The Bills-Dolphins AFC East rivalry has had its ebbs and flows over the years. It was perhaps at its most intense during the Kelly-Marino years, but that shouldn't take away from the other intra-division battles that have come to define the series. Here now however, are some of the lesser-known facts about this storied rivalry.
10. The Bills once wore Dolphins helmets
In Week 3 of the 1978 season the Bills traveled to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Miami's winning streak against Buffalo was alive and well at the time, but the team had a bigger problem on their hands come Sunday morning.
The equipment staff had hung helmets and shoulder pads in all the locker stalls Saturday night before and had the Orange Bowl security staff lock up the visiting locker room for the night. When the equipment staff returned early the next morning 13 helmets were gone. The staff had to borrow plain white helmets from Miami's equipment staff. Buffalo's staff then put Bills decals and striping on the Dolphins' helmets for their players to wear in the game. Buffalo lost the game 31-24.
9. Closest game of Miami's perfect season? Buffalo.
During the Miami Dolphins perfect season in 1972 the Bills came closest to ending the streak when they came within a point of the Dolphins in a 24-23 loss in Week 6 (pictured). The game was tight throughout as the Bills forced four turnovers. Jim Braxton caught a six-yard touchdown pass Mike Taliaferro in the fourth quarter to pull Buffalo to within two points (24-22), but the two-point conversion did not exist in the NFL at the time. So the Bills kicked the extra point and still trailed by one and the game ended 24-23.
8. Round 2: Cox vs. Gardner
Everyone remembers Dolphins LB Bryan Cox's famous double barrel salute to Bills fans in Orchard Park before a Bills-Dolphins game in 1995 as well as his spitting in the direction of fans who were heckling him. What many don't remember is after Cox and Bills' FB Carwell Gardner were both ejected for fighting during the game, there was almost a round two in the tunnel between the two locker rooms.
Gardner tried repeatedly to get in the Dolphins locker room to fight Cox again and even hung around long enough after the game trying to bait Cox to come off the Miami team bus to fight him a second time. Cox did not oblige.
Cox was fined a total of $17,500 by the league, the largest NFL fine of the 1995 season. Gardner incurred a total of $15,000 in fines. The Bills won the game 23-20.
7. No hair spray
In the first matchup since the 1998 AFC Wild Card playoff loss to Miami the Bills had revenge on their minds after the bitter playoff 24-17 postseason defeat, which included then Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson destroying a box of Flutie Flakes in Miami's jubilant postgame locker room.
Buffalo won the Monday night game in Miami 23-18 thanks in large part to interceptions by John Holecek and Kurt Schulz and a 59-yard fumble return by Gabe Northern. After the game head coach Wade Phillips admitted it was an exuberant Bills locker room following the win. Remembering Johnson's Flutie Flakes charade the previous January, Phillips had one of his trademark quips in reference to the Miami coach's immovable hair.
"I didn't go in and stomp on a can of hair spray,'' Phillips said, "But I was excited about winning."
6. Miami would not lease Mr. Wilson the Orange Bowl.
When awarded an AFL franchise Bills in 1959, founder and owner Ralph Wilson considered Miami as the destination for his new football club. He wanted to set up a lease agreement with the Orange Bowl, but could strike a deal. Wilson finally decided on Buffalo for his fledgling AFL team. Miami would not get a pro football team until 1966.
5. Moulds' 240
The most dominant game in Eric Moulds' career came in the 1998 AFC Wild Card playoff game between the Bills and Dolphins in Miami. The receiver's day got off to a magnificent start when Doug Flutie hit him on the first play of the game, which he took 65 yards downfield. He was headed for the end zone, but was stripped of the ball from behind at the 18-yard line. It was one of five turnovers by Buffalo in a painful 24-17 loss. But Moulds would finish with 240 receiving yards on just nine catches and a touchdown, which still stands as the most receiving yards in a playoff game in NFL history.
4. Kelly's TD run was supposed to be a pass.
Jim Kelly's memorable last second touchdown run to win their Week 1 opener at Miami in 1989 was a pass play in the huddle. After getting up to the line of scrimmage both he and Thurman Thomas saw it was an overload blitz on the right side of Buffalo's formation. Before the snap Kelly decided he would run to the open side. He and Thomas gave each other a look pre-snap so Kelly knew Thomas was prepared to block for him on the play. His two-yard run on first and goal won the game as time expired (27-24).
3. Strip steaks and stone crab.
Now both Hall of Famers and long retired, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino have an annual wager based on the outcome of the Bills-Dolphins games. If the Dolphins sweep the season series from the Bills, Kelly would owe Marino strip steaks. If the Bills swept the Dolphins, Marino would owe Kelly stone crab.
That wager was most recently honored by Marino after Buffalo's season sweep of Miami last season. When Marino visited Kelly in New York City at the hospital the former Dolphins QB brought Kelly his stone crab.
2. Keeping the rivalry alive
With the addition of the expansion Houston Texans in 2002 the NFL was enacting a realignment plan with eight divisions consisting of four teams each. There was a proposal on the table to move the Bills to a new AFC North division, but owner Ralph Wilson wanted to keep the Buffalo-Miami rivalry intact. In the end Wilson successfully kept the Bills in the AFC East to maintain two meetings with the Dolphins each season.
1. Last second screen
Heading into their third straight AFC title game the Bills had to face the Miami Dolphins for the right to go to their third consecutive Super Bowl. The Friday before the game offensive coordinator Tom Breshnahan saw a flaw in Miami's defense that would allow for a very productive screen game for Buffalo's attack. He noticed that on every single pass play DE Marco Coleman would blindly run up field. Breshnahan added a package of screen plays to the game plan on Saturday and Thurman Thomas and Kenny Davis rolled up the yards on Sunday.
The duo finished with nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown in a 29-10 rout of the Dolphins earning a trip to Super Bowl XXVII.