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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Jinx Is Ended

14 Nov

The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins clash on this week’s NFL schedule, and for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature we’ll travel back to opening day of the 1980 NFL season for a memorable game between these 2 AFC East rivals. It was September 7, 1980, and was the beginning of the third year of Buffalo’s rebuild under coach Chuck Knox. Knox had done the unthinkable – trading Bills’ legend O.J. Simpson away and replacing him with a rookie back named Joe Cribbs. He also stocked the Bills’ roster with former players he was familiar with from his days coaching the Los Angeles Rams, like Isiah Robertson, Ron Jessie and Bill Simpson. This game was the first to be played by both teams in the new decade of the 1980s, and Buffalo was more than happy to put the last decade behind them. In an incredible feat, coach Don Shula’s Dolphins had defeated the Bills 20 consecutive times, twice a year for the entire decade of the 1970s.

The teams battled through a defensive struggle in the first half, with the only scoring coming on a 40 yard Nick Mike-Mayer field goal as Buffalo took a 3-0 lead. Miami finally got untracked in the third quarter and went ahead 7-3 when Bob Griese finished a drive with a short touchdown pass to Tony Nathan. It looked like the Dolphins were going to continue their mastery over the Bills at that point, and Bills’ QB Joe Ferguson wasn’t helping matters as he threw 5 interceptions on the day. Buffalo’s defense, however, matched the Dolphins’ defensive intensity and kept the Fish off the scoreboard the rest of the way, intercepting Griese and backup Don Strock 4 times. Safety Jeff Nixon led the way, pilfering 3 passes and also recovering a fumble. Ferguson and the Bills finally found their way in the fourth quarter, putting together a pair of drives that accounted for the only points in that final stanza. Fergy found fullback Roosevelt Leaks for a 4 yard touchdown pass and Cribbs finished off a productive day that saw him rack up 131 yards from scrimmage by scoring from 2 yards out, securing a 17-7 win for the Bills that finally put an end to Miami’s 20 game, and 10 year, dominance over their AFC East rivals. The ending of the game wiped out a decade of frustration for Bills’ fans, and they reacted by storming the field and tearing down the goalposts, probably the only time in football history the goalposts came down on a team’s opening day. Knox was carried off the field by his players like a conquering hero. At the time it appeared that Buffalo’s fortunes would possibly be turning for the good. They won the AFC East and the Dolphins finished 8-8, a rare non-winning season for Shula. The Bills wound up losing to San Diego in the playoffs with Ferguson playing on an injured ankle, but for the Knox era, this one game may have been the crowning moment.

 

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Coach Chuck Knox, Buffalo’s conquering hero

 

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