How long has it been since the Buffalo Bills last won a playoff game? The answer, for Tim Tindale, is half a lifetime ago.
Tindale is 48. He was 24 when he ripped off a 44-yard touchdown run in the Bills’ 37-22 playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 30, 1995.
“I never would have imagined,” Tindale says, “that it would be this long.”
He figured the Bills were going to win again the next week. Instead, they lost in Pittsburgh to a Steelers team that went on to win that season’s Super Bowl. And when the Bills lost last weekend in Houston to the Texans, the Bills’ playoff winless streak extended to 24 years — or half a Tindale ago.
A scan of the box score of that 1995 game at Rich Stadium reveals the Hall of Fame names you know from long ago: Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, et al. But Tindale’s name bursts off the page, too, because he scored the only touchdown of his NFL career in that game.
“It was all a blur,” he says. “I lined up next to Thurman. My number got called and things seemed to open up. And the next thing I knew I was in the end zone.”
The Bills led 24-0 at halftime and 37-0 through three quarters. Tindale’s fourth-quarter scamper made it 34-7. You might not remember that run; he never forgets.
“Thurman always joked I got the touchdown because the defense was concentrating on him,” Tindale says, “which is probably the case.”
No wonder. Thomas ran 25 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. The Bills had their way on the ground, running for 341 yards on 52 carries. Darick Holmes ran 15 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. And oh, yeah, there was Tindale, who ran four times for 68 yards and his one shining moment.
That’s more yards in one game than he gained in his four regular seasons in Buffalo combined, which was all of 65 yards. Tindale made his living in pro football on special teams.
“The special teams coach, after I scored, wanted to give me a break,” Tindale says. “And I said, ‘No, I want to go out for the kickoff.’ And I made the tackle on the kickoff after I scored. That’s the thing I’m most proud of, to be honest.”
Which is precisely the sort of humility you might expect from a born-and-bred Canadian hero.
Tindale played at the University of Western Ontario in his birthplace of London, where he won two Hec Crighton trophies — the Canadian equivalent of the Heisman — in 1991 and 1993. He might well have won a third in 1992 had he not broken a leg.
“He’s one of those guys who will give you his soul in effort,” Larry Haylor, his college coach, once told the college paper.
Tindale spent his last NFL season with the Chicago Bears and then retired because his knees were shot.
“At that point we moved back to Canada and bought a property out in the country and built a place,” he says. “And then I started a company and we build custom homes. My father owned a construction company in London when I was growing up so I’ve been around construction all my life.”
Tindale Custom Build is in Campbellville, Ont., and he says it does projects in and around Toronto “and up in cottage country north of Barrie.”
Tindale banged nails himself in the beginning, but not so much anymore.
“I’ve stepped away from the job site and just manage the business now,” he says. “I can do that from wherever. I’m in Florida right now.”
That’s because his daughter Sara, 17, spends winters in Florida with her horses. She is a show jumper who hopes to make the Canadian Olympic equestrian team someday. Her father played for the Western Ontario Mustangs. Now, you could say, she rides them.
Tindale’s other daughter, Leah, 15, is a gymnast on the Canadian national team, like her mother, Jennifer, before her.
“The athlete’s genes aren’t all mine,” Tindale says.
Tindale was deeply disappointed when his NFL career was cut short. He says he hasn’t watched a full game since, so he didn’t see the Bills’ loss in Houston. He’s heard all about it, though, through one of his employees — his sister-in-law’s husband, who was a big Bills fan even before Tindale played for them.
Tindale remembers how happy his offensive line was for him — Kent Hull in particular — when he scored the last Bills’ touchdown in what remains their last playoff win.
“It was just a simple off tackle play where I found an opening and ran to the left,” Tindale says. “You don’t really have time to think on plays like that. You just run.”
Surely next season will be time for the Bills to outrun their playoff past, half a Tindale ago.