TORONTO (Jan. 24) — Wide Right. No Goal. The Music City Miracle. And now… 13 Seconds.
It just doesn’t end for the traumatized football and hockey fans of Buffalo. And, it’s possible that only a professional sports team from the friendly, proud city in western New York could lose a big–time match such as the National Football League Divisional playoff Sunday night in Kansas City. Without question, the greatest football game I have ever seen: 25 points scored in the final 1:54 of regulation. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes trading bombs in the middle of the ring. The Buffalo Bills taking the lead on a touchdown pass from Allen to Gabriel Davis with 13 seconds to play. Then, a two–point convert for, surely, a sizzling, 36–33 triumph. THIRTEEN seconds!
And, Kansas City winning, 42–36, on the first series of overtime.
Honestly, how much more can the aggrieved denizens of Buffalo withstand?
Why does fate so regularly torture these poor folks?
It began with the missed, 47–yard field goal by Scott Norwood in the dying seconds of Super Bowl XXV in Tampa (Jan. 27, 1991). The New York Giants survived, 20–19. As it turned out, the best chance for the Jim Kelly–Thurman Thomas–Bruce Smith Bills to prevail in the four consecutive NFL title matches they lost. Then… June 19–20, 1999. At what is now the First Niagara Center; then, Marine Midland Arena. Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars winning the Stanley Cup in triple overtime of Game 6 by scoring on Dominik Hasek of the Sabres with part of his skate–toe in the goal–crease. I saw it, live, covering for The FAN–590. From the empty auxiliary press box in the corner of the upper deck… the play occurring directly beneath my location. In the wee hours. Only upon descending to the media room was it apparent the goal should not have been allowed, based on a much–abhorred and controversial rule. Gary Bettman, having presented the Cup to Dallas captain Darien Hatcher, was nowhere to be found. Instead, director of officiating Bryan Lewis stepped to the podium at 2:40 a.m. to speak for the National Hockey League commissioner. And, none–too convincingly. Less than a week later, the NHL Board of Governors deep–sixed the preposterous rule. Too late, again, for Buffalo. And — oy vey — that NFL wild card game in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2000. A field goal providing the Bills a 16–15 lead over the Tennessee Titans with 16 seconds left. SIXTEEN seconds! Then, the Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson forward lateral on the kickoff — clearly illegal — and a 75–yard touchdown scamper with no time remaining. 26–22 for the Music City boys. Impossible, right?
But, no moment in Buffalo’s anguished trilogy will sting quite like the eye–popping, heart–wrenching defeat at Arrowhead Stadium that capped, undoubtedly, the most–incredible playoff weekend in NFL history. All four games ending on the final play — three by field goals in regulation, then the Mahomes TD toss to Travis Kelce at 4:15 of overtime. Again… after the road team danced and hugged on the sidelines with 13 seconds left. That close to hosting the American Conference Championship next weekend against Cincinnati. Somehow, starting at his own 20, Mahomes maneuvered the Chiefs into field goal range. A 19–yard pass to Tyreek Hill. Eight seconds left. A 25–yard connection with Kelce. Three seconds left. Then, a 49–yard boot (hardly conventional) by Harrison Butker to knot the match with 0:00 on the clock. It could only happen to Buffalo. What other team? What other city?
There is no answer. Is there?