1991 Buffalo Bills season

32nd season in franchise history, second straight Super Bowl appearance and loss

1991 Buffalo Bills season
OwnerRalph Wilson
General managerBill Polian
Head coachMarv Levy
Home fieldRich Stadium
Division place1st AFC East
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (vs. Chiefs) 37–14
Won AFC Championship (vs. Broncos) 10–7
Lost Super Bowl XXVI (vs. Redskins) 24–37
Pro Bowlers
  • QB Jim Kelly
  • RB Thurman Thomas
  • WR Andre Reed
  • WR James Lofton
  • G Jim Ritcher
  • OLB Cornelius Bennett
  • OLB Darryl Talley
  • ST Steve Tasker
AP All-Pros

The 1991 Buffalo Bills season was the 32nd season and 22nd in the National Football League. The Buffalo Bills finished the National Football League's 1991 season with a record of 13 wins and 3 losses, the same record as their previous season, and finished first in the AFC East division. The Bills qualified for their second Super Bowl appearance but lost to the Washington Redskins, 24–37.

Season summary

The Bills No Huddle “K-Gun” offense, after having a breakout 1990 season, once again dominated the league by gaining an NFL leading 6,525 yards and scoring 458 points, a franchise record, and second only to Washington. The leaders of the offense, quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas, both had the best seasons of their careers. Kelly completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 3,844 yards and a league-leading 33 touchdowns, with only 17 interceptions, to give him a 97.6 passer rating. Behind his fullback Carwell Gardner, Thomas rushed for 1,407 yards, caught 62 passes for 620 yards, and scored 12 touchdowns to earn him both the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award and the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. Just like Washington, Buffalo had more than one threat in their backfield. Running back Kenneth Davis emerged as a big threat off the bench, rushing for 624 yards, catching 20 passes for 118 yards, and scoring 5 touchdowns.

The Bills also had several major weapons in their passing game. Wide receiver Andre Reed led the team with 81 receptions for 1,113 yards and 10 touchdowns, and also rushed 12 times for 136 yards. On the other side of the field, veteran wide receiver James Lofton recorded 57 receptions for 1,072 yards and 8 touchdowns to earn his 8th Pro Bowl appearance and finish the year just 55 yards short of the all-time receiving record held by Steve Largent (13,089 yards). Pro Bowl tight end Keith McKeller was also a big contributor with 44 receptions for 434 yards, while receiver Don Beebe had 32 catches, 414 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Once again, the Bills offensive line was led by center Kent Hull along with Pro Bowl guard Jim Ritcher.



Despite few impact players in the later rounds, the Bills’ first two picks had long careers in Buffalo. The first pick, safety Henry Jones, played for the next ten seasons in Buffalo, making the Pro Bowl in his second season. Defensive end Phil Hansen played his entire eleven-year career in Buffalo, joining the team's Wall of Fame in 2011.

1991 Buffalo Bills draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 26 Henry Jones *  S Illinois
2 54 Phil Hansen  DE North Dakota St
3 82 Daryl Wren  DB Pittsburg St
4 138 Shawn Wilbourn  DB Long Beach St
5 166 Millard Hamilton  WR Clark
6 194 Amir Rasul  RB Florida A&M
8 222 Brad Lamb  WR Anderson
9 249 Mark Maddox  LB Northern Michigan University
10 277 Tony DeLorenzo  OG New Mexico St
11 305 Dean Kirkland  OG Washington
12 333 Steve Clark  TE Texas
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career



1991 Buffalo Bills staff
Front office
  • President – Ralph Wilson
  • Vice President of Administration/General Manager – Bill Polian
  • Assistant General Manager/Director of Pro Personnel – Bob Ferguson
  • Director of Player Personnel – John Butler
  • Assistant Director/Collegiate Scouting – A. J. Smith

Head coaches

  • Vice President for Football Operations/Head Coach – Marv Levy
  • Administrative Assistant to the Head Coach – Chuck Lester

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches
  • Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers – Walt Corey
  • Defensive Line – Chuck Dickerson
  • Defensive Backs – Dick Roach
  • Defensive Quality Control – Chuck Lester

Special teams coaches

Strength and conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning Coordinator – Rusty Jones



1991 Buffalo Bills roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

*Note: Rookies in italics


Date Opponent Final Score Record
July 28, 1991 Sun. at Philadelphia Eagles W 17–13 1–0

Regular season


Pro Football Reference argues that the 1991 Bills[2] gained the second-easiest schedule of any NFL team since 1971, with only the 1999 St. Louis Rams who played only one team with a winning record in the regular season getting an easier set of games. Football Outsiders also argues that the 1991 Bills had the second-easiest schedule between 1989 and 2013 after the 1999 Rams.[3] The Bills played five games against opponents 4–12 or worse, and a quarter of their games were against teams finishing 3–13 or worse,[note 1] whilst their only opponents with winning records were the NFC Central Lions and Bears, and AFC West Chiefs and Raiders.

Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance
1 September 1 Miami Dolphins W 35–31 1–0 Rich Stadium 80,252
2 September 8 Pittsburgh Steelers W 52–34 2–0 Rich Stadium 79,545
3 September 15 at New York Jets W 23–20 3–0 Giants Stadium 65,309
4 September 22 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 17–10 4–0 Tampa Stadium 57,323
5 September 29 Chicago Bears W 35–20 5–0 Rich Stadium 80,366
6 October 7 at Kansas City Chiefs L 6–33 5–1 Arrowhead Stadium 76,120
7 October 13 Indianapolis Colts W 42–6 6–1 Rich Stadium 79,015
8 October 21 Cincinnati Bengals W 35–16 7–1 Rich Stadium 80,131
9 Bye
10 November 3 New England Patriots W 22–17 8–1 Rich Stadium 78,278
11 November 10 at Green Bay Packers W 34–24 9–1 Milwaukee County Stadium 52,175
12 November 18 at Miami Dolphins W 41–27 10–1 Joe Robbie Stadium 71,062
13 November 24 at New England Patriots L 13–16 10–2 Foxboro Stadium 47,053
14 December 1 New York Jets W 24–13 11–2 Rich Stadium 80,243
15 December 8 at Los Angeles Raiders W 30–27 (OT) 12–2 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 85,081
16 December 15 at Indianapolis Colts W 35–7 13–2 Hoosier Dome 48,286
17 December 22 Detroit Lions L 14–17 (OT) 13–3 Rich Stadium 78,059

Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.

Game summaries

Week 1

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
1 234Total
Dolphins 7 7314 31
Bills 0 71414 35
  • Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com
Scoring summary
1DolphinsMark Clayton 49-yard pass from Dan Marino (Charlie Baumann kick)Dolphins 7–0
2DolphinsMark Higgs 3-yard run (Charlie Baumann kick)Dolphins 14–0
2BillsAndre Reed 54-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Dolphins 14–7
3DolphinsCharlie Baumann 21-yard field goalDolphins 17–7
3BillsButch Rolle 3-yard pass from Frank Reich (Scott Norwood kick)Dolphins 17–14
3BillsThurman Thomas 50-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 21–17
4DolphinsMark Clayton 5-yard pass from Dan Marino (Charlie Baumann kick)Dolphins 24–21
4BillsCarwell Gardner 1-yard run (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 28–24
4BillsThurman Thomas 7-yard run (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 35–24
4DolphinsMark Duper 3-yard pass from Dan Marino (Charlie Baumann kick)Bills 35–31

Despite three touchdowns Dan Marino could not hold off Jim Kelly as the Bills erased a 17–7 Dolphins lead to win 35–31. The two teams combined for 331 rushing yards.

Week 2

1 234Total
Steelers 0 10177 34
• Bills 10 14721 52
  • Date: September 8
  • Location: Rich Stadium
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 79,545
  • Game weather: 73 °F (23 °C), wind 8 miles per hour (13 km/h; 7.0 kn)
  • Referee: Tom Dooley
  • TV announcers (NBC): Tom Hammond and Joe Namath
Scoring summary
Q18:42BUFLofton 53 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 7–0
Q12:27BUFNorwood 50 yard field goalBUF 10–0
Q214:53PITAnderson 25 yard field goalBUF 10–3
Q210:14BUFBeebe 34 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 17–3
Q26:57BUFBeebe 14 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 24–3
Q24:06PITFoster 56 yard run (Anderson kick)BUF 24–10
Q311:13BUFReed 14 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 31–10
Q38:08PITW. Williams 1 yard run (Anderson kick)BUF 31–17
Q36:11PITHinkle 57 yard interception return (Anderson kick)BUF 31–24
Q31:16PITAnderson 27 yard field goalBUF 31–27
Q413:09BUFBeebe 11 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 38–27
Q47:57BUFBeebe 4 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 45–27
Q47:12BUFOdomes 32 yard interception return (Norwood kick)BUF 52–27
Q45:18PITHoge 1 yard run (Anderson kick)BUF 52–34

Jim Kelly erupted to six touchdowns as the Bills crushed the Steelers 52–34. Kelly threw for 363 yards, overshadowing the 194 rushing yards the Bills produced.[4]

Week 3

1 234Total
• Bills 0 1067 23
Jets 0 1073 20
  • Date: September 15
  • Location: Giants Stadium
  • Game start: 4:00 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 65,309
  • Game weather: 70 °F (21.1 °C); wind 10 miles per hour (16 km/h; 8.7 kn)
  • Referee: Bob McElwee
  • TV announcers (NBC): Tom Hammond and Joe Namath

The Bills faced stiffer competition in their first road game of the year. The Jets clawed to a 10–3 lead late in the second; a pass-interference penalty set up a seven-yard Andre Reed touchdown catch. The Jets led 20–16 lead in the fourth quarter until Thurman Thomas caught a 15-yard score. The Jets raced downfield in the final seconds but missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, falling 23–20 to the Bills.

Week 4

1 234Total
• Bills 7 037 17
Buccaneers 0 073 10
  • Date: September 22
  • Location: Tampa Stadium
  • Game start: 4:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 80 °F (26.7 °C); wind 10 miles per hour (16 km/h; 8.7 kn)
  • Referee: Gordon McCarter
  • TV announcers (NBC): Joel Meyers and Dan Hampton

Returning for the first time since Super Bowl XXV, Scott Norwood missed two field goal attempts. The Bucs behind Chris Chandler tied the game in the fourth. In the final minutes an apparent Bills fumble was nullified, and Keith McKeller caught the winning 29-yard touchdown for the 17–10 final.

Week 5

Chicago Bears (4-0) at Buffalo Bills (4-0)
1 234Total
Bears 0 6014 20
• Bills 0 71414 35

The Bills held off the Bears 35–20 after putting up 422 yards of offense to Chicago's 353. Jim Harbaugh was intercepted once.

Week 6

1 234Total
Bills 0 600 6
• Chiefs 3 10173 33

Harvey Williams and Christian Okoye combined for 225 rushing yards in leading a 33–6 massacre of the Bills; by themselves the two Chiefs backs put up more offense than the entire Bills offensive unit (211 total yards). Steve DeBerg added 150 passing yards and a touchdown as Buffalo's win streak crashed to a halt.

Week 7

1 234Total
Colts 0 600 6
• Bills 14 1477 42

The Bills rebounded by hammering the winless Colts 42–6. The Colts failed to exceed six points for the sixth time in the season so far; they put up just 240 yards of offense vs. 276 rushing yards and four scores by Thurman Thomas, Kenneth Davis, and Carwell Gardner.

Week 8

1 234Total
Bengals 3 0103 16
• Bills 0 14147 35
  • Date: October 21
  • Location: Rich Stadium
  • Game weather: 47 °F (8 °C), wind 9 miles per hour (14 km/h; 7.8 kn)
  • Referee: Dick Hantak
  • TV announcers (ABC): Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf

The Bills hosted winless Cincinnati in their second Monday Night appearance in three weeks. Jim Kelly overcame three interceptions to toss five touchdowns (tying a Monday Night Football record), winning 35–16.

Week 10

1 234Total
Patriots 0 377 17
• Bills 3 379 22
  • Date: November 3
  • Location: Rich Stadium
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 33 °F (1 °C), wind 18 miles per hour (29 km/h; 16 kn)
  • Referee: Larry Nemmers
  • TV announcers (NBC): Joel Meyers and Dan Hampton

The Bills struggled to a 22–17 win as Jim Kelly was picked off twice and Leonard Russell rushed for 106 yards and two scores. Jason Staurovsky missed two first-half field goal attempts amid periodic heavy winds at Rich Stadium. The Patriots got the ball back in the final 50 seconds after Kelly's second pick, but Hugh Millen was himself intercepted at the Bills 20.

Week 11

1 234Total
• Bills 0 141010 34
Packers 7 377 24

The Pack made a game of it as Mike Tomczak tossed for 317 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice. Sterling Sharpe caught a 58-yard touchdown but was also blown up for a 15–yard loss on a rushing attempt.

Week 12

1 234Total
• Bills 10 10147 41
Dolphins 3 1077 27
  • Date: November 18
  • Location: Joe Robbie Stadium
  • Game start: 9:00 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 71,062
  • Game weather: 75 °F (24 °C), wind 10 miles per hour (16 km/h; 8.7 kn)
  • Referee: Howard Roe
  • TV announcers (ABC): Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf

The Dolphins fumbled three times and Dan Marino was intercepted twice as the Bills rolled to 262 rushing yards and three Jim Kelly touchdowns, winning 41–27.

Week 13

1 234Total
Bills 3 730 13
• Patriots 0 907 16
  • Date: November 24
  • Location: Foxboro Stadium
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 47 °F (8 °C), wind 9 miles per hour (14 km/h; 7.8 kn)
  • Referee: Gordon McCarter
  • TV announcers (NBC): Jim Donovan and Beasley Reece

The Patriots pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the 1991 season as they picked off Jim Kelly four times while Hugh Millen threw a 50-yard score to Irving Fryar and ran in the winning score in a 16–13 win.

Week 14

1 234Total
Jets 7 330 13
• Bills 7 377 24
  • Date: December 1
  • Location: Rich Stadium
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 40 °F (4 °C), wind 14 miles per hour (23 km/h; 12 kn)
  • Referee: Stan Kemp
  • TV announcers (NBC): Marv Albert and Paul Maguire

Jim Kelly and Ken O'Brien were both picked off twice as the Bills clawed to a 24–13 win, overcoming four turnovers and eleven penalties (76 yards).

Week 15

1 234OTTotal
• Bills 7 70133 30
Raiders 10 10700 27

Amid a burgeoning feud with team owner Al Davis, Marcus Allen put up 95 all-purpose yards on 19 combined touches (16 of them rushes) and a touchdown as the Raiders led 27–14 after three quarters. Scott Norwood had a nightmarish day as he missed a PAT and three FGs but the Bills rallied to tie the game and in overtime Norwood connected on the winning 42-yarder, and a 30–27 Bills win.

Week 16

1 234Total
• Bills 21 707 35
Colts 0 007 7


Jim Kelly and Frank Reich managed just thirteen completions, but four of them were touchdowns as the Bills romped 35–7. Jeff George was benched after completing just 83 yards and Mark Herrmann was even worse, throwing three interceptions. The win secured the #1 playoff seed for the Bills.

Week 17

1 234OTTotal
• Lions 0 00143 17
Bills 0 7070 14
  • Date: December 22
  • Location: Rich Stadium
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 35 °F (2 °C), wind 22 miles per hour (35 km/h; 19 kn)
  • Referee: Tom White
  • TV announcers (CBS): James Brown and Randy Cross

With the #1 AFC seed confirmed, the Bills started Frank Reich against the Lions, still fighting for a playoff bye with the Bears to play the 49ers on Monday Night. Barry Sanders rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown, and his burgeoning legend as impossible to bring down showed when Cornelius Bennett appeared to bring him down for a ten-yard loss in the first quarter but Sanders escaped for a one-yard gain. Reich's touchdown to Steve Tasker forced overtime but the Lions won on a 21-yard field goal, 17–14 the final; with San Francisco's 52–14 massacre of the Bears, the Lions secured a playoff bye.


AFC East
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(1) Buffalo Bills 13 3 0 .813 7–1 10–2 458 318 L1
(6) New York Jets 8 8 0 .500 4–4 6–6 314 293 W1
Miami Dolphins 8 8 0 .500 4–4 5–7 343 349 L2
New England Patriots 6 10 0 .375 4–4 5–9 211 305 L1
Indianapolis Colts 1 15 0 .063 1–7 1–11 143 381 L6



1 234Total
Chiefs 0 077 14
Bills 7 10713 37
  • Date: January 5
  • Location: Rich Stadium
  • Game start: 12:30 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 80,182
  • Game weather: Rain; 37 °F (2.8 °C)
  • Referee: Pat Haggerty
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh

Conference Championship

1 234Total
Broncos 0 007 7
Bills 0 073 10
  • Date: January 12
  • Location: Rich Stadium
  • Game start: 12:30 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 80,272
  • Game weather: Clear; 34 °F (1.1 °C)
  • Referee: Dale Hamer
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh

Super Bowl

1 234Total
Redskins 0 17146 37
Bills 0 01014 24

The Bills became the eighth team to go scoreless in the first half,[note 2] while the Redskins scored 17 points in the second quarter.

The Redskins then increased their lead 24–0 just 16 seconds into the second half after linebacker Kurt Gouveia intercepted Kelly's pass on the first play of the third quarter and returned it 23 yards to the Bills’ 2-yard line. One play later, Riggs scored his second touchdown of the game. The Redskins' 24–0 lead midway through the 3rd quarter was the largest shutout lead in Super Bowl history at the time; The San Francisco 49ers had led the Cincinnati Bengals 20–0 at halftime in Super Bowl XVI. The Seattle Seahawks led the Denver Broncos 36-0 right before the final play of the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII.

The Bills finally got some momentum going with their next few drives. First, they drove 77 yards to the Redskins 3 yard-line, aided by a 43-yard completion from Kelly to receiver Don Beebe. Washington kept Buffalo out of the end zone, but kicker Scott Norwood kicked a 21-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 24–3. Then aided by a 29-yard pass interference penalty on Redskins cornerback Martin Mayhew in the end zone, the Bills finally scored a touchdown on their next drive with a 1-yard run by Thomas to make the score 24–10.

The two teams combined for the most points in a 3rd quarter in a Super Bowl history (24 total points: 14 for Washington and 10 for Buffalo) and the most combined in a second half (44 total points: 24 for Buffalo and 20 for Washington).

But Buffalo's hopes of a comeback faded when Washington advanced 79 yards in 11 plays on their ensuing drive, scoring on Clark's 30-yard touchdown reception to give the Redskins a 31–10 lead with 1:24 left in the third period. Then 3 plays after receiving the ensuing kickoff, Kelly fumbled the ball while being sacked by defensive back Alvoid Mays, and it was recovered by defensive end Fred Stokes. After the turnover, Washington drove to the Bills 7-yard line and increased their lead to 34–10 with Lohmiller's 25-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Then on the Bills ensuing drive, Kelly was sacked for a 9-yard loss by Stokes, threw an incomplete pass, and then threw his second interception of the game to Edwards, who returned it 35 yards to Buffalo's 33-yard line. Five plays later, Lohmiller kicked his second field goal with 11:36 left in the game to increase Washington's lead to 37–10. With the game almost completely out of reach, the Bills managed to respond with a 15-play, 79-yard drive to cut the score to 37–17 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Metzelaars. Then, after recovering an onside kick, the Bills drove 50 yards and scored another touchdown with Beebe's 4-yard reception to make the score 37–24. But the Bills’ second onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and the Redskins were able to run out the clock. From there, the Bills attempted one final pass play before time expired.

Kelly, completed 28 of a Super Bowl-record 58 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked four times, intercepted four times, and lost one fumble. Thomas ran for only 13 yards on 10 carries and was limited to 27 yards on four receptions. James Lofton was the top receiver for the Bills with 7 catches for 92 yards. But Reed was limited to just 5 catches for 31 yards. Clark had seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown and Monk added seven for 113 yards. (Clark and Monk became the third pair of teammates to each have 100 yards receiving in a Super Bowl; they joined the Steelers’ John Stallworth and Lynn Swann who did it in Super Bowl XIII and the Bengals’ Cris Collinsworth and Dan Ross who did it in Super Bowl XVI).

Awards and records

  • Led NFL in Total Yards Rushing, 2381 yards
  • Led AFC in Points Scored, 458
  • Led AFC in Yards Gained, 6252
  • Jim Kelly, NFL Leader, Touchdown Passes, 33
  • Jim Kelly, AFC Leader, Passer Rating, 97.6
  • Jim Kelly, Super Bowl record, Most Passes Attempted in a Super Bowl, 58
  • Thurman Thomas, NFL MVP
  • Thurman Thomas, UPI AFL-AFC Player of the Year
  • Thurman Thomas, NEA NFL MVP
  • Thurman Thomas, PFWA NFL MVP
  • Thurman Thomas, NFL Offensive Player of the Year
  • Thurman Thomas, 1991 All-Pro Selection
  • Thurman Thomas, NFL Combined Yards from Scrimmage Leader
  • Thurman Thomas, AFC Leader, 1,407 Rushing Yards
  • Thurman Thomas, AFC Leader, 12 Touchdowns


  1. ^ The 2014 Houston Texans played five games against opponents finishing 3–13 or worse. However, as the 2014 AFC South played a strong AFC North that went 26–13–1 in non-division games, the overall win record of the 2014 Texans’ opponents in extraneous games was 91–100 vis-à-vis 79–97 for the 1991 Bills.
  2. ^ The others were the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III; the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI; the Redskins in Super Bowl VII; and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII


  1. ^ 1991 Buffalo Bills Media Guide. pp. 2–23.
  2. ^ Pro Football Reference 1991 Buffalo Bills Statistics
  3. ^ Football Outsiders; ‘Let Me Check My Schedule’
  4. ^ "Bills' Kelly picks apart Steelers". Google News Search Archive. Gainesville, FL: Gainesville Sun. September 9, 1991. p. 3C. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  5. ^ pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved 2020-Jul-19.

External links

  • Bills on jt-sw.com
  • Bills Stats on jt-sw.com
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