Traditional rivalries fall in and out of the national spotlight all the time. Cowboys vs. 49ers isn’t nearly as relevant as it was during the 1990’s. Bears vs. Packers was important to the NFL Championship picture during the 60’s, but not at all in the 70’s. Some rivalries are important to a certain division or region, but are largely ignored by the rest of the country. Atlanta and New Orleans had a quirky rivalry during the 90’s, but nobody really noticed. Ohio cares about Browns vs. Bengals, but the rest of America laughed at the futility of the two teams for years.
The Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins rivalry was probably the most intense rivalry in the AFC throughout the late 80’s up until the end of the 90’s. Older Bills fans will always despise and want to annihilate the Dolphins more than any other team, including the Patriots, because they grew up hating the Dolphins. Why?
The Buffalo Bills were 0-for-the 70’s against the Miami Dolphins.
Ten years times two games a year, all Dolphin victories.
Miami made the playoffs seven times in the 70’s. Buffalo made it to the postseason once (1974). Miami went to the Super Bowl three times, winning twice. Buffalo hadn’t even gotten close enough to sniff the big game since 1966 (yes, the Bills were an AFL Championship game victory away from playing the Packers in Super Bowl I). Miami is a sunny paradise with bikini-clad women year-round. Buffalo is a boarded-up mill town covered in permafrost and has a polar bear problem (at least according to people who have never been to Western New York).
During Miami’s 17-0 season in 1972, what was the closest they came to losing all year? A week six 24-23 Dolphin victory over Buffalo in the Orange Bowl.
The streak was snapped the first week of the 1980 season with a 17-7 Buffalo victory at Rich Stadium (which is what I still refer to the stadium at 1 Bills Drive as). Following the game, eighty thousand long-suffering frustrated fans stormed the field, tore down the goalposts, and passes them up to Owner Ralph Wilson’s press box as a gift.
The funny thing about this rivalry is that based upon the time period I grew up, I never really feared Dan Marino or the Dolphins. The 70’s were before my time, and the only coach to have a lifetime winning record against Don Shula (with double-digit career games against him), Marv Levy, was coaching Buffalo. Levy swept Miami five times, and was only swept by Shula once. Levy won all three of his playoff games over Shula.
Other highlights of the series:
1983: Dan Marino’s first start. Buffalo hadn’t won in the Orange Bowl since ’66, and they overcame Marino’s great day (19/29, 322 yards, 3 td’s) to win a thriller, 38-35 in overtime. Joe Ferguson trumped Marino with 38/55, 419 yards and five touchdowns.
1987: Jim Kelly and the Bills came back from 21 points down to win 34-31 in overtime in the first week of games with the regular players after the strike.
1990 and 1995: The Bills win week 16 matchups against the Dolphins to win the AFC East, and beat the Dolphins in playoff games at Rich stadium both years. In ’95, Buffalo sets the record for most yards rushing in an AFC playoff game with 342 in Don Shula’s last game.
1993: Buffalo scores 31 points in ten minutes, turning a 17-16 deficit into a 47-20 lead in the third quarter, and eventually a late season 47-34 win.
Yeah, I know, all of these are great moments for the Bills, and I completely left the Dolphins out. I already told my readers that I’m biased. Squish the Fish. Go Bills.