1990 Buffalo Bills season
|1990 Buffalo Bills season|
|Head coach||Marv Levy|
|General manager||Bill Polian|
|Home field||Rich Stadium|
|Division place||1st AFC East|
|Playoff finish||Won Divisional Playoffs (Dolphins) 44–34
Won Conference Championship (Raiders) 51–3
Lost Super Bowl XXV (Giants) 19–20
The 1990 Buffalo Bills season was the 31st season for the team in the National Football League. The Buffalo Bills finished the National Football League's 1990 season with a record of 13 wins and 3 losses, and finished first in the AFC East division. The Bills were 8–0 at home for the second time in their franchise history. On the road, the Bills were 5–3. The Bills 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 staff|
Special Teams Coaches
Strength and Conditioning
NFL Draft 
|1||16||James Williams||Defensive back||Fresno State|
|2||43||Carwell Gardner||Running back||Louisville|
|4||101||Eddie Fuller||Running back||LSU|
|7||182||Fred DeRiggi||Nose tackle||Syracuse|
|8||209||Marvcus Patton||Middle Linebacker||UCLA|
|9||239||Clarkston Hines||Wide receiver||Duke|
|10||266||Mike Lodish||Defensive tackle||UCLA|
|11||293||Al Edwards||Wide receiver||Northwestern State, La.|
Regular season 
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, 1990||Indianapolis Colts||W 26–10||1–0||Rich Stadium||
|2||September 16, 1990||at Miami Dolphins||L 7–30||1–1||Joe Robbie Stadium||
|3||September 24, 1990||at New York Jets||W 30–7||2–1||Giants Stadium||
|4||September 30, 1990||Denver Broncos||W 29–28||3–1||Rich Stadium||
|5||October 7, 1990||Los Angeles Raiders||W 38–24||4–1||Rich Stadium||
|7||October 21, 1990||New York Jets||W 30–27||5–1||Rich Stadium||
|8||October 28, 1990||at New England Patriots||W 27–10||6–1||Sullivan Stadium||
|9||November 4, 1990||at Cleveland Browns||W 42–0||7–1||Cleveland Municipal Stadium||
|10||November 11, 1990||Phoenix Cardinals||W 45–14||8–1||Rich Stadium||
|11||November 18, 1990||New England Patriots||W 14–0||9–1||Rich Stadium||
|12||November 25, 1990||at Houston Oilers||L 27–24||9–2||Houston Astrodome||
|13||December 2, 1990||Philadelphia Eagles||W 30–23||10–2||Rich Stadium||
|14||December 9, 1990||at Indianapolis Colts||W 31–7||11–2||Hoosier Dome||
|15||December 15, 1990||at New York Giants||W 17–13||12–2||Giants Stadium||
|16||December 22, 1990||Miami Dolphins||W 24–14||13–2||Rich Stadium||
|17||December 30, 1990||at Washington Redskins||L 29–14||13–3||RFK Stadium||
Game summaries 
Week 1: vs. Indianapolis Colts 
Week 2: at Miami Dolphins 
Sunday, September 16, 1990: The Bills offense never got rolling and were soundly defeated on the road, 30-7, to their rival Miami Dolphins.
Week 3: at New York Jets 
Week 4: vs. Denver Broncos 
Sunday, September 30, 1990: The Bills avenged their 1989 Monday Night defeat against the defending AFC Champion Broncos by coming from behind and winning 29-28. The pivital play was a touchdown return of a blocked Bronco field goal by linebacker Cornelius Bennett.
Week 5: vs. Los Angeles Raiders 
Sunday, October 7, 1990: The Bills, on Sunday Night Football, came from 10-points behind in the 4th quarter to defeat the mighty Los Angeles Raiders, 38-24. This game also included a great special teams touchdown with a blocked punt returned by J.D. Williams.
Week 7: vs. New York Jets 
Week 8: at New England Patriots 
Week 9: at Cleveland Browns 
Sunday, November 4, 1990: The Bills avenged last season's playoff loss by destroying the Cleveland Browns in their own stadium 42-0.
Week 10: vs. Phoenix Cardinals 
Sunday, November 11, 1990: The Bills welcomed the NFC East team Phoenix Cardinals to an extremely windy Rich Stadium, and defeated them 45-14.
Week 11: vs. New England Patriots 
Week 12: at Houston Oilers 
Week 13: vs. Philadelphia Eagles 
Week 14: at Indianapolis Colts 
Week 15: at New York Giants 
Saturday, December 15, 1990: The Bills pulled out a close win this Saturday afternoon, in a game in which both starting Quarterbacks went down with injuries. Jim Kelly, and New York QB Phil Simms
Week 16: vs. Miami Dolphins 
Sunday, December 23, 1990: The Bills, under back-up quarterback Frank Reich, defeated the Miami Dolphins on a go-ahead touchdown, Reich to James Lofton. The Bills won the AFC East by victory of 24-14.
Week 17: at Washington Redskins 
Sunday, December 30, 1990: Bills Head Coach Marv Levy decided to rest his starters for the playoffs, dropping the final game of the season in Washington, 29-14. The Bills finish with their best record in club history at 13 wins 3 losses.
|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|
AFC Divisional Playoffs 
Miami Dolphins (12-4) at Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Despite being a close score, the Bills never trailed in this classic Jim Kelly versus Dan Marino shootout. The weather, steady light snow, had crews occasionally come out to shovel off the 10 and 5 yard lines. Despite the conditions, both team offenses were explosive. In the end, after winning the AFC East crown from the Dolphins a few weeks earlier, the Bills also ended the 'Fins season in a game which had 78 combined points.
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 5 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 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.
Player stats 
Thurman Thomas 
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|
Buffalo Bills roster
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
Video Archive 
"The Missing Rings" 
- America's Game: The Missing Rings - The Story of the 1990 Buffalo Bills (2008) via YouTube - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
- NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 262.
- Pro-Football-Reference: 1990 Buffalo Bills
- Pro-Football-Reference.com: 1990 NFL Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics.
- Pro-football-reference.com: Bruce Smith.
- "Official Site of the National Football League". Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- "BillsZone - by Bills fans for Bills fans". Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 292
- 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.