The bottom officially fell out on the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 8, 2000. After making the NFL postseason 10 times in 12 years, that day marked the Bills’ last playoff game for 18 agonizing years. And it came courtesy of a quirky gadget play by the Tennessee Titans that came to be known as the Music City Miracle.
Amazingly, the Titans may have just found a way to inflict even more pain upon the Bills. You can bet your paycheck that it’s going to get ugly if the NFL and the players’ union don’t find a quick fix.
The Music City Miracle crushed the Buffalo Bills in 2000
The Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls beginning with the 1990 season but never stopped fighting. The made it back to the NFL playoffs in four of the next seasons. And then the winning ended with a thud.
On Jan. 8, 2000, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Bills, 22-16, in the AFC wild-card round. The way it shook out was shocking and came to be known as the Music City Miracle.
Al Del Greco had put Tennessee ahead on a 36-yard field goal with 1:48 left only to have the Bills take a 16-15 lead on Steve Christie’s 41-yard field goal with :16 to go. The Titans called for “Home Run Throwback” on the ensuing kickoff, which was a relatively short pooch kick by Christie.
Lorenzo Neal fielded the ball and handed off to Frank Wycheck on the right side of the field. Wycheck then threw across the turf to wide receiver Kevin Dyson. With the Bills’ coverage having converged toward Wycheck, Dyson had a nearly unimpeded 75-yard path to the end zone for the touchdown and a 22-16 victory.
The Tennessee Titans have a huge COVID-19 issue
The Tennessee Titans are in a heap of trouble. By all accounts, the COVID-19 outbreak that caused the NFL to move Tennessee’s Week 3 game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers to later in the season could have and should have been contained in time to allow the Titans to return to the field Oct. 11 vs. the Buffalo Bills.
Instead, the situation in Nashville grows worse by the day with new positive virus tests continuing to pop up. The team disclosed Thursday that they had experienced their 23rd positive test since late September, ESPN reported. Consequently, the league will have to announce on Friday what the plan is for Week 5; playing on Sunday as scheduled seems an impossibility.
In fact, playing the game at all might be impossible since the Titans’ bye week has already been gobbled up by the rescheduled game with the Steelers. If the game cannot be played early next week, it may be rescheduled for Week 18, necessitating pushing back the whole playoff schedule. As much as the NFL would like to avoid the scenario, it may happen because of implications for playoff positions for the Titans (3-0) and/or the Bills (4-0).
Still, there is one more possibility …
Buffalo Bills players could lose big in the event of a forfeit
The NFL is currently investigating reports that some Tennessee Titans players held unofficial practices after the team’s training facility was shut down late last month due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Such gatherings are explicitly prohibited under the league’s virus-protection protocols.
If there is a finding that players knew of the rule and ignored it, or that the team simply failed to reinforce the urgency of following the rule, then the Titans could face significant sanctions. The penalty could begin with fines and the loss of draft picks, but there is also talk of making the Titans forfeit to red-hot Josh Allen the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.
If that sounds like a great deal for the Bills, whose Week 6 game is a Thursday home game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, then guess again. According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, players from the two teams would forfeit their game checks if the contest does not get played. The policy was spelled out in an Aug. 3 letter from the NFL to NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith.
In short, teams would still be on the hook for signing bonuses and roster bonuses that teams are contractually obligated to pay, but not for salaries.
The penalty seems fair as applied to the Titans, who are creating a huge headache for the NFL, but not for the Bills. With $202.78 million of active contracts on the books, according to Spotrac.com, Bills players would lose out on a combined $12.67 million.
That seems grossly unfair to the Bills, who have not reported a positive COVID-19 test this season.