The New England Patriots are menaces.
They've dominated the AFC East for so long, suffocating the hopes of the other three teams for a generation. They're not the biggest reason the Buffalo Bills have failed to reach the playoffs since 1999, but they're close.
Now the Patriots are trying to swipe the Bills' signature monument.
"The Comeback" was posted round and round the Gillette Stadium ribbon board during Thursday night's pregame ceremony. The Patriots, underneath fireworks and with five towering Lombardi Trophies on the field, celebrated their Super Bowl title, the one where they trailed the Atlanta Falcons, 28-3, with 2:12 left in the third quarter yet won in overtime.
Can't the Bills retain their finest Name Game for themselves?
The Bills failed to win any of their four straight Super Bowls, but their unprecedented chasedown of the Houston Oilers in the 1992 postseason has been the franchise's beacon through all the heartache.
Six minutes into the third quarter, the Oilers led, 35-3. The Bills mounted the largest rally in NFL history to win, 41-38, sudden-death.
"It was the epitome of what our team was about," linebacker Darryl Talley said. "That made us.
"It showed what kind of character we had, what resolve we had and what we thought of each other. We had faith. All we needed was 11 of us."
At halftime of Sunday's game against the New York Jets, the Bills honored the 25th anniversary of the team that completed what the NFL has called "The Comeback" since Tom Brady was 15 years old.
The Bills welcomed 23 players from the 1992 roster plus Kent Hull's widow to celebrate old memories that would be easy for the Patriots to pretend never existed had NFL Films, the NFL Network and ESPN not repeatedly stamped "The Comeback" as Buffalo's.
Seven months after New England's title, "The Comeback" remains a standalone Wikipedia entry for Buffalo's relentless pursuit of Houston down the homestretch.
"If I'm not mistaken," said tight end Keith McKeller, namesake of the K-Gun offense, "it's still the greatest playoff comeback of all-time. That belongs to the 1992 Buffalo Bills."
Actually, that game remains the greatest comeback of any type in the 98-year history of the NFL.
So who did it better?
The Bills overcame a 32-point deficit, seven points more than the Patriots' resuscitation.
That whole Super Bowl parade through Boston thing, though ...
"The one thing they have on us," said Adam Lingner, who snapped the ball for Steve Christie's winning field goal, "is that it was the Super Bowl and the huge, huge pressure of that stage.
"But we did it with Hall of Famers watching on our sideline."
Yeah, there's that ...
While Brady was riddling the Falcons defense, Frank Reich was Buffalo's quarterback that day. Jim Kelly strained knee ligaments a week earlier in a 27-3 loss – to Houston.
Bills fans were so depressed the game didn't sell out. Imagine not being able to watch a Bills playoff game on local television.
On the opening possession of the third quarter, Reich threw a pass that glanced off McKeller's fingers, and Bubba McDowell returned the interception for a touchdown and the 35-3 lead.
That also was the last series for star running back Thurman Thomas, done with a hip injury after 11 carries and 26 yards. Kenneth Davis handled the ground attack throughout the 32-point surge.
Buffalo also did it minus linebacker Cornelius Bennett, in his third of four straight Pro Bowl campaigns, because of a hamstring injury.
"They can tout that theirs was for the Super Bowl," Talley said, "but here's the thing you have to think about: They did it with the quarterback that's won Super Bowls time and time again.
"We became the phoenix that rose from the ashes."
The Oilers were famous for Warren Moon and their run-and-shoot offense, but their defense also ranked third in yards allowed.
What helped, though, was Oilers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's refusal to treat the clock as their biggest opponents and keep calling pass plays.
"Warren Moon had his way with us in the first half, and we had our way with him in the second half," Talley said.
"Played right into our hands," McKeller added.
Even after Davis scored a touchdown and the Bills recovered a surprise onside kick.
"It was a spiritual experience," Lingner said. "Once we got the ball back on that onside kick, I started counting on my fingers, 'OK, how many times do we got to score?'
"I felt like everybody there on the sideline and in the stands was thinking the same thing. It just clicked into place that not only are we going to keep fighting, but we're going to do it."
As far as I can tell, there's no sports trademark on "The Comeback," which is surprising when it comes to New England's marketing folks.
An HBO show called "The Comeback" launched in 2005, and that might be why. But it's a shame Buffalo didn't file the paperwork a long time ago.
Because you know the Patriots will steal The Comeback if they can.
The Patriots have trademarked "19-0" (that one didn't work out well), "Unequivocally the Sweetest" (a clunky comment Patriots owner Robert Kraft made in February), "Do Your Job" (the Bill Belichick mantra), "Ignore the Noise" (another Belichick saying), "Blitz for Six" (titles) and "Safety Squadron" (?). All are phrases the Patriots have applied to trademark.
The Comeback doesn't belong to the Patriots.
If not spiritually, then at least not contractually.
"When I watched them beat the Falcons, I was (ticked) off not because they were going to steal our vibe," Lingner said. "I was (ticked) off because it's the New England Patriots and Tom Brady!
"That's what's irritating about it."
Story topics: Adam Lingner/ Bubba McDowell/ Cornelius Bennett/ Frank Reich/ Jim Kelly/ Keith McKeller/ Kenneth Davis/ Kent Hull/ Kevin Gilbride/ Robert Kraft/ Steve Christie/ Thurman Thomas/ tom brady/ Warren Moon