|1990 Buffalo Bills season|
|Head Coach||Marv Levy|
|General Manager||Bill Polian|
|Offensive Coordinator||Ted Marchibroda|
|Defensive Coordinator||Walt Corey|
|Home Field||Rich Stadium|
|Place||1st AFC East|
|Playoff Finish||Won Divisional Playoffs (vs. Dolphins) 44–34|
Won AFC Championship (vs. Raiders) 51–3
Lost Super Bowl XXV (vs. Giants) 19–20
|Previous Season||Next Season|
The 1990 Buffalo Bills season was the 31st for the franchise and the 21st in the National Football League. The team finished the year with a record of 13 wins and 3 losses, and first in the American Football Conference (AFC) East division. They were 8–0 at home for the second time in their franchise history. On the road, the Bills were 5–3. Buffalo qualified for their first Super Bowl appearance.
The Bills' offense was one of the best in the league; their 428 points (26.75 points per game) scored was first in the league, and since they only gave up 263 points (6th in the league), their point differential was 165 points (10.3 per game), which was the best in the NFL in 1990, as well as the best point-differential in franchise history. Buffalo's 48 offensive touchdowns (28 passing, 20 rushing) also led the league.
The season was chronicled on October 2, 2008 for America's Game: The Missing Rings, as one of the five greatest NFL teams to never win the Super Bowl.
|1990 Buffalo Bills draft|
|1||16||James Williams||Cornerback||Fresno State|
|4||100||Eddie Fuller||Running back||LSU|
|7||181||Fred DeRiggi||Defensive tackle||Syracuse|
|9||238||Clarkston Hines||Wide receiver||Duke|
|10||265||Mike Lodish||Defensive tackle||UCLA|
|11||292||Al Edwards||Wide receiver||Northwestern State|
Bruce Smith set a club record with 19 sacks. Smith also had 101 tackles.
- September 24, 1990 – Thurman Thomas rushed for 214 yards versus the New York Jets. It was the second highest total in the history of Monday Night Football.
- Bruce Smith had 8 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 hurries in the Bills 30–23 victory over Philadelphia.
- Bruce Smith had 9 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 pressures in the Bills victory over Indianapolis.
|1||September 9||Indianapolis||W 26–10||1–0||Rich Stadium|
|2||September 16||at Miami||L 7–30||1–1||Joe Robbie Stadium|
|3||September 24||at NY Jets||W 30–7||2–1||Giants Stadium|
|4||September 30||Denver||W 29–28||3–1||Rich Stadium|
|5||October 7||LA Raiders||W 38–24||4–1||Rich Stadium|
|7||October 21||NY Jets||W 30–27||5–1||Rich Stadium|
|8||October 28||at New England||W 27–10||6–1||Sullivan Stadium|
|9||November 4||at Cleveland||W 42–0||7–1||Cleveland Stadium|
|10||November 11||Phoenix||W 45–14||8–1||Rich Stadium|
|11||November 18||New England||W 14–0||9–1||Rich Stadium|
|12||November 25||at Houston||L 27–24||9–2||Astrodome|
|13||December 2||Philadelphia||W 30–23||10–2||Rich Stadium|
|14||December 9||at Indianapolis||W 31–7||11–2||Hoosier Dome|
|15||December 15||at NY Giants||W 17–13||12–2||Giants Stadium|
|16||December 22||Miami Dolphins||W 24–14||13–2||Rich Stadium|
|17||December 29||at Washington||L 29–14||13–3||RFK Stadium|
AFC Championship Game
Los Angeles Raiders (13–4) at Buffalo Bills (14–3)
The Bills shredded the Raiders, limiting quarterback Jay Schroeder to 13 of 31 completions for 150 yards and intercepting him five times, while also holding running back Marcus Allen to just 26 yards on 10 carries. The Raiders offense clearly missed running back Bo Jackson, who suffered what would turn out to be a career-ending injury the week before in a win against the Cincinnati Bengals. On offense, the Bills amassed 502 total yards, including 202 yards on the ground. Running back Thurman Thomas rushed for 138 and a touchdown while also catching 5 passes for 61 yards, while running back Kenneth Davis tied an AFC playoff record with 3 rushing touchdowns. Buffalo also set an NFL playoff record by scoring 41 points in the first half. Bills quarterback Jim Kelly threw for 300 yards and two touchdown passes to wide receiver James Lofton, who finished the game with 5 receptions for 113 yards. Thomas recorded a 12-yard touchdown run, while Davis scored from 1 yard, 3 yards, and 1 yard out. Linebacker Darryl Talley returned one of his two interceptions 27 yards for a touchdown.
Super Bowl XXV
To counteract the Bills' no-huddle offense, the Giants' strategy was to use a power running game utilizing O.J. Anderson, aided by quarterback rollouts, bootlegs, and play-action fakes. As tight end Mark Bavaro later recalled, "[w]e came out with three tight ends, fat slobs picking you up and moving you and letting you tackle O.J., if you could." This enabled them to take time off the clock and limit Buffalo's possessions. The Giants set a Super Bowl record for time of possession with 40 minutes, 33 seconds, including 22 minutes in the second half. On defense, New York wanted to be physical with Buffalo's wideouts, and play with extra defensive backs to concentrate on stopping the Bills passing game, while conceding the running game.
The contrast in strategies was evident during the first period. After forcing the Bills to punt on the opening drive of the game, the Giants consumed 6:15 off the clock by marching 58 yards in 10 plays to score on a 28-yard field goal from Matt Bahr. In that drive, New York ran five rushing plays and five passing plays. But the Bills struck right back on their ensuing possession with a five-play, 66-yard drive that took 1:23 off the clock, including a tipped 61-yard completion from quarterback Jim Kelly to receiver James Lofton that set up Scott Norwood's 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 3–3.
After forcing the Giants to punt on their ensuing possession, the Bills' offensive strategy started to work to perfection. Kelly led the Bills on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that consumed 4:27 and moved the ball so effectively that the team never faced a third down. Kelly completed six consecutive passes (four to Andre Reed) for 62 yards, and running back Don Smith capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run to give Buffalo a 10–3 lead. Smith's 1-yard touchdown run was his only carry of the game and the last carry of his career. Reed's 5 first quarter receptions were a Super Bowl record.
After trading punts, the Giants were pinned at their own 7-yard line. On second down, defensive lineman Bruce Smith sacked quarterback Jeff Hostetler in the end zone for a safety, increasing the Bills' lead 12–3. On the play, Smith had a chance to force a fumble since Hostetler was holding the football with only his throwing hand. But to his credit, Hostetler held the ball away from Smith, helping to ensure that only 2 points would be surrendered.
The Bills started out on their next drive with great field position following the free kick, but were forced to punt after 3 plays. Taking the ball at their own 13-yard line with 3:43 left in the second quarter, the Giants abandoned their long drive strategy and employed a quick strike attack of their own. Hostetler led the Giants 87 yards, scoring on a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide recieiver Stephen Baker with just 25 seconds left in the half to cut New York's deficit to 12–10.
The Giants then opened the third quarter and resumed their original game strategy by driving 75 yards in 14 plays to score on Ottis Anderson's one-yard touchdown run, taking their first lead of the game since their opening possession at 17–12. The drive consumed a Super Bowl record nine minutes and 29 seconds, and included four successful third down conversions. The highlight was a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Mark Ingram on 3rd down and 13 yards to go. Ingram caught a short pass and broke five Buffalo tackles to get the first down and keep the drive alive.
After forcing Buffalo to punt on their ensuing possession, New York drove to the Bills' 35-yard line. But on fourth and two, Smith tackled Anderson for a 2-yard loss. Buffalo then took over and stormed down the field, advancing 63 yards in just four plays and scoring on a 31-yard burst from running back Thurman Thomas on the first play of the fourth quarter, regaining the lead at 19–17. Thomas' fourth-quarter touchdown run marked 1,000 points scored in Super Bowl history (1,001 with the extra point).
However, before the Bills' defenders had a chance to catch their breath, they found themselves back on the field trying to contain another long Giants drive. This one went for 14 plays and 74 yards, half of which came off passes from Hostetler to tight end Mark Bavaro, and took another 7:32 off the clock. The Bills managed to halt the drive at their own 3-yard line when linebacker Cornelius Bennett broke up Hostetler's third down pass, but Bahr kicked his second field goal to give New York a 20–19 lead.
On the Bills' ensuing possession, they could only advance to their own 41-yard line before having to punt, enabling the Giants to take more time off the clock. The Bills finally forced New York to punt and took the ball at their own 10-yard line with 2:16 remaining. Kelly then led them down the field with a mix of scrambles, short passes, and Thomas runs. Buffalo drove to the Giants' 29-yard line, setting up Norwood for a 47-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left. However, his kick barely sailed wide right, sealing New York's victory with 4 seconds left.
Thomas led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage for the second consecutive season. His 1,297 yards led the AFC and was second in the NFL to Barry Sanders. Thomas had at least 100 total yards in 10 of the Bills 16 games. After gaining 219 total yards versus the New York Jets, Thomas was named AFC offensive player of the week. Note: Rush = Rushing Yards; REC = Receiving Yards
|New York Jets||214||5||219|
|New York Jets||5||0||5|
|New York Giants||60||65||125|
|1990 AFC East standings|
|(1) Buffalo Bills||13||3||0||.813||7–1||10–2||428||263||L1|
|(4) Miami Dolphins||12||4||0||.750||7–1||10–2||336||242||W1|
|New York Jets||6||10||0||.375||2–6||4–10||295||345||W2|
|New England Patriots||1||15||0||.063||1–7||1–11||181||446||L14|
|1990 Buffalo Bills staff|
Defensive/Special Teams Coaches
Strength & Conditioning
|1990 Buffalo Bills roster|
|*Note: Rookies in italics|
Awards and records
- Led NFL in Points Scored, 428
- Jim Kelly, NFL Passing Leader, 101.2 Passer Rating
- Jim Kelly, Most Valuable Player, Pro Bowl
- Bruce Smith, NFL Defensive Player of the Year
- Bruce Smith, UPI AFL-AFC Player of the Year, Defense
- Bruce Smith, Newspaper Enterprise Association Defensive Player of the Year Award
- Bruce Smith, Team Record, Number of Sacks in a Single Season, (19)
- Bruce Smith, AFC Defensive Player of the Month, December
- Thurman Thomas, NFL Combined Yards from Scrimmage Leader
- NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, Template:ISBN, p. 262.
- Pro-Football-Reference: 1990 Buffalo Bills
- Pro-Football-Reference.com: 1990 NFL Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics.
- Pro-football-reference.com: Bruce Smith.
- 1990 Buffalo Bills Draftees. Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved on December 24, 2013.
- O'Donnell, Chuck. Mark Bavaro: the former Giants tight end remembers being on pins and needles as Buffalo's Scott Norwood lined up for his ill-fated field goal in Super Bowl 25, Football Digest, June 2005, accessed May 9, 2007.
- 1990 Buffalo Bills at Pro-Football-Reference.com