At home, Buffalo Swept a Legend

With three different quarterbacks and three different head coaches, the Bills swept a first ballot Hall-of-Fame quarterback at One Bills Drive. Here's a review...

While quarterback controversies have dominated Western New York the past decade, such media buzz was nonexistent in Wisconsin.

During Brett Favre's 253-game starting streak, the Bills have had 10 different quarterbacks under center (Jim Kelly, Frank Reich, Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, and Trent Edwards). Since Kelly's retirement, there have been three legitimate QB quandaries and zero playoff wins.

But don't worry. Ten quarterbacks is nothing compared to the QB carousels in Arizona (17), Washington (18) and Chicago (21) during the Favre Era.

Buffalo had Favre's number more times than not too. Favre never won in Buffalo (0-3), losing to Kelly, Johnson and Losman. However, Green Bay did win both of the teams' meetings at Lambeau Field. Here's a capsule of each Buffalo win in light of the retirement of possibly the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL:

Nov. 20, 1994: Buffalo 29, Green Bay 20

One week after Jim Kelly was caught yelling at Andre Reed on the sidelines of Buffalo's 23-10 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football, the duo had arguably its best game ever. Kelly threw for 365 yards and two touchdowns, as Reed caught 15 passes for 191 and both of the scoring strikes.

Brett Favre was nothing but a wild kid with untapped potential, one year removed from a 24-interception season. But in '94, he arrived. Favre had his first of eight 30-touchdown seasons.

Bills fans had the best of both worlds that day. A rocky season seemed to be righted with the 29-20 win as the Bills improved to 6-5. And for water cooler talk, fans saw the beginning of greatness. Favre gutted the Packers out of a 24-0 hole with three touchdown passes to cut the Bills' lead to 27-20 (Green Bay missed an extra point), but Buffalo prevailed at home. On Favre's final chance for a comeback, with the ball at his 10-yard line and two minutes left, Buffalo's Jeff Wright sacked him at the one-yard line. On the next play, Phil Hansen drew a holding penalty in the endzone. The play resulted in a safety and the Bills won.

Eleven of Reed's 15 catches went for first downs – the most ever against Green Bay. The inter-conference win against the league's fastest-rising team was the final highpoint for one of the league's fastest-declining teams. The defending four-time AFC Champions dropped four of its final five games and finished 7-9.

Sept. 10, 2000: Buffalo 27, Green Bay 18.

Same story, same results.

Behind a boisterous home crowd still ringing from the team's emotional Sunday Night Football win against Tennessee the previous week, the Bills raced to a 17-0. Rob Johnson threw touchdowns to Jeremy McDaniel and Jay Riemersma, putting the Packers in a three-score hole at the in the third quarter. Green Bay cut the lead to 20-10, but another Johnson-to-Riemersma hook-up sealed the deal in the fourth quarter.

This was labeled as Johnson's "over-the-hump" game. With the Johnson-Flutie debate still raging, the laid back Californian showed toughness against the Packers. He was sacked five times and hit countless others, but still managed to complete 18-of-26 passes for 259 yards and three scores. This, after getting knocked out of Buffalo's 16-13 win over the Titans the previous week with a nerve "stinger."

Favre completed his first 14 passes of the game (four shy of a tying a team record) and threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns…and still it wasn't good enough.

Mental stress that he somehow bottled for 17 years.

"I'm physically and emotionally exhausted," said Favre afterwards. "If you win a game like this, the aches and pains are better. When you lose, they're twice as bad. I felt I did everything I could today. I left it all on the field."

As for Buffalo, the Johnson-Flutie debate reached its climax in 2000, turning into WNY political warfare. Who you supported was who you were. The locker room divided and four straight losses spoiled a 7-4 start, as Buffalo crashed into rebuilding.

Nov. 5, 2006: Buffalo 24, Green Bay 10

Any frustration Favre felt in the '00 meeting was G-rated compared to this game.

The Packers absolutely dominated Buffalo.

Green Bay outgained Buffalo, 427-184. The 184 yards was the fewest Green Bay's defense allowed since beating Buffalo at Lambeau 10-0 four years prior. The Packers run game (Ahman Green had 122 yards) kept the chains moving and Green Bay had 26 first downs to Buffalo's 11. Buffalo couldn't stay on the field, trailing in time of possession, 34:21 to 25:39 and converting only 2-of-11 third downs.

Buffalo starting running Willis McGahee was carted off the field with a rib injury.

But Green Bay committed four turnovers, and Buffalo had none. On a leash the length of your common lanyard, J.P. Losman was a non-factor through most of the game. In a "just don't screw it up" role, Losman led to Bills to 90 total yards and four first downs through three quarters. But with eight minutes left and the score deadlocked at 10, Losman woke up. He chucked a bomb to a wide-open Lee Evans on a blown coverage over Pro Bowler Al Harris. The 43-yard score won the game for Buffalo, and Losman eventually finished 8-for-15 for 102 yards.

Favre's two interceptions came at the worst possible spots on the field. One was a gift and the other was a 14-point swing.

The first pick looked like a buttonhook pass to London Fletcher. The linebacker dropped in his hook zone, caught the ball and went 17 yards for a touchdown. Favre's second pick came at the Bills' goal-line. Green Bay attempted a slant pass, which was tipped and then picked by Ko Simpson, who sprinted 76 yards. The play set up a 14-yard Anthony Thomas touchdown.

"We had the look we wanted," said Favre. "When Mike called the play, at worst, it falls incomplete. Had it worked, it's a great call."

Buffalo wasn't involved in any Favre fourth quarter classics and they never faced him in his mid-to-late 90s prime. Yet in five games, the Bills were 3-2 against Favre, and never allowed a first ballot Hall-of-Famer to beat them at home. They defeated Favre with three different quarterbacks and three different head coaches.

Maybe the 2006 game somewhat symbolizes why Favre hung ‘em up so abruptly. The amount of mental preparation that goes into each game is unlike any other sport. Coverages. Audibles. Formations. Anticipation. All on a dime. To do that for 17 years, and have two shocking plays decide a game spikes stress into a new stratosphere each time.

The NFL lost its one constant force Tuesday morning – a force the league will never see again. No quarterback attempts a back-foot slant on the one-yard line into muddled coverage. No quarterback can throw for 399 yards and four touchdowns on Monday Night Football, one day after losing his father. No quarterback can throw a team onto his back at 38 years of age and take them to within an overtime of the Super Bowl.

No quarterback will ever duplicate Brett Favre.

Tyler Dunne is the Editor-in-Chief of the Buffalo Football Report. Contact him at thdunne@gmail.com


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