Some observations from a fascinating National Football League wild-card playoff weekend ... with one exception:
IT WASN’T without irony that the Colts’ Andrew Luck staged the second-greatest comeback in NFL post-season history one day after the 21st anniversary of Buffalo’s incredible rally against the Oilers at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Luck, who threw three interceptions which helped give Kansas City a 38-10 lead early in the third quarter, staged a Frank Reichesque rally as Indianapolis prevailed, 45-44, on Saturday afternoon.
The comparison to the Bills’ 41-38 overtime triumph against Houston after the 1992 season was apt.
It was the most memorable Buffalo game I’ve covered in 41 seasons.
Oddly, though, my impression was that the game wasn’t over when the Bills trailed 28-3 at intermission. They had been to two straight Super Bowls and still had a potent offense, even with Reich playing in place of injured Hall-of-Famer-to-be, Jim Kelly.
But it was hardly prescience on my part as, the moment Oilers’ safety Bubba McDowell picked off Reich and went 58 yards for the touchdown that made it 35-3 less than two minutes into the second half, I quickly joined the “game-over” chorus.
The difference between the two games, though, was how rapidly Buffalo scored, as opposed to Indianapolis. The Bills put up four touchdowns in a span of just under seven minutes, three of them Reich passes, two to Andre Reed and the other to Don Beebe.
Those drives were all short — between 23 and 59 yards — due, in part to a successful onside kick by Steve Christie and an interception by safety Henry Jones.
That outburst made it 35-31 and nobody scored again for almost a full quarter (over 14 minutes) until Reich hit Reed for a third TD to put Buffalo up by three late in the fourth quarter.
Houston then tied it 38-38 with a field goal 12 seconds from the end of regulation.
Christie’s 32-yard FG won it in overtime.
Luck, meanwhile, produced four touchdowns in 16 minutes — two TD tosses and a fumble return by him — to cut Kansas City’s margin to 41-38. And after another Chiefs’ field goal, to go up by six, Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for a 64-yard touchdown to produce the winning points with over four minutes still to play.
Nest up for Luck is a game against Tom Brady and the Patriots on Saturday night in Foxboro.
The Colts-Chiefs was the weekend’s first and best game, though two others came close.
IT WAS a great weekend for three former Bills.
Shayne Graham, who kicked for Buffalo for part of the 2001 season, hit four field goals on Saturday night, including the game-winner as time expired in New Orleans’ tense 26-24 victory at Philadelphia.
Graham, now 36, was signed by the Saints three weeks ago after the coaching staff grew tired of Garrett Hartley’s inaccuracy.
Next up for the Saints is a game back at Seattle — where they were destroyed, 34-7, in a December Monday Night game — on Saturday.
Another delighted former Bill had to be Chad Rinehart. Let go after three seasons in Buffalo, he signed with San Diego and started at left guard for the Chargers, who advanced to a game at Denver next Sunday — the third meeting of those AFC West rivals this year — after beating the Bengals, 27-10, yesterday afternoon in Cincinnati.
Finally, there 49ers’ safety Donte Whitner, who left the Bills as a free agent after the 2010 season, to sign with San Francisco. He’s still alive for a second straight trip to the Super Bowl after the Niners edged the Packers in Green Bay in the weekend’s final game.
THE WORST GAME, by far, was the Chargers-Bengals.
And, of course, the oddity is that Cincinnati owned the weekend’s longest odds — 7-point favorites — and ended up the most overmatched.
Coach Marvin Lewis is 0-4 in the playoffs with the Bengals, who now haven’t won a post-season game in 23 years..
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton raised even more questions about his viability as a franchise quarterback, falling to 0-3 in the playoffs with one touchdown pass and six interceptions in his three appearances.
It’s not a good time to be a Bengals fan.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)