The Bills' defense allowed only 260 points in 1980, 3rd best in the league. Their 4,101 total yards surrendered were best in the NFL in 1980. Buffalo's defense was well represented on the UPI All-AFC team: nose tackleFred Smerlas and linebackerJim Haslett – two thirds of Buffalo's "Bermuda Triangle" with linebacker Shane Nelson – were named to the 1st team All-AFC. Defensive endBen Williams was named to the second team.
The Bills had not beaten the Miami Dolphins in the entire decade of the 1970s, a streak of twenty straight losses, the longest in NFL history. The last time the Bills had defeated Miami was 1969.
The Bills had been outscored 565 (28.5 points per games) to 299 (14.5) during the 1970s by the Dolphins, failing to score more than ten points in over a third of the contests (7). They were shut out three times. Conversely, the Dolphins were held under twenty points just four times, and scored 45 points on the Bills twice. The domination was so thorough that the Bills only lost by one score or less five times, and Don Shula had never lost to Buffalo since taking over as Dolphins coach in 1970. The Bills only held a lead at any point in eight of the games, and only twice in the fourth quarter. Joe Ferguson had lost to the Dolphins 14 straight times.
On opening day of the 1980 season, Miami visited Rich Stadium, attempting to extend the streak to 21 games. At the end of three quarters, Miami led 7–3. In the fourth quarter, running back Roosevelt Leaks scored the go-ahead touchdown to make the score 10–7. Joe Cribbs added a second touchdown to extend the lead to 17–7, and Jeff Nixon intercepted his third pass of the game with only 36 seconds left, breaking the streak at 20 games.
A rowdy crowd of 79,000 fans celebrated, and many stormed the field to tear down the goal posts, carrying them around the field.
The rivalry continued well into the 1990s, but with different results: from 1986 to 1996—the years in which Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino played at the same time—the Bills won 14 of 22 match-ups between the teams.
Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman wrote about the Bills' 1981 season, "It was a euphoric kind of year for Buffalo. Chuck Knox and his defensive coordinator, Tom Catlin, built the defense into No. 1 in the NFL with virtually the same people who had been lousy in '79. The Bills even beat Miami for the first time in a generation. And then Quarterback Joe Ferguson picked exactly the wrong time of year to sprain his ankle -- the playoffs. And San Diego ended the dream."
With 2:08 left in the game, Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts threw the 50-yard winning touchdown pass to receiver Ron Smith to defeat the Bills, 20–14.
Wrote Paul Zimmerman in Sports Illustrated's 1981 NFL preview, "If Charley Romes intercepts the pass that bounces off his chest in the last few minutes of the playoff game against San Diego, then the Chargers don't score on the next play, and win the game. And Buffalo gets to play Oakland at home -- where the Bills crushed the Raiders earlier in the season. And Buffalo's in the Super Bowl."