Moments of Heartbreak: Buffalo Bills – Music City Miracle

Who are the Buffalo Bills?

The Buffalo Bills were founded in 1960 and were a member of the American Football League, where they won back to back AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. The Bills joined the NFL in 1970 during the AFL-NFL merger. Since the merger, the Bills have made the playoffs 13 times and are the only team in the NFL to win four conference championships in a row, which is a great record. They are also the only team in the NFL to lose 4 Super Bowls in a row, which is not such a great record. The Bills have not made the playoffs in the 21st century. The 90s were by far the most successful decade for the Bills, with only 2 seasons without a playoff appearances (1994, 1997). Their last playoff appearance was in 1999, where they lost in the Wild Card round to the Tennessee Titans in a game that would come to be known as the Music City Miracle and this weeks topic of discussion.

The 1999 Season

Most of the 1999 season was overshadowed by the debut of the Kurt Warner’s “Greatest Show on Turf.” However, the Buffalo Bills, led by a 37 year old Doug Flutie, would slide into the playoffs as a Wild Card team with a very respectable 11-5 record. The Bills would enter the playoffs with arguably the best defense in the league that year. Buffalo only gave up 14.3 points a game (2nd in the league), allowed only 2,675 passing yards (best in the league), and just 4045 total yards through the season (also best in the league). With such a dominant defense, they were a dangerous team to face in the playoffs. Their first opponent to face that defense would be the Tennessee Titans. A showdown in Nashville….Music City., pub-1100396528751056, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

The First Half

Interestingly enough, Wade Phillips would opt to start Rob Johnson (who?) over Doug Flutie, who had started 15 games that season for the Bills. Bold strategy Wade, let’s see if it pays off for ya. The first quarter ended scoreless as both teams struggled to get any sort of offense flowing. The highlights for the 1st quarter were a sack and fumble by Rob Johnson and a missed field goal from 43 yards out by Al Del Greco.

Disaster would strike early for the Bills in the second quarter. Backed up on their own 8 yard line, Johnson would be sacked for 4th time in the half and fumble the ball in the endzone, where it would be recovered for a safety. The Titans would be the first team on the scoreboard and lead 2-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Derrick Mason would return it 42 yards to Buffalo’s 28 yard line. Steve McNair would end the drive by running it in from a yard out. The Titans would tack on another field goal as time expired to end the 1st half up 12-0 despite having just 64 yards of offense and losing 44 yards in penalties. Rob Johnson would end the half just 10-22 passing the ball while being sacked 5 times. Things were looking grim for the Bills.

The Second Half

Bills running back Antowain Smith opened up the second half with a 44 yard run all the way down to the Titans 18 yard line. Rob Johnson would somehow avoid being sacked on this drive and Smith would put the the Bills first points on the board with a 4 yard run. The Bills were down just 5 points now with a whole half of football left. Neither team would score again in the 3rd quarter as defensive teams would continue to dominate this game. Also, Rob Johnson was sacked….again.

The 4th quarter would start with a roughing the passer penalty against the Titans, bailing the Bills out of what would have been a 4th down. Instead, the Bills moved down the Titans 7 yard line. Antowain Smith would punch it from there on a few rushes. However, the 2-point conversion failed, but the Bills had claimed the lead. 13-12 with 12:45 left in the game.

On the ensuing drive, Steve McNair would lead the Titans on a 19 play drive, taking over 10 minutes off the clock, ending in a 36 yard field goal from Al Del Greco. The Bills used all their timeouts on that drive and were left with just 1:53 clock. Only down 2 points, they just needed to get into field goal range to win it and continue on to the Divisional round.

Kevin Williams would take the kickoff 33 yards to Buffalo’s 39. Johnson hits Peerless Price on the next play for 14 yards. They were now in Titans territory. Hurrying to the line, Johnson stops the clock with an incomplete pass intended for Eric Moulds. 1:18 left and on the Titans 47 yard line. Next play, Johnathan Linton would take it 12 yards up the middle to the Titans 35. 57 seconds left. Antowain Smith takes the next play another 3 yards. Now at the 32 yard line and 35 seconds left, Johnson hits Peerless Price yet again for another 9 yards. The Bills had made their way down to the Titans 23 yard line. Easily within Steve Christie’s range. With just 20 seconds left, the Titans call their first time out. As Christie put’s the ball through the uprights, the Bills take the lead 16-15. With just 16 seconds left, Bills fans were celebrating their impending victory and their Divisional round birth.

…….but this game was far from over.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lorenzo Neal would receive and hand the ball off to tight end Frank Wycheck. Wycheck would take a few steps to his right before winding up and tossing the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson. Bills fans would watch in shock as Dyson would take it 75 yards down the field for what would be the game winning touchdown.

The Bills have not been back to the playoffs since this game. It would also be the last time fans would see Bills greats Bruce Smith, Thurmon Thomas, and Andre Reed in uniform.

Shout out to the Bills subreddit for their assistance in the making of this article. Here are a few comments on their own heartbreaking experiences.

Reddit user timmeejr – Losing Fred. Hate how he was cut.

Reddit user ScrapeyElbows – Well you have the Music City Miracle and Wide Right for us older guys. Losing to the Pittsburgh B team in week 17 hurts. Playing the Patriots.

Reddit user dj10show – Losing the 4th Super Bowl after leading at halftime. I was only 8, but looking up at the 4 AFC pennants my parents had hung in my bedroom, and realizing we had just lost again, I cried myself to sleep somehow knowing our franchise was not destined for great things.

Reddit user jub672TOUCHDOWN TITANS, THERE ARE NO FLAGS ON THE FIELD, ITS A MIRACLE, TENNESSEE HAS PULLED A MIRACLE miracle my asshole, that shit went forward

Reddit user Sef_Maul – Wide right. I want to be clear that I don’t blame Norwood for that loss though. Never should have come down to that, we should have run over the Giants.

Reddit user Uffalollls – Every season. Every damn season I’ve been alive for. When I was little and even still now it gets to around week 10 or so and it starts looking bad for the Bills postseason chances, I run the numbers non-stop and hope and pray for the playoffs. Breaks my heart every damn time they lose a crucial game.

Reddit user Rkirke

Boy this is a tough question. So much to choose from!

  • Obviously losing 4 straight SB’s was tough, but each season was a such a fun journey.
  • Watching the music city miracle was a shock, but it didn’t end that week, to then watch the Titans lose the SB by a yard, was like, are you kidding me? That should be us. Our Def was sick and could’ve handled the Rams O.

More recently for me:

  • 2008 season. Starting 5-1, Brady was knocked out for the season. To finish 7-9, that was a tough pill to swallow.
  • 2010 Steelers game. I was in attendance. Fitz dropped one in Stevie’s bread basket in OT and he couldn’t hang on.
  • 2011 season. Starting 5-2, beat the Patriots at home. To be 5-2 after week 8 and finish the season 6-10. Brutal.
  • 2014 season, after beating GB, losing to Oakland was tough.
  • 2016 had high expectations, but some frustrating outcomes. TNF vs Jets. MNF @ Sea. Being up double digits on Mia and Oak and blowing both those games. Letting Bell and Ajayi run all over us.

Want to experience more heartbreak? Check out the past moments of heartbreak.

Atlanta Falcons – Super Bowl LI

Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII

Baltimore Ravens – 2011 AFC Championship Game

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

3 responses to “Moments of Heartbreak: Buffalo Bills – Music City Miracle”

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