During the playoff drought era that spanned from 2000 to 2017, glorious moments were sparsely littered throughout the 17-year period for the Buffalo Bills. While instances of heartbreak and disappointment certainly outnumber those of triumph, it seems appropriate to take a look back at a few of the positive occurrences that remind us of why we love this team even during the lowest of times.
Below is the first installment of a two-part series that remembers the top 10 moments during the drought that brought about hope and/or excitement to Bills fans everywhere.
#10: Ryan Fitzpatrick 98 yard TD to Terrell Owens
Coming in at number 10 is Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 98-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens in 2009 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The play was one of the few highlights of an overall lackluster season where the Bills finished 6-10.
The touchdown is currently the longest catch and run in Bills history and is tied for 2nd all-time in league history. It is also the longest touchdown in the careers of Fitzpatrick and Owens and it moved TO ahead of Marvin Harrison for 4th place all-time for career receiving yards at the time. Owens currently resides at 2nd all-time with 15,934 career receiving yards.
#9: The “why so serious?” game
One of the more exciting games during the drought was the 2010 contest between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals during which WR Stevie Johnson caught 3 touchdowns from Ryan Fitzpatrick en route to a 49-31 shootout victory.
The game was particularly notable for Johnson’s touchdown celebration where he lifted up his jersey to reveal his undershirt which had the phrase, “why so serious?” written in black sharpie. During the 2010 season, both Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson were teammates on the Bengals and had dubbed themselves “Batman and Robin,” so, naturally, Stevie played into it with a reference to the Joker.
Stevie was fined $5,000 by the NFL for the display, though this wouldn’t stop him from performing future stunts (ie. fake-shooting himself as a jab towards WR Plaxico Burress). Johnson will certainly be remembered for his creative celebrations in addition to being one of the more talented Bills receivers during the era.
#8: Losman finds Evans for two 83-yard TDs
The 2006 match-up against the Houston Texans featured phenomenal games by both J.P. Losman and Lee Evans. Losman hit Evans twice in the first quarter, each throw going for exactly 83 yards and resulting in a touchdown. Later, with 9 seconds remaining in the game, WR Peerless Price reeled in a 15-yard strike from Losman to secure the thrilling victory for the Bills. The game was probably the best example of the chemistry on deep routes that developed between Losman and the speedy Evans for a few years.
Losman had arguably his best game as a Bill as he threw for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns while Evans also had a career day with 11 receptions, 265 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Evans’ performance holds the record for most single-game yards in Bills history and slots him at 15th all-time.
#7: Sam Adams’ interception return vs. Patriots
In the 7th position was easily one of the more memorable interceptions in Bills history. During the 2003 season opener against the New England Patriots, the 350+ pound Sam Adams picked off Tom Brady and rumbled down the field for a 37-yard touchdown return to give the Bills a 20-0 lead in the second quarter. Buffalo went on to shutout the Patriots 31-0 which represented one of just four victories against the Patriots in the Brady era.
The victory was special for the Bills as New England had beaten Buffalo 5 consecutive times entering the game. Additionally, Adams’ interception was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated which added even more hype to the start of the 2003 season.
#6: EJ Manuel’s game winning drive vs. Carolina
The 2013 season was QB EJ Manuel’s rookie year. During Week 2, the recent first-round pick marched the Bills down the field against the Carolina Panthers with less than two minutes in a heroic performance to help the Bills defeat the Panthers 24-23.
In the closing seconds, WR Stevie Johnson was lined up in the slot with fellow WR Chris Hogan on the outside. As the play developed, the two receivers ran cross routes which led both Carolina defenders to follow Hogan and left Stevie wide open in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard score. (I was fortunate enough to be at this game and remember the stadium absolutely erupting in joyous celebration.)
Leading his team down the field at the end of the game showed great poise for the rookie quarterback in just his second game. Afterwards, there was a great sense of hope among fans that perhaps the Bills had finally found their highly sought after franchise quarterback, although he unfortunately never panned out.
The top five moments of the Bills playoff drought are still to come!