There has never been a team that has had to deal with as much scrutiny as the Buffalo Bills have, solely based on the fact that they made it to four consecutive Super Bowls and came up empty every time. The only thing worse than being a player on the team during this time was being a fan. Other fans were unrelenting in their mockery of one of the best teams to never win the biggest game in all of sports, and it still makes for a miserable topic for Bills’ fans. But, what if the Bills had won at least one Super Bowl during their four-year run?
Super Bowl No. 1 (Super Bowl XXV)
This was by far the most winnable of the four Super Bowls for the Bills, yet a Scott Norwood 47-yard field goal went wide right to seal the 20-19 victory for the New York Giants. Quarterback Jim Kelly had a solid day for the Bills, going 18 of 30 for 212 yards and zero touchdowns and no interceptions. But the player that really led the Bills’ offense that day was running back Thurman Thomas, who had 15 carries for 135 yards and one touchdown. The play that cost the Bills the game wasn’t necessarily the missed field goal, but rather the draw play that came before that.
Former Bills general manager Bill Polian spoke about the draw play prior to the missed kick.
“We looked at the tape the next day with Marv and we both stopped and took a deep breath. He could have run 15 more yards,” via USA TODAY.
The reason Thomas didn’t run further is because of the Bills’ timeout situation, but the extra yardage would have made the field goal a chip shot for Norwood.
Super Bowl No. 2 (XXVI)
After giving the Washington Redskins and quarterback Mark Rypien a 17-0 lead at halftime, the Bills were finished before they even got started. Two things that cost Buffalo the chance of keeping up with the Redskins: Jim Kelly’s four interceptions and the lack of a rushing attack from the Bills. Those two scenarios were something that the Bills relied heavily on in Super Bowl XXV, but it cost them dearly this time.
Super Bowl No. 3 (XXVII)
The Dallas Cowboys proved to be too much for the Bills in their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, and Buffalo found themselves down 28-10 at halftime after taking an early 7-0 lead over the Cowboys. Again, turnovers proved to be the biggest downfall for the Bills, as backup quarterback Frank Reich and Kelly both threw two interceptions each. The Cowboys also scored two touchdowns off of fumble recoveries by Buffalo. The Cowboys then scored 21 points in the fourth quarter for a blowout 52-17 victory.
The biggest storyline for the Bills wasn’t their third consecutive Super Bowl berth, rather how they were able to get there. After losing their last regular season game to the Houston Oilers, the Bills were set to host the Oilers in the AFC Wild Card game. Houston jumped out to an astonishing 35-3 lead with a little over 13 minutes left to play in the third quarter. But what happened next goes down as the greatest comeback in NFL history, and it was manufactured by the Bills backup quarterback.
Reich was able to lead the Bills back to a masterful 41-38 victory over the Oilers and propel them into another Super Bowl appearance after Buffalo lost Kelly in the regular season finale.
Super Bowl No. 4 (XXVIII)
The fourth Super Bowl appearance for the Bills was off to a much better start than the previous three. The Bills took a 13-6 halftime lead, but the Cowboys scored 24 second half points to win their second consecutive Super Bowl over Buffalo. Emmitt Smith was a major factor for Dallas and he rushed for 132 yards on 30 carries while scoring two touchdowns. The Bills suffered from multiple turnovers — which became the story of their four SB appearances — and it led to a fourth straight loss.
What if the Bills had won at least one Super Bowl?
Now comes the fun part, or maybe just a somber reminder of how close a title was for the Bills. If the Bills had won the first Super Bowl that they appeared in, it would have led to the team having one championship and not much more. The fact is that a win probably would have affected the Bills due to the taste of victory. The four straight appearances may have still happened but it is highly unlikely that that would have been the case for Buffalo.
The comeback against the Oilers probably wouldn’t have happened for Buffalo either. Kelly probably sums it up best for one of the greatest franchise reigns that didn’t end up in a dynasty of winning Super Bowls.
“As time went by, people started realizing how hard it was to go back year after year, and lose. If you talk to any player about that, I guarantee 99% of the players would say that would never be done again, and probably say they don’t know how we did it.”
“People always ask, would you rather win one time or go four times and lose. It’s a hard question. But to be honest with you, I would rather go four times and lose,” via USA TODAY.
In a strange and eery way, the Bills were destined to never win a Super Bowl during those four years, but it is something that will never happen again. We will never witness another run like the one that Buffalo put together and it has become a part of their story and their team history. ESPN had one of their 30 for 30 films recently air about Buffalo’s run at four straight Super Bowls titled “Four Falls of Buffalo.” Click here for program details about the documentary.
USA TODAY provides a couple of quotes from former Bills head coach Marv Levy that describe the importance of the team’s four-year run at a title and how special that Bills’ team was. He also says what the best way to not lose a Super Bowl is.
“They’ll always hurt a little but. But we’ll remember the good times more. That team has stayed very close personally through the years. Those guys I directed, they’re my friends.
“There’s one way to assure you’ll never lose a Super Bowl. Don’t go.”