By: Randy Campbell (OLD DOLFAN)
Fans of the Buffalo Bills understandably were frustrated as their team prepared to play the first place Miami Dolphins on this cold (37 degrees) and windy November day in Buffalo. At the half way point of the 14-game season, their Bills were 5-2, only one game behind Miami in the AFC East. Buffalo star running back OJ Simpson was having the greatest season ever by any NFL running back. Yet the Bills laid a goose egg in week #8 at New Orleans. ZERO points against the lowly Saints was absolutely inexcusable and frustrating!
Then, last week, the Bills were playing at home in their brand new edifice known as Rich Stadium. It was a MUST WIN game vs. the Bengals. Buffalo was favored. Yet, when the game ended, the Bills had lost this key game 16-13. The frustration level grew exponentially! Buffalo had fallen to 5-4, now three games behind the hated Miami Dolphins!
The frustration level of Buffalo fans was about to get worse! Much worse!!
It was bad enough to suffer through SEVEN CONSECUTIVE LOSSES TO MIAMI (beginning in 1970). Now, Buffalonians faced the REAL PROSPECT of being knocked-out of the divisional race by their bitter rivals from Miami! Little did they know that not only would Miami destroy their beloved Bills today, ending their 1973 playoff dreams. Miami, also, would go on to win 20 CONSECUTIVE GAMES against the Bills, making Buffalo “0 for the’70’s” against the Miami Dolphins – – – an all-time record for most consecutive wins against an opponent in NFL history!!
The Miami Dolphins were playing their BEST football of the season as they confidently cruised into Buffalo. They had won six consecutive games, most by a wide margin. Their offense averaged 31 points per game during this streak. And their defense was on pace to give up the FEWEST POINTS EVER in a 14-game season! Even the special teams scored two touchdowns (courtesy of Tim Foley) in last week’s 44-0 destruction of the Baltimore Colts!
Head coach Don Shula wanted his team to repeat their fast start from the first Buffalo game played in Miami in week #6. In that game, the Dolphins exploded for 21 points in the second quarter on their way to an easy 27-6 victory.
Shula knew that over 80,000 Bills’ fans would cram Rich Stadium, hoping for revenge against the Dolphins. Shula believed he could prevent this huge crowd from becoming a factor by striking early and often.
Miami began their first drive from their own 20 yard line. On third and six from the 36, Griese found TE Jim Mandich wide open over the middle for a first down at Miami’s 49. Methodically, Griese moved the ball down the field to the Bills’ 18 yard line. It was third and two. Griese handed off to Jim Kiick for just a one yard gain. On fourth and one, all 80,000 fans were standing and screaming!! They expected a hand off to Csonka. Instead, Griese spun and handed the ball to Kiick. He followed a nice block by Bob Kuechenberg and gained two yards for a vital first down.
On third and five from the Bills’ 10, Griese tossed a swing pass to Kiick who was stopped one yard short of a first down at he six! Again, it was fourth down! Again, 80,000 Bills’ fans stood up and hollered! Again, Griese handed off to Jim Kiick, who gained FIVE YARDS and a first and goal at the one! Deflated Buffalo fans took a seat as Larry Csonka roared into the end zone on the next play! 80 yards, 18 plays, and just under nine minutes off the clock! 7-0 Miami, after the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter Miami’s Mercury Morris broke free on a 45 yard run into Buffalo territory. Garo Yepremian’s 39-yard field goal through cold, gusty, winds gave the Dolphins a 10-0 lead.
Buffalo head coach Lou Saban KNEW his team would have to respond. His Bills drove 77 yards, mostly on hard running by OJ Simpson and fullback Jim Braxton. On first and goal at the Miami three, QB Joe Ferguson was stopped at the two by “Captain Crunch,” hard nosed Miami linebacker Mike Kolen. A run by Braxton put the ball at the ONE! On third and goal, Kolen CRUSHED OJ SIMPSON FOR NO GAIN!!!!
Again, Buffalo fans stood up for a fourth down play! AGAIN, BRAXTON WAS STOPPED COLD BY MIKE KOLEN and the Dolphins took over at the ONE!!–Me and my “BOYZ” went absolutely NUTS as we watched the game on TV!! –Buffalo fans COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!!
Later, the Bills’ offense began yet another long drive. Again, they had success running the ball into Miami territory. QB Joe Ferguson decided it was time to throw the ball. It was intercepted by (WHO ELSE?) Mike Kolen!! Kolen returned the pick all the way to the Buffalo 40 yard line!! Bob Griese sensed it was time to go for the kill. Paul Warfield was double teamed. So Griese passed to wide open TE Jim Mandich. Mandich rumbled all the way to the Bills’ 17 yard line! On the next play Griese noticed Warfield had only one player guarding him. Warfield, using his Olympic sprinter’s speed, blew by the single coverage and caught Griese’s pass for an all-too-easy 17 yard touchdown pass! It was 17-0, Miami! And just like the earlier game between these teams, the game was essentially over by halftime.
Buffalo would continue to move the ball during the second half. But their drives always failed once they crossed into Miami territory. When the final gun sounded, Miami had preserved their 17-0 halftime advantage. And their defense had limited Buffalo’s offense to a grand total of SIX POINTS IN TWO GAMES during the 1973 season!
Disappointed Buffalo fans filed out of Rich Stadium on this cold and dreary day. Their team had lost to Miami for the eighth consecutive time! Little did they know they would lose their next 12 consecutive games to the Miami Dolphins! A dejected OJ Simpson reportedly was in tears as he sat in the Bills’ post game locker room.
In Miami’s locker, player of the game Mike Kolen had a smile as wide as Niagara Falls! And defensive line coach Mike Scarry celebrated as he received his first game ball from a jubilant Don Shula. The Dolphins had clinched the AFC East title and a spot in the playoffs! But there was precious time for celebration. The Dolphins’ next game, in just four days, was at one of the NFL’s best teams – – the Dallas Cowboys!
The 1973 Miami Dolphins were now 9-1.
PRESEASON GAME #1 IS TOMORROW VS THE BEARS @ SOLDIER FIELD.