My top 12 biggest upsets in Buffalo Sports History

So…Jeff Tuel vs. Tom Brady?

Kill me now. As someone who is going to the opener and making contingency plans because we may be leaving at halftime and will need to figure out how many extra beers we need to bring, this a major kick in the nuts. We have no chance. NONE! This isn't #becauseitsbuffalo and woo is me being a Buffalo fan, this is more about the football product. A undrafted FA is about to take on the evil Empire of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. That's like Jar Jar Binks going up against The Emperor.

However…crazier things have happened in sports, right?

  • The Miracle Mets
  • Tyson vs. Douglas
  • Kurt Warner taking over the Rams.
  • The Jets winning the Super Bowl.
  • NC State in 1983.
  • The 2013 Pirates

Upsets are great theater in sports. It is an occurrence that is always special and although it shocks us, we tend to always believe these occurrences never happen…Yet, they do. The trill of victory gives hopeless romantics the mindset that anything can happen..Maybe we can find love!

And yes, it has happened in Buffalo sports. It is funny, but over the last 13 years or so, the Bills have been so close to pulling off upsets (Dallas Monday Night game and about 4 other NE games), but they would always seem to blow out. I still get that feeling of "MY GOD! If we pull this off, I'm going to feel so cool walking into the office the next day and talking shit to co-workers. We would have Sportscenter highlights at the top of the hour instead of the normal 75-minute mark of the show."

Sadly hoping for upsets is what we have have lately in Buffalo.

I mean, how many games are you picking for the Bills to win this year? Not many, right? Hell, how many games have you picked them to win over the last 10 years! Last I checked, the Bills have beaten something like 6 playoff teams since 2006. That's what happens when you suck for so many years. However, if they pull a rabbit out of their hat, for that moment, you feel like a million bucks and all the losing washes away for just one afternoon. You stop caring about the standings or QB play or the losing history.

You can feel vindicated when you get to knock off Goliath. Even with our sad history of Buffalo sports, we did have moments where we played the role of David.

Here are my biggest upsets in Buffalo sports history:

12) 1993 playoffs: Bills vs. Oilers– I always talk about how spoiled Bills fans were in the 90's. How many of you right now would take an 11-5 record heading into a wildcard home playoff game? ALL OF US! Then…Not so much. Fans at that juncture were used to the Bills steam rolling to the playoffs and having home field advantage. But a funny thing happened before the Bills were to win the division and finish with a 12-4 record…They got crushed by the Oilers. All they had to do was beat Houston and they'd get the bye and home field advantage. Instead, Jim Kelly got knocked out of the game and the Bills lost by 27. Kelly, along with Cornelius Bennett, would miss the wildcard game against Houston. Without getting into what happens because as Buffalo fans we know the outcome like we know who won WWII, what gets ignored is that noooooooooo oneeeeeeeeeee was picking the Bills before this game. The morale was about as low as..well, right now. People just felt this would be the end of their little AFC run. No Kelly. No Bennett. The Oilers were loaded. It didn't really make sense to feel that way because the Bills had the better record, but like I said, we were spoiled. And sometimes when you are spoiled and adversity hits, you start crying.

11) 1996:Bills vs. Cowboys- I remember watching this game at my friend Ron's house and just being pissed off prior to kickoff. This was that big revenge game against one of our Super Bowl demons that you just couldn't wait to see. I remember being totally hyped up for this game. Of course, I didn't think we had a chance. While the spread was only 2.5 points, I distinctly remember that no one gave the Bills a shot against the defending champions. The main reason being that Todd Collins was making his first career start. Yes, the man who started the dysfunction at the QB position after Kelly retired was going up against the ghost of Super Bowl pasts, Troy Aikman.  In what became a real defensive struggle, the Bills were able to squeak out a 10-7 win. Collins didn't do much of anything, going 11-17 for 81 yards. However, the defense shut down Big D's offense (Aikman threw 3 picks, Smith-15 carries for 25 yards). On a side note, this would be the only game that John Madden and Pat Summerall would call in Buffalo. In fact, they only called 2 Bills games (Super Bowl XXVI and this).

6:00 Minute mark

10) 1989: Bills vs. Rams- If you want to maybe..possibly..drunkingly..find any sort correlation to the Bills being able to beat the Pats with an unproven QB, maybe this classic Monday Night football game is your meal ticket. The Bills were 3-2 and going up against the 5-0 Rams. A week earlier, the Bills were decimated by the Colts in a 35-14 loss and even worse, Jim Kelly was knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder. This was the game in which #12 called out Howard Ballard for not blocking well, which ended being the start of the "Bickering Bills" motto for the 1989 season. The Bills were about to go against a killer Rams team with an unknown backup QB who only attempted 20 passes in his 3-year career at that point.

This wasn't the Frank Reich your dad tells you about. This was a nobody, and nobody thought the Bills could beat the Rams. However, Reich was terrific in his first NFL start, throwing for 217 yards and 2TDs. Thurman Thomas also had kind of a coming out game, as he gained almost 200-yards in total offense and Andre Reed caught the game-winning touchdown with less than 20 seconds left. It was a game I only watched until halftime (Bedtime as I was 9-years-old), but my goodness, I wish I could have stayed up late for this one. In this game, Buffalo's favorite underdog QB son was born.

(15:20 Mark)

9) 2001: Bills vs. Jets- By far, this was the worst Bills team I've ever seen play. The Bills finished the season 3-13 and had the 3-headed monster at QB with Rob Johnson, Alex Van Pelt and even a cameo by Travis Brown. The defense was terrible as they had guys like Brandon Spoon and Eric Flowers starting. At 2-12, the Bills headed to the Meadowlands to take on the playoff bound NY Jets (9-5). Earlier in the year, the Jets crushed the Bills 42-36 (The Bills scored 2 garbage time TDs late to make it look closer, but it wasn't). The Jets were favored by 7 points in this one and the Bills all but had golfing and strip clubs on their mind when it came to playing out the string. The Bills stunned the Jets 14-9, in an ugly game that was remembered for very conservative and shoddy play-calling by the Jets offensive coordinator, Paul Hackett and Vinny Testeverde's refusal to go down the field. Shawn Bryson was the Bills MVP (Remember him?) as he rushed for over 100-yards.

8) 2005: Bills vs. Bengals- In what would statistically be the biggest upset in Bills history when you factor in point spreads, Cincinnati came into this game with an 11-3 record and were favored by 13 points. This was when Carson Palmer looked like the 2nd coming and Chad Johnson was killing it. The Bills were doing what they normally do in December and that's playing shitty football in meaningless games. Led by Kelly Holcomb, the Bills were sporting a 4-10 record. Between Mike Mularkey's bumpkin approach, JP Losman being unpopular with his teammates, Eric Moulds wanting to get the hell out of here and Tom Donahoe being public enemy #1, you couldn't ask for a bigger vortex of hurricane shit.

But somehow, the Bills put on a really great performance. This was like the Terrence McGee coming out game, as he scored on a kickoff and INT return for a TD. Holcomb finished with over 300-yards passing, Lee Evans chipped in with 100-yards receiving and Eric Moulds caught 9 balls. The Bills cruised, 37-27. Of course, no one looks at this game in any sort of historical context in terms of point spreads. Instead, it is viewed as a game that lost ground in trying to get a top 5 pick. Hooray!

7) 2011: Bills vs. Patriots- When a losing streak goes on for almost 10 years to a particular franchise, you know when you finally beat that team it is going to be termed an upset. The Pats were 7.5 point favorites and with Brady and company leading the squad against Ryan Fitzpatrick and his band of undrafted/7th rounders, there wasn't that much hope. Heading into this game, the Bills were 2-0 and there was still a ton of trepidation about how good they really were. I mean, no one really thought they'd be good that year. In what started off as a same old shit with the Patriots running out to a 21-0 lead, the Bills stormed back and scored 17 4th quarter points to finally beat the Pats. Fitz was magnificent in this game, throwing for almost 400-yards and pretty much guaranteeing his 59-million dollar contract extension he'd sign a few weeks later. By far, this was probably the biggest win over the last 13 years for the franchise. Of course, it also gave us fictitious hope that the Bills were going to turn it around and finally make the playoffs…and without elaborating what happens next, we will leave it at that. :(

6) 1999 playoffs: Sens vs. Sabres- Revisionist history tells us this wasn't that big of an upset. I can't even begin to tell you how many times an expert says "I saw this coming a mile away. Ottawa wasn't that good." Maybe…but when you are a 7th seed going up against 2nd seed and the underdog sweeps them in 4…It is an upset. You can pretty much give most of the credit for this sweep to Hasek. The Czech goalie stonewalled the Sens, holding them to just 6 goals in four games. Besides the superior goaltending, the Sabres really beat up the Sens. Guys like Geoff Sanderson and Miro Satan were finishing off checks, which was unheard of for guys like those. This series win spearheaded the Sabres to the Finals, where they ended up losing to the Stars.

5) 1968: Bills vs. Jets- We will keep this short since I wasn't born and I don't even think my parents knew each other on the day this game was played. In what turned out to be a pretty sick game where both teams scored 82 points, The Bills were able to beat the Jets by a score of 37-35. Amazingly, the Jets outgained the Bills 427 yards to 197. The problem was that the Jets committed 6 turnovers with Broadway Joe throwing 5 picks. Oh, did I mention this was the only win for the Bills that season (1-12-1) and the Jets went on to win the Super Bowl? So, yeah..That's a pretty big upset, wouldn't you say?

4) 1993 Playoffs: Sabres vs. Bruins- Before there was the 13-year playoff drought for the Bills, the other streak of significant sadness was that the Sabres couldn't get out of the 1st round of the playoffs for almost 10 years. 0 for 7 to be exact. Although they had tons of talent with LaFontaine/Mogilny combining for like 250 points, the Bruins were the 1st seed in the Adams Division playoffs while the Sabres were 4th and 23 points behind Boston. They also had the dubious history of being crushed by Boston seemingly every time in the playoffs. However, the worm had finally turned! The Sabres swept the Bruins in 4 games, with all of the games being decided by 1 goal. Of course, it all culminated when Brad May scored the OT game winner in game four and the "May Day!!" call was born.

3) 1998 playoffs: Sabres vs. Flyers– You might be thinking how I could put this ahead of the Boston/Buffalo series and it is quite simple, I felt this Sabres team weren't as good as the 93' team talent wise and the Flyers were better than the Bruins. The Sabres had only two players with 20 goals or more and an icon in Hasek. Against them were the 3rd seeded Flyers, who were the reigning Eastern Conference champions and finished just 1 point out of 1st place with 103 points. They had 3 players with 30 goals or more and one of them even cracked the 50 goal plateau. On top of that, the Flyers had crushed the Sabres 2 out of the last 3 years in the playoffs (8 games to 2) and were in our heads as much as Boston were in 1993. However, the Sabres were able to shock them in 5 games. The biggest thing I remember was when Michal Grosek scored the series clincher in OT of game 5. Hasek was awesome, allowing just 9 goals in 5 games. I think what really resonated in this series was that the Sabres weren't taking shit anymore from Philly. At the time, Philly had a reputation for being a bunch of bad asses and would always push Buffalo around. Not in this playoff series.. the Sabres, with Peca/Barnaby, just kicked the shit out of them. It was great win and nice rebound for the franchise after going through the Nolan/Hasek fiasco from the summer before.

2) 1984: Bills vs. Cowboys- Once again the Cowboys/Bills make the list. Obviously as a 4-year-old, I don't exactly remember this game..But I can set the scene. The Bills were 0-11..Yes, 0-11!!!!! And were taking on America's team, who came in with a record of 7-4 and had come off a 12-4 season. In what can probably be termed as Joe Ferguson's last big victory as a Bill, the Bills beat Dallas by a score of 14-3. The Bills defense was able to force 3 turnovers and sacked Gary Hogeboom (Alright, so he isn't Danny White) 3 times. The MVP of the game was Greg Bell, who rushed for 206 yards on 27 carries, including a 85-yard TD run. Finally, the Bills were off the snide!

1) 1976- Sabres vs. Soviets- You know what? This pisses me off! This always gets lost in the archives for historical upsets. Sure, Miracle on ice was great, but we conquered that mountain first! I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that if the Sabres were the Rangers and beat the USSR, they'd be a 30 for 30 about it. Anyways, in 1976 the Russians came to the states to go up against some of the best NHL teams . In the first 3 games of the series, the Russians went 2-0-1 and outscored their 3 opponents (NYR, Pitt. MTR) 17-10. Up next: Little Buffalo. Well, little Buffalo came up in HITTING BIG! The Sabres beat up on the Russians.

In the Hockey Digest interview, Rick Martin described Jerry Korab’s huge contribution to the Sabres that night. “The guy who really set the tone for the physical part of the game was Jerry Korab. He was a tough defenseman. They called him "Kong" because he was so big and strong. He was hitting everything in sight. He hit Alexander Yakushev, the Russians' main weapon, about six or seven times. I mean he hit him with some thundering checks. Clean, but hard.”

The Sabres Dragoed the Russians, 12-6. Yes, 12-6!!! The French Connection scored 4 goals and five assists, while Danny Gare netted a pair of goals. The Sabres outshot the Wings 46-21. Hell, the Sabres had avenged the death of Apollo Creed by the end of the 2nd period, as they were "clinging" to a 9-4 lead. I'm hoping someone has the Rocky IV fortitude to put a highlights package together with Heart's on Fire as the music bed for the Sabres victory montage. OK, I'll stop with the Rocky IV jokes…Actually, I wonder if after the game The French Connection draped the Quebec flag around them and yelled "If I can change, and you can change. EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE!!" to the crowd. OK. Finish..

Final word: I have to admit, my rankings were a bit out of whack as I really couldn't constitute the order of the biggest upsets. There are upsets where the team is the pure shits and beat a decent team…or maybe you are an average team and then you beat a titan. There's also that level of importance. Obviously, the Bills beating the Bengals did nothing in comparison to the Sabres beating the Sens. I guess my rankings were more about "HOLY SHIT!! I CANT BELIEVE WE WON" than anything else. So, judge by that phrase. I have to admit..if the Bills beat the Pats with Jeff Tuel at QB, that game may break the Internet and top 3 here.


About Joe

The Lord of Buffalo Wins