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What is ‘wide right’? How the Buffalo Bills curse returned after 33 years

Tyler Bass' missed field goal in the waning minutes of Sunday's game agains the Chiefs conjured memories of the Bills' Super Bowl heartbreak in 1991.

They are the two most cursed words in Buffalo sports history, and they've made a haunting return after 33 years.

"Wide right."

A potentially game-tying, 44-yard field goal attempt by Bills' kicker Tyler Bass with 1:47 remaining sailed wide to the right of the goalposts in a crushing 27-24 loss to the visiting Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL playoffs on Jan. 21.

Tyler Bass #2 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after missing a 44 yard field goal attemp
Tyler Bass (No. 2, above) missed a potentially game-tying field goal wide right in a 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL playoffs Sunday.Al Bello / Getty Images

It wasn't just that the Bills lost, but the way they lost that brought back so many heartbreaking memories for fans.

What was the original "Wide Right?"

The errant kick by Bass conjured memories of Bills kicker Scott Norwood missing a 47-yard field goal in 1991 that would've won the Super Bowl over the Giants.

Norwood pushed the kick wide right in the final seconds of a 20-19 loss, and the term became shorthand for the Bills' frustrations as they went on to lose three more consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s.

The team has not been back to the Super Bowl since. Their NFL playoff game against the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Sunday represented another golden opportunity, but they came up short after the Chiefs ran out the clock following Bass' miss.

Scott Norwood #11 of the Buffalo Bills misses a field goal attempt in 1991.
Scott Norwood (No. 11) of the Buffalo Bills misses a last-second field goal attempt against the New York Giants during Super Bowl 25 on Jan. 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida.Focus On Sport / Getty Images

A victory would've put the Bills one win away from a long-awaited return to the Super Bowl.

Instead, their playoff run was ended by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs for the third time in the last four seasons.

What was the reaction to the missed kick this time?

Legendary play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz immediately referenced Norwood's miss on the broadcast after Bass' kick veered off to the right in the windy Buffalo conditions.

"No, he doesn't make it!" Nantz said. "Wide. Right. The two most dreaded words in Buffalo have surfaced again."

For Buffalo fans of a certain age, it brought back a rush of stomach-churning memories from the '90s. For younger fans, it became their own version of frustration.

"Pain. Straight. up. pain," reporter Samantha Croston captioned side-by-side videos of the kicks by Bass and Norwood on X.

"I wasn’t around to see the first wide right but thanks for allowing me to share in on the trauma," one Bills fan posted on X.

"I never want to hear wide right again. I still have ptsd from 30 years ago," another Bills fan wrote on X.

There also were plenty of Taylor Swift "wide right" memes, as the superstar was at the game in Buffalo cheering on her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who had two touchdown catches in the win.

"In the 91 Superbowl, the Bills lost on a wide right too," one person captioned the viral video of Swift and friend Selena Gomez having a conversation at the Golden Globes.

"Wide Right (Taylor's Version)," another person wrote on X.

Even a member of that 1991 Giants team couldn't resist.

"Wide right!! LOL," former Giants offensive lineman Jumbo Elliott wrote on X.

The Bills' last Super Bowl appearance came in 1993, when they lost 30-13 to the Dallas Cowboys. The Norwood miss remains the closest the team has come to winning the Super Bowl in its 54-year history in the NFL.