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On This Date in Sports: September 30, 1990: 77 Seconds

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Buffalo Bills score 20 points in 77 seconds during the fourth quarter to stun the Denver Broncos 29-28 at Rich Stadium. The quick turnaround starts when Nate Odomes blocks a short field goal attempt by David Treadwell. Cornelius Bennett would scoop it and return it 80 yards for a touchdown. Two plays later, Leonard Smith had a pick-six, while Kenneth Davis scored from the two following a botched snap by John Elway as the Bills scored three touchdowns in five snaps.

The Denver Broncos had been the power in the AFC at the end of the 1980s, as they played in the Super Bowl three times in four years. The Broncos lost all three of those Super Bowls, with each one coming by a larger deficit. After their ugly loss in Super Bowl XXIV, the Broncos were off to a 2-1 start for Dan Reeves. They had bounced back nicely after losing the season opener to the Los Angeles Raiders.

The Buffalo Bills, coached by Marv Leavy, were coming off two consecutive playoff appearances, the first time the Bills had done that since 1981. With a strong defense and a high powered offense, the Bills were poised for greatness as the 1990 season began. They had won two of their first three games, suffering a disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. Hosting the Denver Broncos in Week 4, the Bills knew that they faced a tough test as they sought to prove they were now the team to beat in the AFC.

 Through three quarters, the Denver Broncos were in total control against the Buffalo Bills.  The Broncos had a 14-0 lead in the second quarter on touchdown runs by Bobby Humphrey and Steve Sewell. The Bills got a 37-yard field goal by Scott Norwood and were down 14-3 at the half as Jim Kelly could not get the Bills offense on track. The Bills got their best drive of the game in the third quarter, as Don Smith had a 12-yard touchdown run, but Norwood missed the PAT as Denver led 21-9 after three quarters.

The Broncos were driving for more as the fourth quarter began. Deep in Buffalo territory, Leon Seals stopped a third-down bootleg by John Elway. Looking to take a 15-point lead, David Treadwell was sent out for a short field goal with just over ten minutes left in the game. It was there the game suddenly flipped in Buffalo’s favor as Nate Odomes blocked the field goal. The ball was scooped up by Cornelius Bennett, who went 80 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to five points.

With Rich Stadium whipped into a frenzy, things continued to spiral for the Broncos as Leonard Smith picked off Elway and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to give the Bills a 22-21 lead, as Norwood missed his second PAT in the game. The ensuing kickoff was botched as the Broncos’ drive started at their own nine. With fans screaming, John Elway was unable to communicate with his offensive line. Officials attempted to get the fans to quiet down, as Elway was unnerved. The crowd noise worked as Elway botched the snap, allowing Bennett to recover a fumble to set up the Bills' third touchdown in 77 seconds. Kenneth Davis would score from the two-yard line to give Buffalo a 29-21 lead.

The 20 points in 77 seconds changed the game completely. The Broncos got a touchdown late in the fourth quarter as John Elway connected with Ricky Nattiel from the seven. At the time, there was no two-point conversion, and the Broncos would lose the game 29-28.

The 20 points in 77 seconds would spark the Bills to a great season as they on nine straight games and 12 of 13 games on the way to posting a record of 13-3. The Bills would go on to play in Super Bowl XXV. It would be the first of four straight Super Bowl losses for Buffalo. The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, went into a tailspin, lost nine of ten games, and finished the season with a record of 5-11 as they suffered their first losing season in eight years.