With eight seconds left in the game, Norwood's Buffalo Bills trailed the New York Giants by a single point. They chose to try a 47-yard field goal, which would win the game and the championship for the Bills. However, 47 yards was considered near the limit of Norwood's kicking range, particularly on a grass field, according to comments during the original game broadcast. Bills head coach Marv Levy also noted that fewer than 50% of such attempts succeeded. In fact, during his career, Norwood was 1 of 5 for field goal attempts of more than 40 yards on grass, and with his longest field goal being 48 yards in that season (which is unusually short by modern NFL standards).
The kick, although it had sufficient distance, passed about a foot to the right of the righthand goalpost and the field goal attempt failed. Sportscaster Al Michaels announced the occurrence to a stunned television audience.
The Bills were given their first of four straight Super Bowl losses, and this loss was the closest the team got as the next three Super Bowls ended with the Bills losing by considerable margins (13, 35, 17, respectively). The city of Buffalo had not won a major sports championship since 1965 (the third-longest such streak of futility for any city that has at least two major sports franchises, after San Diego (1963) and Cleveland (1964), so Norwood's unsuccessful attempt had an even greater significance.
Norwood himself would kick for one more season with the Bills before being replaced by Steve Christie for the 1992 season.