1st and 15: Bills-Dolphins history
The Miami Dolphins will take on the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 7 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, shifting their enduring rivalry to Canada. It is one of the stranger rivalries in sports as the cities have little in common in terms of image and climate and are separated by a five-hour flight and about 2,200 kilometres of road.
But the rivalry has persisted and there can be no doubt that the Dolphins are the most dreaded AFC East opponent for Buffalo fans. Conversely, the New York Jets might be the most bitter foe for Miami, as those teams have played several thrillers.
Despite the addition of NFL franchises over the years in Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Carolina, the Bills and Dolphins have remained in the same division, slugging it out in very memorable games every few years.
So as they get set to play their first regular season contest in Toronto, here's a look back at 15 notable games from the rivalry.
Miami 24 at Buffalo 58, Sept. 18, 1966
The first-ever regular season meeting. Future vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp would throw for a score and run for another as the Bills amassed 48 points by halftime. Miami's coach was George Wilson and their quarterback was George Wilson, too — the second of only three occasions in NFL history where a father coached his son. Nepotism didn't help much, with the Dolphins finishing 3-11 in their inaugural season.
Miami 3 at Buffalo 28, Nov. 16, 1969
Rookie O.J. Simpson catches a pair of touchdowns, two of three thrown that day by Kemp. It would be the only time the Bills would beat the Dolphins in Simpson's otherwise storied Buffalo tenure, as Miami would win the next 20 games in the head-to-head series, the streak mercifully ending in 1980.
Buffalo 23 at Miami 24, Oct. 22, 1972
Miami went an unprecedented 14-0 in 1972 under coach Don Shula and while the Dolphins had to come from behind late against Minnesota and the New York Jets, this game in Week 6 against the Bills ended up with the slimmest margin of victory.
The Dolphins were born to run in 1972 and this game in front of more than 80,000 at the Orange Bowl was no exception. Mercury Morris rushed for two touchdowns, while Larry Csonka added another. A subsequent game in Buffalo two weeks later was close at the half until Miami pulled away for a 30-16 win.
Buffalo 28 at Miami 35, Nov. 17, 1974
A rare competitive game between the clubs during the mid- to late-1970s, and an exciting one. Rookie Gary Marangi replaced an injured Joe Ferguson and threw a touchdown pass for Buffalo to Bobby Chandler to tie the game with 56 seconds left. Miami drove down the field and appeared to be setting up for a field goal attempt, but fullback Don Nottingham took the ball 23 yards to the end zone with 19 seconds left on the clock.
Miami 21 at Buffalo 31, Oct. 12, 1981
At the height of the Monday night football era, the Bills defeated a Dolphins team that in the playoffs would engage with San Diego in one of the most memorable games in NFL history. This game was no slouch, either. Fulton Walker returned a kickoff for a touchdown for Miami (he would do the same in the Super Bowl a year later), while Buffalo running back Joe Cribbs took the ball 65 yards to paydirt.
Buffalo 38 at Miami 35 (OT), Oct. 9, 1983
Miami 34 at Buffalo 24, Nov. 16, 1986
Miami would win its sixth straight against the Bills with Marino now an established superstar. Marino tossed four touchdowns, but the Bills were showing signs of turning the corner, with Jim Kelly, in his first year with Buffalo after leaving the USFL, throwing two touchdowns.
Buffalo 34 at Miami 31 (OT), Oct. 25, 1987
Marino tossed four touchdowns and Kelly two, with Scott Norwood's overtime kick allowing Buffalo to snap its losing streak against Miami. Otherwise ordinary running back Robb Riddick enjoyed a career day, with three short touchdown runs.
Miami 34 at Buffalo 44, Jan. 12, 1991
It took over 25 years and future Hall of Famers Marino and Kelly to arrive on the scene for the Bills and Dolphins to do battle in a playoff game. Each quarterback threw three touchdowns, with an early 10-point lead holding up for Buffalo as they began the journey to what would be their first Super Bowl berth.
Miami 22 at Buffalo 37, Dec. 30, 1995
The Bills again eliminate the Dolphins from the playoffs in the last NFL game coached by Shula. The game was not as competitive as the final score indicated, with the Bills opening up a 27-0 lead while racking up an NFL record 341 yards rushing. Marino would throw a whopping 64 passes trying to get his team back into the game.
Buffalo 17 at Miami 24, January 2, 1999
The last playoff win in the illustrious career of Marino. His foil on this occasion was ex-CFLer Doug Flutie, as Kelly had retired three years earlier.
Miami 34 at Buffalo 27, Nov. 25, 2001
Buffalo headed into the fourth leading 21-10, but collapsed in a manner befitting a 3-13 season. Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler threw three touchdowns in the last period, two to Chris Chambers, as Miami stunned the Bills.
Miami 21 at Buffalo 38, Dec. 1, 2002
Drew Bledsoe threw three touchdowns and even ran one in as this time it was the Bills coming back from an early deficit. The outcome spoiled perhaps the best single-game performance in the rivalry's history, as Dolphins running back Ricky Williams rushed for 228 yards and two scores in snowy Buffalo.
Buffalo 42 at Miami 32, Dec. 5, 2004
Bledsoe and Miami's A.J. Feeley produce an aerial show, combining for seven touchdown passes. Feeley would make a key mistake late, an interception returned by Pat Williams to seal the outcome for the Bills.
Buffalo 23 at Miami 24, Dec. 4, 2005
Perhaps the last classic in the series, although both teams were mediocre at the time. J.P. Losman threw three touchdowns to Lee Evans for a big Buffalo lead, but unlikely hero Sage Rosenfels threw to Ronnie Brown and Chambers to lead a fourth-quarter comeback.