The Buffalo Bills might be remembered as the best team in football were it not for the NFC East.
The Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990s. Four. An unprecedented feat. And lost them all. Equally unprecedented.
They lost close games and blowouts. They rallied and fell short. Each of those four losses came at the hands of the bullies hardened by the fiery forge known as the NFC East.
The Redskins administered the second of the four beatings the Bills would absorb, defeating them 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI on Jan. 26, 1992, in Minneapolis.
Mark Rypien passed for 292 yards and two touchdowns to earn MVP honors and Joe Gibbs became only the third head coach to win three Super Bowl titles. Unlike the others -- Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh -- Gibbs did it each time with a different quarterback.
Buffalo lost to the New York Giants 20-19 in a taut, strategic Super Bowl XXV. The Bills dominated in yards but the Giants, behind Ottis Anderson's rushing, owned the clock and limited Buffalo's possessions. A 47-yard field goal try by Scott Norwood skittered just to the right of the goalposts with five seconds remaining, giving the win to the jubilant Giants.
After the Redskins crushed the Bills, Buffalo would go to the next two NFL title games and lose both to the Dallas Cowboys. The Bills haven't been back since, nor have they reached the playoffs since 1999.
Super Bowl XXVI was the second played in a northern city. That put it in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the home of the Minnesota Vikings.
Climate-controlled conditions should have favored the up-tempo attack of the Bills, but the Redskins were too good, too deep, much bigger and way better defensively.
The Redskins finished 14-2 during the regular season. The two defeats were by a total of five points. The Redskins scored 485 points and allowed only 224. Their defense picked off 27 passes and they sacked enemy passers 50 times. The offensive line allowed only nine sacks.
The Super Bowl started badly for the Bills.
Running back Thurman Thomas could not locate his helmet and missed the first two plays from scrimmage, both of which were runs. He'd have been a welcome presence, having led the AFC with 1,407 rushing yards.
The Redskins were also incensed over comments made by Bills defensive line coach Chuck Dickerson.
Dickerson, a loud, large and laugh-a-minute guy, loved nothing (except maybe pasta) as much as a microphone. He made a series of comments about the Redskins' offensive linemen, taking the Hogs' references a bit further than maybe he should have.
He referred to Joe Jacoby as "a Neanderthal who probably kicks dogs in his neighborhood." Jeff Bostic, he suggested, was "somewhere eating grease right now." He said Jim Lachey was a "310-pound ballerina."
He was kidding but the Redskins used the bulletin board material to fire themselves up.
They built a 17-0 lead, stretched it to 24-0 just 16 seconds into the third quarter and cruised home. Gary Clark finished with seven catches for 114 yards and Art Monk nearly matched him, catching seven for 113. The Redskins outgained Buffalo 417-283. Ricky Ervins led all rushers with 72 yards.
Bills coach Marv Levy fired Dickerson shortly thereafter. Dickerson then became a Buffalo radio personality and gadfly, endlessly goading Levy and the Bills. At one point, the erudite Levy would say this of Dickerson: "He's been fired more times than a Civil War cannon."
Good one, Marv.
Gibbs coached only one more season, going 9-7 in 1992 and being ousted in the divisional round of the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers. He retired, citing health concerns, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
He would stay out of coaching until returning for another four-year stint with the Redskins in 2004.