On September 13, 1992, the visiting Buffalo Bills beat the San Francisco 49ers in a 34-31 shootout where neither team recorded punts for the first time in NFL history.
This second-week matchup of the 1992 NFL season was a crucial contest between two titans from each conference.
San Francisco, still Joe Montana-less after the star quarterback injured his elbow and missed the entire 1991 campaign, came into the game following a win at the New York Giants. Buffalo, a franchise reeling from back-to-back Super Bowl defeats, traveled to Candlestick Park after topping the Los Angeles Rams at home the week prior.
Despite losing star wideout Jerry Rice to a first-quarter concussion, the game began in the 49ers’ favor as the hosts took a 24-13 halftime lead behind a pair of Steve Young touchdown passes and a 2-yard rumble by Tom Rathman.
The Bills answered quickly after the break, however, with Jim Kelly finding tight end Pete Metzelaars for a 53-yard score just 2:27 into the second half. Buffalo then forced San Francisco into a fumbled turnover, and on the ensuing possession Kelly hit Metzelaars once more for a touchdown, this time from 24 yards out.
Down 27-24 and facing 3rd-and-22, Young nailed a dart down the middle to John Taylor, who caught the ball at the Bills’ 31 yard-line and ran the rest of the way for a 53-yard touchdown. It was Taylor’s second box score stamp on the afternoon; he had previously caught Young’s second touchdown just before half.
After bunches of points in the initial three periods, the fourth quarter was a quiet affair on the scoreboard. The only update came with 3:04 remaining when future Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas scampered 11 yards for the winning score. After Steve Christie tacked on the extra point, the scoreline read 34-31 Bills. Things stayed that way as Mike Cofer’s 47-yard field goal attempt to tie sailed wide right as time expired.
With all that scoring and 1,086 yards of combined offense, the game didn’t see Chris Mohr of the Bills or Klaus Wilmsmeyer of the 49ers line up to punt. This oddity was the first time in NFL history both teams in a game combined for zero punts.
As for changes of possession and 4th downs, the teams committed three turnovers apiece and each went for it on 4th down once. San Francisco also attempted three field goals while Buffalo attempted two.
It’s further worth noting that neither Mohr nor Wilmsmeyer entered the game for field goal attempts because both teams used backup quarterbacks as their holders.
You just do your normal routine, get ready, get ready, get ready, and hope they make a first down. Eventually, you look at the clock and say, “guess I’m not going to punt today.”
The Buffalo Bills’ punter
There have been three zero combined punt games since, two of which involved Green Bay in 2014:
- January 11, 2004, divisional round of the playoffs: Indianapolis 41, Kansas City 10
- September 28, 2014: Green Bay 38, Chicago 17
- October 26, 2014: New Orleans 44, Green Bay 23
Going back to 1992, Buffalo finished the season 11-5 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card. The team’s playoff run included a stunning 41-38 victory over the Houston Oilers where the Bills rallied from a 35-3 deficit. Eventually reaching the Super Bowl for a third straight time, Buffalo lost 52-17 to the Dallas Cowboys.
San Francisco only faltered against the Phoenix Cardinals the rest of the regular season and finished 14-2, a record that won the NFC West. They, too, succumbed to the Cowboys in the postseason, losing 30-20 at home in the NFC Championship Game.
Joe Montana, who had quarterbacked the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in the previous decade, would leave the club for Kansas City after the season. Montana wouldn’t start a single game throughout 1992, although he did make one appearance in the season’s final tilt.
With such potent offenses, neither punter really booted the ball much the rest of the season, either. Mohr had 60 punts throughout 1992, good for the 21st most in the league. Wilmsmeyer only netted 49 total, which was the 25th most.
At the time, San Francisco’s 598 yards gained was a single-game franchise record, eclipsing the 597 set against the Baltimore Colts in 1953. The record mark eventually fell in 2012 when the offense garnered 621 yards—also versus Buffalo, but a 45-3 victory this time.
Certainly it was a game for the offenses. We’re thrilled to have won against a good team, to have rallied to do it.
The head coach of the Buffalo Bills
The NFL has uploaded the entire game to its YouTube channel (if the embed doesn’t work, visit the video’s YouTube page):
If you don’t have a couple hours to spare and would like to watch the NFL Primetime summary with some Chris Berman goodness instead, a kindly soul made Berman’s recap of the game available on YouTube (again, the NFL probably blocked the embed, so visit the YouTube page; this game’s coverage starts at 3:05):
- In 1992, visiting Buffalo beat San Francisco 34-31 as neither team’s punter (Chris Mohr of the Bills or Klaus Wilmsmeyer of the 49ers) booted a punt in the game. It was the first NFL game without a punt.
- Buffalo finished the 1992 season 11-5 and lost their third-straight Super Bowl. San Francisco went 14-2 and lost in the NFC Championship Game.
- Three NFL games since have seen no punts: Indianapolis 41, Kansas City 10 (2004); Green Bay 38, Chicago 17 (2014); and New Orleans 44, Green Bay 23 (2014).
- The San Francisco Examiner, September 14, 1992 via Newspapers.com
- “On This Date in Sports September 13, 1992”, Barstool Sports
- “No punt intended as Bills, 49ers get offensive”, ESPN
- “Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers – September 13th, 1992”, Pro-Football-Reference.com
- “Team Game Finder Query Results” (zero punt games), Pro-Football-Reference.com
- “Team Game Finder Query Results” (49ers’ offensive yards), Pro-Football-Reference.com