The Bills–Dolphins rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. The teams, who are members of the American Football Conference East Division, play two games against one another per season. In the 96 regular season games between the teams in the series, the Dolphins lead 56–39–1 as of 2013. The teams have also met four times in the NFL playoffs. The Bills are 3–1 in the postseason, including a victory in the 1992 AFC Championship Game.
After Miami joined the American Football League (AFL) for the 1966 season, it played against Buffalo for the first time on September 18. The host Bills posted 48 points in the first half of the game, and won 58–24. In the second game between the teams, and the first to be played in Miami, the Bills shut out the Dolphins 29–0. The following year, Miami defeated Buffalo for the first time; a late 31-yard Bob Griese touchdown pass to Howard Twilley gave the Dolphins a 17–14 win. In 1968, the teams played to a 14–14 tie, the only one in the rivalry. After two consecutive Dolphins victories, the Bills won the teams' second game in 1969, 28–3. The game, which featured two receiving touchdowns by O. J. Simpson, proved to be their last win in the series for 11 years.
Following the 1969 season, the AFL and NFL completed the AFL–NFL merger by re-aligning the NFL's divisions. The Bills and Dolphins joined the NFL's new AFC East division, guaranteeing that they would play twice per year, once at each team's home stadium. In the 1970s, Miami won all 20 meetings between the teams; 12 of the victories came by 10 or more points. One of the most notable games of this period came in 1972, the year the Dolphins completed an undefeated season. The closest game by final score that Miami played during the season was its first game against the Bills, a 24–23 Dolphins win in the Miami Orange Bowl. Two years later, the Orange Bowl hosted a contest that Chris Iorfida of CBC Sports later called "A rare competitive game between the clubs during the mid- to late-1970s, and an exciting one." The Dolphins held a 28–21 lead when Bills reserve quarterback Gary Marangi passed for the tying touchdown in the final minute of the game. Miami responded 37 seconds later with a 23-yard Don Nottingham run for the touchdown that gave the team a 35–28 win.
By November 1978, the Dolphins' winning streak in the series had reached 17 games, a mark tied for the longest streak in NFL history for one team against another. The press in the Buffalo area frequently noted this fact. The Dolphins broke the record with a 25–24 result in Buffalo's Rich Stadium on November 12 of that year. With 9–7 and 17–7 victories in 1979, Miami's streak reached 20 by the end of the decade.
On September 7, 1980, the Bills recorded their first victory versus the Dolphins in 21 games. With a pair of touchdowns in the final quarter, Buffalo won 17–7. After the conclusion, fans at Rich Stadium rushed the field in celebration, tearing down one of the goal posts in the process. In 1983, the Dolphins hosted the Bills in rookie Dan Marino's first NFL start. The Dolphins overcame a 14–0 gap to lead 35–28 in the final minute before Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson led a game-tying comeback. The game in the Miami Orange Bowl went to overtime, where Dolphins placekicker Uwe von Schamann was unsuccessful on two potential game-winning field goal attempts. The Bills won 38–35 when Joe Danelo made a 36-yard field goal attempt late in overtime; it was Buffalo's first road win in the rivalry for 17 years. Ferguson had 419 yards passing and five touchdowns in the game; the former set a franchise record. Other than those two contests, Miami won 11 of the other 12 games between the teams from 1980–86. United Press International termed the matchup "one of pro football's most lopsided rivalries" in 1983. The Bills, however, won the series' last six games in the 1980s. The first of those came in October 1987, when the Bills won 34–31 in overtime after trailing the Dolphins 21–0 in the first half; the game featured six combined touchdown passes by the teams' quarterbacks, Marino of Miami and Jim Kelly of Buffalo. The last of the contests for the decade was a 1989 game decided by a two-yard rushing touchdown by Kelly as time expired.
In the 1990 playoffs, the Bills and Dolphins met for the first time in the postseason. Buffalo won the divisional round game, held at Rich Stadium, 44–34, as Kelly threw for three touchdowns. Two seasons later, the teams met again in the playoffs, this time in the AFC Championship Game. Players from both teams commented on the rivalry's intensity at the time; Richmond Webb, a Miami offensive lineman, said, "I don't know how it got started – it was a long time before I got here – but these two teams don't like each other. It's like the Game of the Year every time we play them." Before the Bills' last regular season game against the Houston Oilers, Miami safety Louis Oliver had shirts delivered to Oilers players, encouraging them to defeat the Bills; the Oilers did just that, winning 27–3 and allowing the Dolphins to finish first in the AFC East. In response, Bills running back Thurman Thomas said it was "typical of the Miami Dolphins ... to have someone else do their dirty work." A week later, the Oilers fell 41–38 to the Bills in the wild card playoff round, then on January 17, 1993 at Joe Robbie Stadium, the Bills defeated the Dolphins 29–10 to advance to their third consecutive Super Bowl.
The first game in the series in the 1993 season, in Rich Stadium, saw an incident where Miami linebacker Bryan Cox gestured at Bills fans, having previously said that he would "retire from football if I am ever traded up there." Multiple Dolphins players later said the spectators responded in a similar fashion towards them. After a 22–13 Dolphins victory over the Bills, sportswriter Bill Plaschke called the game "a considerable step toward making their rivalry the ugliest in the league". The teams met twice more in the playoffs during the 1990s. On December 30, 1995, Buffalo broke the league record for rushing yards in a game with 341, winning 37–22. This was Dolphins head coach Don Shula's last game in the NFL. Three seasons later, the teams met at Pro Player Stadium on January 2, 1999 for their fourth playoff game of the decade, which the Dolphins won 24–17. In regular season games during the decade, the Bills held a 10–8 won–loss advantage.
In 2006, Buffalo's home game against the Dolphins did not sell out, leading the Niagara Gazette's Pat Murray to write that the rivalry had declined. On the NFL's website, Nick Bakay attributed this to the reduced success of the Bills and Dolphins in the time period. Each team won half of the 20 games in the series during the 2000s. In 2008, the Bills hosted Miami at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada; it was the first time the country had been the site of a regular season NFL game. Miami won the contest 16–3. The teams split their two contests in 2010, while the Dolphins won both of their 2011 matchups. The most recent game between the teams was a 19–0 Bills victory in Buffalo on December 22, 2013.
Iorfida wrote in 2008 that the Bills and Dolphins had "one of the stranger rivalries in sports" due to the differences between Buffalo and Miami. In 1980, The Miami News' Joe Crittenden referred to "the contrast between the two cities – Miami, the resort center in the subtropics and Buffalo, the snowfall capital of the east". He wrote that, when the Dolphins were building their 20-game winning streak in the 1970s, the differences contributed to the "intensity" of the rivalry. The CBC also noted the long distance between the teams' cities as an oddity. Despite this distance, they are both members of the AFC East, and have played at least two games per year since the Dolphins first joined the AFL. Games between the Bills and Dolphins were often significant in the league standings during the 1980s and 1990s, and Monday Night Football had nine games from the rivalry during the period.
The Bills–Dolphins rivalry has been called the most significant for Buffalo; Bakay, a Bills fan from the city, called Miami the Bills' "most hated divisional rival". In addition to their rivalry with the Bills, the Dolphins share one with the New York Jets, who "might be the most bitter foe for Miami", according to the CBC. Dolphins player Oliver offered a different assessment in 1993, saying "It's the biggest rivalry we have, us and Buffalo." In addition, both teams share rivalries with the New England Patriots.
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