Mike Munchak sees Sunday’s game between his Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills as “the playoffs before the playoffs for teams that are on the fringe of the battle for the playoffs.”
Normally, that might not mean a whole lot. Given the unique playoff history shared by the Titans and Bills, it seems like a provocative perception.
Two of the AFL’s founding franchises, after all, have produced two of the most dramatic and memorable playoff games in NFL history.
“I always think of history when you play a team,” Munchak said. “… I think you do that as a player and as a coach. When you play a team you always remember your experiences with that team in the past.
“Sometimes there are good memories and sometimes there are bad memories and this team [Buffalo] has a little of both.”
Munchak was the Titans offensive line coach during the 1999 season. They went 13-3, earned a wild card and hosted the first playoff game in LP Field history, which came to be known as the Music City Miracle. Kevin Dyson’s 79-yard kickoff return, following a handoff by Lorenzo Neal and a lateral from Frank Wycheck, with three seconds to play lifted the Titans to a 22-16 victory.
Munchak was an offensive lineman in 1992 when the then-Houston Oilers went 10-6, earned a wild card and traveled to Buffalo for the start of the postseason. Following an interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter they led 35-3 but then endured the worst playoff collapse in history. Houston lost 41-38 in overtime, only after it tied the game on a field goal with 12 seconds to play in regulation.
“The redemption of the second one is the part I remember the most,” Munchak said. “I’m glad I was part of that here in our first year as Titans to win a huge playoff game at home against a team that put it on us years earlier. I enjoyed that one the most, obviously. It was exciting.
“We went to the Super Bowl after that win, and it’s the same thing they did. The year they beat us in Buffalo, they went to the Super Bowl. We both lost the Super Bowl, but that kind of propelled both teams into it.”
In the seven years in between the franchise played just one postseason contest. That was following the 1993 season, Munchak’s last as a player.
Currently, neither the Titans nor Bills are in position for a playoff berth this season. Both are in contention, though.
The top six teams in the AFC all are either 8-3 or 7-4. Tennessee is one of three at 6-5 and Buffalo is alone at 5-6.
“We won one last week so that gave us a chance to get something started, and we have to win this one,” Munchak said. “I know Buffalo is in the same spot right now where they have to win.
“… Right now I feel real good about where we are at, I think the team does, and we have a chance in front of us to do some good things still. It’s up to us and that’s kind of how you like it. You see what’s in front of you.”
When it comes to the Titans and Bills, though, it’s almost impossible not to look back as well.
• Running back Chris Johnson was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday for his season-high 190-yard performance (the best by an AFC running back this season) Sunday against Tampa Bay.
It is the third time in his career Johnson has won the award. He also won it once each in 2009 and 2010.