The Post-Journal

Reich Took Comeback One Play At A Time

ORCHARD PARK — Despair was looking Buffalo Bills quarterback Frank Reich directly in the face early in the third quarter of Sunday afternoon’s AFC wild-card playoff game at Rich Stadium.A pass he had thrown went through the hands of tight end Keith McKeller and into the arms of Houston safety Bubba McDowell, who returned it 58 yards for a touchdown, giving the Oilers a 35-3 lead.

But true to his form, Reich didn’t flinch, even though he would have to lead the biggest comeback in NFL history in order for the Bills to keep their season alive.

“At that time, I wasn’t even thinking comeback victory,’’ said Reich, who had engineered the biggest rally in college history in 1984 while at Maryland. “I was just thinking take it one play at a time and see what happens. It takes 47 guys to have a win like that.”

But none shone brighter than Reich, who was making his first career postseason start in place of the injured Jim Kelly.

In the second half, the eight-year veteran completed 15-of 23 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns, including three to the almost-forgotten Andre Reed.

“I was thinking going into the game that Andre hadn’t caught a lot of passes the last several football games and so they probably wouldn’t be keying on him as much as they normally do,’’ Reich said. “Their corners are so aggressive on the outside that I really felt that Andre had to come up big for us. He made some great moves and some great catches.”

Reed’s second touchdown, an 18-yard pass reception, came on fourth-and 5. Prior to the score, Reich called time out to discuss strategy with head coach Marv Levy, who wanted to go for the first down.

When Levy was informed that Reich and quarterbacks coach JIm Schofner liked the play that had been called, the possibility of attempting a field goal was a moot point.

It was the let-it-all-hang-out approach, buoyed by the mighty effort of the Bills’ offensive line, that turned what seemed certain defeat into miraculous victory, Reich’s fifth in seven career starts.

“Frank keeps coming through in these extremely pressure-packed situations,’’ Levy said. “He maintained his poise, stayed with the game plan and was able to adapt and adjust.”

Adapt and adjust. Give Reich a week to prepare and he adapts and adjusts as well as any quarterback possibly could under the dire circumstances he found himself in against the Oilers. “Frank is a person of high character and he’s intelligent,’’ Levy said. “Sometimes the guy who has other other things in his life doesn’t clutch up. He’s a well-rounded family man and he’s religious. There are other things which make him be able to retain equilibrium.’’

When linebacker Darryl Talley was informed that the 32-point comeback was the greatest in NFL history, he said,“That must mean we have (great) quarterbacks and character on this football team.”

Nobody could argue that Sunday.

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