The day Andre Reed caught three second-half touchdowns for Bills in ‘The Comeback’
Receiver helped Buffalo erase the largest deficit in NFL history
Andre Reed was fed up with being the decoy receiver in the Buffalo Bills’ offense. Much of his frustration during the 1992 season revolved around the All-Pro receiver feeling as though his role had been diminished.
However, when the Bills faced a 32-point deficit in the third quarter of the team’s AFC wild-card game against the Houston Oilers on Jan. 3, 1993, Reed’s role was seriously elevated. His eight-catch, 136-yard, three-touchdown performance helped lead the Bills to an epic comeback victory.
Reed caught the final three touchdowns of the game, which gave the Bills their first lead in the fourth quarter, and Buffalo won in overtime, 41-38, to move on to the divisional round against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Twenty-five years later, it remains the biggest comeback in NFL history.
After the Bills announced that Frank Reich would fill in for injured starting quarterback Jim Kelly, Reed pulled Reich aside to discuss his involvement in the offense.
“Maybe they’ve been saving me for the playoffs,” Reed told the Baltimore Sun. “I said, ‘Frank, you have to get the ball to me, it’s time. The chips are down and you need everybody playing.’
“When your number is called, you have to shine.”
Reed did nothing but shine after coming into the league as a fourth-round draft pick out of Kutztown (Pennsylvania) State University in 1985. He caught 48 passes in his first year, which among rookies was third behind Cincinnati’s Eddie Brown (53) and San Francisco’s Jerry Rice (49).
Reed was Buffalo’s leading wideout for six consecutive years, and coming into the ’92 season he had been selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls. His career peaked during the 1991 season, when he hauled in a career-best 10 touchdown receptions.
So the ’92 season was especially hard — Reed finished with a career-low three scores, with just one in the final 10 games — as he watched his opportunities dissipate. In the first six games, he averaged 6.3 catches for 99 yards, juxtaposed with an average of 2.7 receptions for 31 yards during the remaining slate.
“It got to be real frustrating over the last part of the season,” said Reed, who still ended up leading the Bills with 65 catches for 913 yards. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
After the game, Reich explained that Reed not catching so many passes actually benefited the Bills.
“I was thinking that Andre hadn’t caught a lot of passes recently,” Reich said, “and that they wouldn’t be keying on him like they normally do.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver was wide-open for touchdowns of 26, 18 and 17 yards — two in the third quarter and the last one with 3:08 remaining in the game, which resulted in a tremendous roar from the 75,141 fans at the game.
Houston would kick a field goal to tie the game before time expired, but Steve Christie’s 32-yard field goal in overtime gave Buffalo the victory.
“The playoffs are a new season,” said Reed. “At that time of year you realize that when the chips are down, big players have to make big plays.
“When we were in the huddle, you could just feel the adrenaline pouring out of people’s skin.
“It was just an incredible, incredible feeling. When it was over, no one wanted to leave the field. It’s definitely my most satisfying moment.”
After the game, then-Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson wiggled his way through a crowd of reporters to shake Reed’s hand.
“You’re the best, Andre,” Wilson said, cutting Reed off midway through answering a question. “You’re the best.”
Buffalo would go on to to beat the Steelers in the divisional round and the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game but would lose to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII.
After losing to the Cowboys again in Super Bowl XXVIII, Buffalo would make the playoffs just four times (1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999) until last weekend. The Bills are back in the postseason for the first time in 18 years and will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild-card round.