate the Los Angeles Raiders.
Maybe it worked.
For a Bills fan, this game was super, amazingly great. This one is not on the list because of the competitiveness of the game. It was far from that. Jay Schroeder completed a playoff record six passes – to the Buffalo defenders. The Bills offense was unstoppable. Kelly threw for over 300 yards. Thomas ran for over 100 yards. Kenny Davis scored a postseason record-tying 3 TDs. And the best part was, the win meant the Bills were going to the Super Bowl!!! What a great, great day!!!
It was 41-3 at half-time, but even with only 10 more points in the second half, all 80,000 plus people stayed very into the game, and partied for almost the entire second half!!! No one even noticed the cold!
There’s a nice recap of the day here.
- #4 – New Jersey Devils at Buffalo Sabres – April 27th, 1994
I didn’t actually watch this game. It was not televised, or perhaps I just didn’t get the station it was on. But, I did listen to the entire game on AM radio! I say “entire” because it lasted into the FOURTH overtime!!! And the final score??? 1-0. YES, ladies and gentlemen… ONE to NOTHING. 70 saves for Dominek Hasek. Game winning goal by Dave Hannan – something like the 4th line center for the Sabres then. We ended up losing that series to the Devils, but what an amazing game!!! The Dominator was fantastic, and the call of the winning goal sometime after 1am was certainly one that will live on in my mind for quite some time.
- #2T – Buffalo Bills at Houston Oilers – September 24th, 1989
I distinctly remember this game. It was early in my football formational years. In the previous season, the Bills had won their first AFC East championship of many to come. They were off to a shaky 1-1 start to the 1989 season. The run-n-shoot Oilers were certainly a formidable foe on their home turf, the Astrodome. The Bills had not won there since 1966. And, Bills fans were not yet aware of the amazing fire-power that their team would produce over the next 6 years or so.
Details of the game are sketchy. All I remember is that Moon and Kelly went back and forth, scoring points like crazy! Jim Kelly finished with 366 yds and FIVE TDs, including the winner in OT. He threw across the middle on a slant route to Andre Reed and Reed did the rest. It was close to a 70 yard TD, if I remember right. The Bills won 47-41 in overtime, and Bills fans everywhere rejoiced. Little did we know that there would be several games in the coming years that would be burned into Bills and Oilers fans memories. (See, The Comeback, and Music City Miracle).
- #2T – Sabres at Ottawa Senators – May 5th, 2006
This game vaulted to the top as of about 1:00am last Friday night (when I finished watching the tape of it). Previously, this spot was held by only one game – the Bills and Oilers game. In similar fashion, this game went back and forth in an endless offensive showcase. There were defensive plays, and good saves, but clearly this game will be remembered for it’s offense.
You could tell it would be that way from the start. The Sabres scored about 30 seconds into the 1st period, on the road, to take a 1-0 lead. Nice start! But the Sens came back with 2 quick replies, taking a 2-1 lead. OK, you knew it was going to be a crazy game for sure!! Sabes tied it up, 2-2 end of 1st. Traded goals in the second, 4-4 end of two. Less than 30 seconds into the third, Ottawa scores, and takes a 5-4 lead that they would hold until the final 2 minutes of the game. Then it got crazy!
The Sabres scored – short-handed, no less – with 1:37 left to tie the game at 5-5. Even though it had been crazy, you figure we’re headed for OT. BUT, they were not done! The Sens were still on the power play. So, moments later, they score a PP goal and take a threatening 6-5 lead with only slightly over a minute left in the game! Ouch!! But the Sabes were up to the challenge. Skating 4-on-4, with only 10.7 seconds left in the game, Tim Connoly scores the tying goal to send the game to overtime! Yes!!
Finally, only 18 seconds into overtime, the Sabres finish it off by stealing a puck in the offensive zone and Chris Drury seals the deal with a quick wrist shot. 7-6 Buffalo. Amazing, amazing game.
Click here for the AP write up on the game.
- #1 – The Comeback – January 3rd, 1993
BY FAR, the best game I have ever, and I believe will ever personally see. How can it be topped? Surely you have heard the details, but since it’s #1, I shall summarize for you. Bills start their back-up QB in the first game of the playoffs that would send them to their third straight Super Bowl. He has a miserable game, as does the defense. 28-3 at half time turns into 35-3 shortly after the start of the third quarter. Then the magic begins. The Bills scored THIRTY-FIVE unanswered points in the next quarter and a half to take a 38-35 lead. For a little extra drama, the Bills allowed the Oilers to score a FG with time winding down, making the score 38-38, heading to overtime. And, for the icing on the cake, they lost the coin toss, and the Oilers got the ball first in OT. Henry Jones intercepted Warren Moon’s pass, deep in Oilers territory, and the rest is history. Steve Christie kicked the winning FG 3:06 into OT, and the Bills ended up advancing to the Super Bowl.
Frank Reich has the honor of QB-ing the biggest comebacks in NFL (32 points) and NCAA (31 points) history. And he was the back-up in both cases! Awesome!
For a complete summary of the game, visit the Bills website.
That was fun! Reliving all those games… hope you enjoyed it too. If you have any to add, or a story to share about one of those events, please add your comment below!