This AFC East rivalry began in the Miami Dolphins’ third game as a franchise. The Buster Ramsey lead Buffalo Bills, same as the New York Jet’s in our previous rivalry article, was an established team in the AFL, taking advantage of Miami’s difficult first few seasons as a new team in the league.
Buffalo took the first ever meeting with a lop sided 58-24 victory.
As history has it, Miami’s fortunes changed against the entire league through the arrival of head coach Don Shula, which twisted Buffalo’s chances against the South Florida powerhouse.
After a 3-3-1 start against the Bills, Miami set a record that still stands today, beating them for 20 straight games, going an entire decade incapable of outmatching Shula’s crew. Additionally, from 1970 to 1986 Miami went 31-3 against the division foe. Out of Buffalo’s 19 all-time head coaches, they went through 6 during that losing streak.
That score margin slowly began to favor the Bills, especially in Miami’s undefeated season of ’72. Buffalo came the closest to beating the Super Bowl VII champs, falling 24-23 as the Dolphins’ fourth-quarter surge helped them stay undefeated.
The 1983 NFL Draft:
The 1983 NFL Draft is often referred to as the “Year of the Quarterback,” with six signal-callers taken in the first round — John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino — the highest number of first-round picks at the position.
This is when the battles of Marino vs. Kelly began. New head coach Marv Leavy changed things in Buffalo when he arrived in 1986, winning at least 10 games in 7-of-12 seasons with the team. Buffalo would go onto compete in four straight Super Bowls, beating Miami three times in the playoffs, including the ’92 AFC Championship game.
Buffalo subsequently lost all 4 championship appearances.
The meetings between these two teams since the exciting gun-slinging days of Marino and Kelly have been all but memorable for the most part. One noteworthy game took place on October 23, 2016, featuring former Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, who became just the fourth running back in NFL history to rush for 200+ yards in back-to-back games. Miami also overcame a 17-6 deficit in the 3rd quarter to capture a 28-25 victory.
Since the retirements of both Shula and Leavy, as well as Hall of Fame quarterbacks Marino and Kelly, both Miami and Buffalo have yet to field the competitive teams as they did in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, respectively.
To this day, Buffalo is one of 12 NFL teams to have never won a Superbowl. Once again, however, both teams have promising quarterbacks as well as young head coaches hoping to return their teams to AFC dominance.
At the start of the 2020 season, Miami currently holds the all-time head-to-head series against Buffalo, 61-50-1.
Miami plans to pad that lead a little more in season 101 of the NFL. Regardless, sooner rather than later, one of these two teams, if not both, will return to the head of the AFC East table to feast once again as of days past.