Reich in place launching Bills' return drive

January 27, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- Quarterback Frank Reich was among the first to emerge from the catacombs of the Rose Bowl last January and launch the Buffalo Bills' drive for four.

"I believe we'll be the first team to go to the Super Bowl four years in a row," Reich said at the time.

This was moments after the Bills lost their third straight Super Bowl, by a ghastly score of 52-17, to the Dallas Cowboys.

"It was a natural reaction," Reich said yesterday. "Everybody on the team was looking for a consolation. At that point, that was ZTC the consolation."

Fast forward to Super Bowl XXVIII in the Georgia Dome. Here are the Bills, America's anti-team, getting ready to face the Cowboys in a rematch.

Seeing the Bills in the Super Bowl is like a passage into spring. ForReich, a former Maryland quarterback, and his wife, Linda, it's time to celebrate the birthday of their second daughter, Lia.

Yesterday was Lia's fourth birthday.

"And I haven't been home on any of her birthdays yet," Reich said.

"She just correlates the Super Bowl to her birthday . . . 'Oh, Daddy, it's my birthday, I know you're going to the Super Bowl.' "

If this is January, it must be the Bills.

If not old hat, Reich, 32, says the Super Bowl has become the norm for the Bills, just like those preseason junkets to Europe.

This season they went to Berlin to play the Minnesota Vikings in an exhibition game. Two years ago, they went to London.

"We know we're going to go overseas and play a game in the beginning of the year, and we know we'll play in the Super Bowl at the end of the year," Reich said.

"That's obviously an overstated case of what we have to do in between. But to some extent, when you look back on it, that's your tendency. OK, what country are we going to play in next year? And where's the Super Bowl?"

Reich will hold for Steve Christie's place-kicks on Sunday. But barring an injury to Jim Kelly, he won't play quarterback against the Cowboys as he did a year ago.

Kelly injured a knee on the Bills' second series of the second quarter. Reich entered the game with the Bills trailing by a touchdown, and took them 64 yards to a field goal that cut the deficit to 14-10. By halftime, though, it was 28-10, and the Cowboys went on to rout the Bills with a fourth-quarter rally.

Reich completed 18 of 31 passes for 194 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also had three of the team's eight fumbles.

Having engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history in a wild-card game of the playoffs last year against the Houston Oilers, Reich said he believed he would deliver again.

"I felt like we would come back and win the game," he said. "It weighed on me for a day. Then I put it behind me."

Reich played quarterback in only four games this season, completing 16 of 26 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. '' But when Kelly was hurt in a December game in Philadelphia, Reich rescued the Bills with some clutch passing for a 10-7 victory over the Eagles.

That was the beginning of a six-game winning streak that carried the Bills back to the Super Bowl.

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