Ken Anderson threw three touchdown passes in the first half, then, after he and his Cincinnati Bengals teammates had routed the Buffalo Bills, 52-21, they went to Coach Sam Wyche's house to see if they would win the AFC Central Division championship and a playoff berth.
Watching Wyche's television, the Bengals saw the Pittsburgh Steelers take the title away from them by upsetting the Los Angeles Raiders, 13-7. The Steelers finished 9-7 and the Bengals 8-8. Had the Steelers finished 8-8, the Bengals, who have a better division record, would have won the title.
"I feel drained," Wyche said. "It's a very empty feeling. I had thought Los Angeles would win, but Pittsburgh just played too good for them. The best team won on this day. The Pittsburgh Steelers deserved to win. It was a tremendous win for them against tremendous odds. I congratulate them.
"Of course, I'm disappointed for our team and I feel an emptiness in the pit of my stomach knowing it's all over for us. I wish there was another reward for our players.
"I thought fate was going to be on our side. In my heart, I felt the Raiders were going to come back and win the game."
But when Pittsburgh's Donnie Shell intercepted a pass with two minutes left, Wyche recalled, "I was sitting on the floor and I just slid down to the prone position. I knew it was over then."
Although Cincinnati won eight of its last 11 games, Wyche said he isn't entirely pleased with his first season as an NFL head coach.
"We didn't win the championship, so I'm not happy with it," he said. "We got off to too slow a start (0-5). Some great coach once said you never lose, you just run out of time. I think after our slow start, we just ran out of time."
Coach Kay Stephenson's Bills finished 2-14, worst in the NFL.
"I've been in football for a long time, but nothing compares to this," the Bills' nose tackle, Fred Smerlas, said. "It's been an unbelievable year. It's been a 'Twilight Zone' script."
Anderson, making his first start since separating his left shoulder Nov. 11, completed 17 of 23 passes for 206 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Cris Collinsworth, 11 yards to Rodney Holman and 11 yards to Steve Kreider.
The Bengals clinched the victory with two touchdown interceptions in the last quarter. John Simmons had a 43-yarder and James Griffin a 57-yarder.