January 4, 2013 - 9:37 AM
January 3, 2013 - 4:14 PM
News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason (@TBNbucky) and Jerry Sullivan (@TBNSully) host their weekly live video "Bucky & Sully Show" at 10 a.m. Friday right here and on the BuffaloNews.com home page. This week former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley (@DarrylTalley) will join as a guest for one segment to discuss the "Comeback Game" and the state of the current Bills.
If you miss it, be sure to check back to BuffaloNews.com to watch segments from the show. The last five editions of the show can be found here (Dec. 28), here (Dec. 21), here (Dec. 14), here (Dec. 7) and here (Nov. 30).
Submit your questions for consideration to get answered on this week's show at BuckyAndSully@buffnews.com. Be sure to include your name and hometown.
January 3, 2013 - 1:00 AM
Here are some highlights from interviews with three former Bills about The Comeback:
Kenneth Davis remembers a coach's comment at halftime, fans' response and the role backups played.
(Download the mp3 of Davis)
Steve Tasker says the team was playing for pride, recalls the fans' encouragement and Frank Reich dropping an F-bomb.
(Download the mp3 of Tasker)
Mark Pike describes Darryl Talley in the locker room at halftime.
(Download the mp3 of Pike)
January 2, 2013 - 6:10 PM
James Lofton on the comeback game.
"It's funny, because we had played them week before. They were a good team; obviously, when somone is up on you like that, you're not thinking, 'We can come back.'
"When we started second half the way we did, it was, 'OK, this is about over, I guess."
On the special bond that team had:
"I remember when I got there in '89. The had made the AFC championship game the year before. So a fire had been lit, from the time Jim Kelly arrived, and it was just starting to grow. I think everyone could sense that. I remember being on the sidelines and hearing that MIghty Taco song. I remember actually singing it. You had the "Let's Go Buffalo" chants. There was a wave of enthusiasm."
"We found unique ways to win every week. Yeah, we had a great offense, but good defensive players and really special special teams players in Steve Tasker and Mark Pike. So there were a lot of elements that always added up, and then a unique coach in Marv Levy.
"He was probably the smallest coach in the NFL, we never talk about this. He also he seemed like the oldest and he was the smartest."
On feeling like the crowd lifted the team.
"You certainly could. I always go back to the first time we ran the no-huddle. It was the 1990 season, the home opener against the Colts. We moved down the field, gained 50 yards or whatever, and we had to call timeout because the crowd was too loud. We couldn't even hear Jim screaming the signals out. They were going crazy. It was like, what are we watching? We love it, we don't know what it is and we're crazy about it.There was that infectious quality about the city all the time.
"Remember how everybody seemed to have a TV or radio show? That speaks volumes about the interest in that team."
Lofton said one of the reasons Andre Reed was able to roam free and score three TDs was that the Oilers paid close attention to him.
"The week before, we had gone down there and I caught seven or eight passes (it was actually six for 75 yards). They decided to roll coverages over toward me. They kind of left Andre singled up in the slot, and people don't normally do that. He had two or three TDs on plays that should have been covered by standard coverages."
January 2, 2013 - 5:48 PM
Here's a classic story from the comeback game that didn't make it in any of my stories. Steve Tasker claims that Frank Reich apologized to the Creator for cursing during the game.
"Frank dropped an F bomb at one point," Tasker said. "He stopped in a huddle in a game, in that game, and broke out in a prayer asking for forgiveness. He felt bad, because he really felt God was in that game. He didn't want to screw it up by cursing."
January 2, 2013 - 5:43 PM
Some highlights from my interview with Frank Reich on the comeback game.
"You realize how special it was. Every time I see a game in any sport that gets completely out of hand, where get the feeling you should turn it off or turn the channel or do something else, you think back to that game."
Reich felt the camaraderie and the competitive bond of that team, forged over several years and many close games, helped make that win possible.
"Yeah, no question. I mean, there's no question that it was the quality of the athletes, but also the quality of the people and the quality of the chemistry we had. I've done a lot of things since then, in and out of football. You think of all the characters we had. You can't explain it. Even though we were all different in a lot of ways, when I see those guys I think it's mutual. You do feel like there was something special there, some kind of mutual respect, chemistry, whatever, an appreciation. I really think you can't have a comeback like that without having that to a strong degree."
"Just a couple things stick out. One, Marv's comments about just going out and playing like men during halftime. It wasn't any rah rah, hey we'll come back and win. It was like, you need to be a man, you need to be a man and go out and do your job. From the offensive perspective, I remember saying, 'One play at a time. Hey, I don't know what will happen, let's just execute one play at a time."
"Of course, I'll always remember Gale Gilbert coming up to me at halftime and saying to me, 'You were part of a comeback in college (Reich led the greatest comeback in Division 1A college football at Maryland). I still rememer it like yesterday. I was sitting in my locker and he said, 'I know you were part of a comeback like this in college, so you know it can be done.'
"I do rmember the shock of seeing our defense come out in the second half, we're playing this run and shoot that was on fire. We were in a 34 defense and they go four receivers. Conventional wisdom says you play a nickel or dime. I said, 'What's going to happen here, are we going to get blown out even more?'
January 2, 2013 - 3:57 PM
Here are some excerpts from my interview with Andre Reed on the Houston comeback game. I got him in the press box at the Rogers Centre the day the Bills played Seattle:
On the fourth-and-5 play that pulled the Bills to within four points, 35-31, late in the third quarter. Reich hit Reed for an 18-yard TD in the middle of the end zone. It was the second of three straight Reich-to-Reed TD passes that day. The last came late in the game and gave the Bills a 38-35 lead. They eventually won in overtime, 41-38.
"Probably the biggest gamble in Marv's career," Reed said without hesitation. "Coaches take gambles in every game, but I think Marv, the way he thought about that play at that time of the game. It was either yes or no, there was no in-between. It was executed perfectly.
"It gives me chills just thinking about it. I remember being in the huddle on that fourth-and-5. We didn't say hey, we have to make this OR ELSE. It was just, 'Let's make this and go get the ball back' and that's the way it was. It sounds stupid, but that's how we looked at it. It was, 'What were we going to do next?"
"You talk to a lot of the Oiler guys and they're like, 'We gave it to them. There's nothing given to youi in the NFL. You got to go out and take it. You got to earn it. The fans were definitely a part of it. But they could have put two football teams out there at that time and we still would have found a way to win that."
On the third touchdown, when sent four receivers down the seams and hit Reed for a TD after looking off safety Marcus Robertson:
"That third touchdown, he said it was just a little look this way. Just that little bit and that was it. Frank was the kind of quarterback, he knew the offense, he knew the plays, and he prepared like that all week, like he was going to go in regardless. I don't think some backups do that now.
"Marv had all the confidence in the world that Frank knew the offense. I think he knew the offense more than Jim (Kelly), if you ask me."
January 2, 2013 - 11:25 AM
Can you believe it? Tomorrow is Jan. 3, the 20th anniversary of the Bills' historic comeback win in the wild-card game against the Oilers. The News will commemorate the event with a seven-page spread in Thursday's sports section. It'll seem almost as if the game had taken place the day before.
Over the last few weeks, I've been interviewing key figures from the Bills' 41-38 win. It's been a welcome relief from the grinding despair of the current Bills. It's good to remember a time when the Bills were a great and relevant team in the NFL, at a time when you expected them to pull out close games.
Here's a few excerpts from my interview with Bill Polian, who built those Super Bowl teams. The comeback game was his final home game as general manager of the Bills. Polian told me he had already been told by Ralph Wilson that he would be fired at the end of the season.
"I'd almost forgotten that they tied it at the end of regulation, and we had to win it in overtime. You sort of lose sight of things in the heat of the moment. Two things in particular stick in my memory, as starkly in my mind as if it happened this morning.
"One, after we scored to make it 35-10, we called an onsides kick. You could see Marv (Levy) and Bruce (DeHaven). I turned to Bob Ferguson (the team's pro personnel director at the time) in the press box and said, 'If we get the onsides kick, we're going to win the game'. He said, 'You're crazy!' I said, 'I'm telling you, the tide will turn if we recover.'"
Polian's words rang true when the Bills recovered and scored again. "You could just see it when we recovered, he said, "by the way the Oilers reacted."
"The other thing was this ... I sat in a front press box in a temporary booth, an auxiliary radio booth. There was no glass. We had fans in front of us. It was outside. Toward the end of the first half, a group of guys in front of us started saying some derogatory things. It was sort of funny, actually (he insists he wasn't tempted to fight them.). You didn't want the season to end that way.
"Since I knew I was leaving at the end of the season, it would have been a bad way for my Bills career to end. John Butler (then the college scouting chief) was getting upset. They were saying, 'This team stinks, we've had it, we've had enough. Let's go.' And they left."
"Now, the comeback occurs."
Many fans had left by that point. Polian, who controlled all aspects of the team operation, said there was a rule against fans' leaving and coming back inside. They didn't want people to consume booze and return.
"We got a call," he said. "Ed Stillwell, our director of security, was in there with me. The security people were calling. They said, 'People are storming the gates, it's getting crazy out here!' We had a little confab. We said, 'OK, open the gates. Let them back in'."
"Well, the same group of guys came running back up the aisle. Lo and behold, boom, we score. They turn around, they're high-fiving each other, saying this is the greatest team ever. Those are the two things I remember most."
Polian said he didn't think any other team could have accomplished such an unlikely comeback. That Bills team was a rough, resilient, group that had come back many times before. They loathed losing. They hung out together and created a strong, sometimes volatile bond that made them hard to beat.
"They were very hard on each other," Polian said. "When you think about it, in terms of Marv Levy, this was his greatest victory, a vindication of all he had done in his program. He taught them to deal with adversity, to play smart, to play together, to be level-headed, and to never give up."
"(The comeback) was the ultimate personification of that. Plus, we had damn good players with a lot of pride and competitiveness. In many ways, it was the antithesis of the teams that had preceded them."
"I don't think there will ever be a team like that one. It was the good old days. The skies are blue, and it's always sunny. It was the right group of guys at the right time. Marv always said, if you get the right people, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
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