On January 3, 1993, The Buffalo Bills defeated the Houston Oilers 41-38 in overtime. The Bills overcame a 32-point deficit in the second half to record the biggest comeback in NFL history. The game will always be known as the “comeback and Oiler fans will forever be haunted by the team’s epic collapse. The grand scale of the complete turnaround has spawned a few conspiracy theories. Most of these have been attributed to sour grapes by disgruntled fans, but some of the evidence has been hard to ignore. Was this game purposely thrown for certain motives?
The 1992 regular season for the Houston Oilers was a prosperous one. They were 6th in the NFL in points scored and 9th in fewest points allowed. The Oilers finished 10-6 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team. They won 4 of their last 5 games of the season including a 27-3 win over the Bills in the final regular season game.
The playoff game against the Bills looked like it would be a Houston victory on paper. The Oilers were healthy and seemed to be peaking at the right time. The Bills would have to play without quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas. Both players were key factors to the team’s success. Frank Reich would be starting at quarterback for the injured Kelly and few people gave the Bills much of a chance.
The Oilers came roaring out of the gate and built up a 28-3 halftime lead. Houston extended the lead to 35-3 early in the third quarter and it seemed like the game was over. The Bills non-existent offense came to life in the third quarter and they scored 5 unanswered touchdowns before the Oilers kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime. The Bills kicked a 32-yard field goal in overtime to cap off the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.
The Bills were completely ineffective in the first half but scored 28 points in the third quarter alone. The Oilers defense which had been solid throughout the year was totally incapable of stopping the Bills in the second half. The city of Houston was crushed by this chain of events and looked for answers.
The conspiracy theories started to fly everywhere immediately after the game. Some people refused to believe that the Bills could stage such an incredible comeback. The Oilers gave up 41 points to a backup quarterback. Most of the accusations were dismissed as foolish conjecture, but when a member of the Oilers defense talked about the plan to throw the game, people started to listen.
It was a well-known fact that defensive coordinator Jim Eddy was not popular with the players. Several players openly complained about him. One of the Oilers linebackers stated in an interview that certain members of the defense conspired during halftime to throw the game. The plan was to have the defense collapse in the second half to make Eddy look bad. The alleged ringleader of the conspiracy was identified as cornerback Cris Dishman. Dishman was said to have convinced the rest of the Oilers defensive backs to let the Bills have their way during pass plays. The Bills overcame a 35-3 deficit and Eddy was promptly fired after the game.
None of the alleged conspirators ever confessed to throwing the game, but two different players who remained anonymous, claim that the story was true. Was there any truth to it? There has never been any concrete evidence, but there are still people who swear that the story is true.