1980 Buffalo Bills season

21st season in franchise history

1980 Buffalo Bills season
OwnerRalph Wilson
Head coachChuck Knox
Home fieldRich Stadium
Results
Record11–5
Division place1st AFC East
Playoff finishLost Divisional Playoffs (at Chargers) 14–20
Pro BowlersRB Joe Cribbs
WR Jerry Butler
NT Fred Smerlas
AP All-ProsNT Fred Smerlas (1st team)
G Joe DeLamielleure (2nd team)

The 1980 Buffalo Bills season was the franchise's 11th season in the National Football League, and the 21st overall. Their 11–5 record was tied for best in the AFC.

The Bills' defense allowed only 260 points in 1980, third-best in the league, whilst their 4,101 total yards surrendered was best in the NFL in 1980. Buffalo's defense was well represented on the UPI All-AFC team: nose tackle Fred Smerlas and linebacker Jim Haslett – two-thirds of Buffalo's "Bermuda Triangle" with linebacker Shane Nelson – were named to the 1st team All-AFC. Defensive end Ben Williams was named to the second team.

Although Buffalo's offensive statistics were not as impressive as its defense, four offensive players were named All-AFC: left guard Reggie McKenzie, left tackle Ken Jones, wide receiver Jerry Butler and rookie running back Joe Cribbs.[1]

Cribbs rushed for 1,185 yards and made his first Pro Bowl. Jerry Butler and Fred Smerlas also were selected to play in the annual all-star game.[2]

Breaking "The Streak"

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.[3] 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.[4][5]

A rowdy crowd of 79,000 fans celebrated, and many stormed the field to tear down the goal posts, carrying them around the field.[6] Joe Cribbs contributed 131 combined yards of offense for the triumphant Bills.[7]

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.[8]

Offseason

NFL Draft

North Carolina State's Jim Ritcher became an anchor of the Buffalo offensive line for the next 14 years; he was the starter for all four Buffalo Super Bowl teams, and was second-team All-Pro in 1991.

Running back Joe Cribbs was Buffalo's starting running back from 1980–1983, and again in 1985 (after returning from one year in the USFL).

Tight end Mark Brammer played for the Bills for five seasons. Greg Cater was Buffalo's starting punter from 1980 until 1983.[9]

1980 Buffalo Bills draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 16 Jim Ritcher *  Guard North Carolina State
2 29 Joe Cribbs *  Running back Auburn
2 37 Gene Bradley  Quarterback Arkansas State
3 67 Mark Brammer  Tight end Michigan State
3 71 John Schmeding  Guard Boston College
4 93 Ervin Parker  Linebacker South Carolina State
5 119 Jeff Pyburn  Defensive back Georgia
5 129 Keith Lee  Defensive back Colorado State
8 202 Todd Krueger  Quarterback Northern Michigan
9 231 Kent Davis  Defensive back Southeast Missouri State
10 259 Greg Cater  Punter Chattanooga
11 286 Joe Gordon  Defensive tackle Grambling State
12 316 Roger Lapham  Tight end Maine
      Made roster    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career

[10]

Personnel

Staff/Coaches

1980 Buffalo Bills staff
Front Office

Coaching Staff

Offensive Coaches

  • Offensive Coordinator / Offensive Line - Ray Proschaska
  • Running Backs Coach - Elijah Pitts
  • Quarterbacks Coach - Kay Stephenson
  • Wide Receivers Coach - Jack Donaldson

Defensive/Special Teams Coaches

  • Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers Coach - Tom Caitlin
  • Defensive Line – Willie Zapalac
  • Defensive Backs – Jim Wagstaff
  • Special Teams - Steve Moore & Elijah Pitts

Special Assignments'

  • Special Assignments Coach - Miller McCalmon

Roster

1980 Buffalo Bills roster
Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists


Practice squad



Rookies in italics

Regular season

Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman wrote about the Bills' 1980 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."[11]

Schedule

Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Recap
1 September 7 Miami Dolphins W 17–7 1–0 Rich Stadium Recap
2 September 14 New York Jets W 20–10 2–0 Rich Stadium Recap
3 September 21 at New Orleans Saints W 35–26 3–0 Louisiana Superdome Recap
4 September 28 Oakland Raiders W 24–7 4–0 Rich Stadium Recap
5 October 5 at San Diego Chargers W 26–24 5–0 San Diego Stadium Recap
6 October 12 Baltimore Colts L 12–17 5–1 Rich Stadium Recap
7 October 19 at Miami Dolphins L 14–17 5–2 Orange Bowl Recap
8 October 26 New England Patriots W 31–13 6–2 Rich Stadium Recap
9 November 2 Atlanta Falcons L 14–30 6–3 Rich Stadium Recap
10 November 9 at New York Jets W 31–24 7–3 Shea Stadium Recap
11 November 16 at Cincinnati Bengals W 14–0 8–3 Riverfront Stadium Recap
12 November 23 Pittsburgh Steelers W 28–13 9–3 Rich Stadium Recap
13 November 30 at Baltimore Colts L 24–28 9–4 Memorial Stadium Recap
14 December 7 Los Angeles Rams W 10–7 10–4 Rich Stadium Recap
15 December 14 at New England Patriots L 2–24 10–5 Foxboro Stadium Recap
16 December 21 at San Francisco 49ers W 18–13 11–5 Candlestick Park Recap

Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.[12]

Standings

AFC East
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W L T PCT DIV CONF PF PA STK
Buffalo Bills(3) 11 5 0 .688 4–4 8–4 320 260 W1
New England Patriots 10 6 0 .625 6–2 9–3 441 325 W2
Miami Dolphins 8 8 0 .500 3–5 4–8 266 305 L1
Baltimore Colts 7 9 0 .438 5–3 6–8 355 387 L3
New York Jets 4 12 0 .250 2–6 3–9 302 395 W1

Game summaries

Week 1

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
1 234Total
Dolphins 0 070 7
• Bills 0 3014 17
Scoring summary
2BUFNick Mike-Mayer 40 yard field goalBUF 3–0
3MIATony Nathan 4 yard pass from Bob Griese (Uwe von Schamann kick)MIA 7–3
411:18BillsRoosevelt Leaks 4 yard pass from Joe Ferguson (Nick Mike-Mayer kick)BUF 10–7
412:58BillsJoe Cribbs 2 yard run (Nick Mike-Mayer kick)BUF 17–7

[13]

Week 2

1 234Total
Jets 3 007 10
• Bills 0 10100 20
  • Date: September 14
  • Location: Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 68 °F or 20 °C, wind 13 miles per hour (21 km/h; 11 kn)
  • Referee: Pat Haggerty
  • TV announcers (NBC): Don Criqui and John Brodie

[14]

Week 3

1 234Total
• Bills 7 7714 35
Saints 0 1907 26

[15]

Week 4

1 234Total
Raiders 0 070 7
• Bills 7 1007 24
  • Date: September 28
  • Location: Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 54 °F or 12.2 °C, wind 9 miles per hour (14 km/h; 7.8 kn)
  • Referee: Dick Jorgensen
  • Television network: NBC

[16]

Week 5

1 234Total
• Bills 3 9014 26
Chargers 7 1070 24
  • Date: October 5
  • Location: Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego, California
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 68 °F or 20 °C, wind 10 miles per hour (16 km/h; 8.7 kn)
  • Referee: Bob McElwee
  • TV announcers (NBC): Charlie Jones and Len Dawson

[17]

Week 6

1 234Total
• Colts 10 700 17
Bills 0 903 12
  • Date: October 12
  • Location: Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 49 °F or 9.4 °C, wind 12 miles per hour (19 km/h; 10 kn)
  • Referee: Jim Tunney
  • Television network: NBC

[18]

Week 7

1 234Total
Bills 0 077 14
• Dolphins 7 730 17
  • Date: October 19
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 80 °F or 26.7 °C, wind 8 miles per hour (13 km/h; 7.0 kn)
  • Referee: Red Cashion
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen

[19]

Week 8

1 234Total
Patriots 3 0100 13
• Bills 0 14017 31
  • Date: October 26
  • Location: Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 41 °F or 5 °C, wind 26 miles per hour (42 km/h; 23 kn)
  • Referee: Ben Dreith
  • TV announcers (NBC): Charlie Jones and Len Dawson

[20]

Week 9

1 234Total
• Falcons 0 101010 30
Bills 7 700 14
  • Date: November 2
  • Location: Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 40 °F or 4.4 °C, wind 9 miles per hour (14 km/h; 7.8 kn)
  • Referee: Chuck Heberling
  • Television network: CBS

[21]

Week 10

1 234Total
• Bills 10 777 31
Jets 0 10014 24
  • Date: November 9
  • Location: Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York
  • Game start: 4:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 44 °F or 6.7 °C, wind 12 miles per hour (19 km/h; 10 kn)
  • Television network: NBC

[22]

Week 11

1 234Total
• Bills 0 707 14
Bengals 0 000 0
  • Date: November 16
  • Location: Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 34 °F or 1.1 °C, wind 11 miles per hour (18 km/h; 9.6 kn)

[23]

Week 12

1 234Total
Steelers 7 303 13
• Bills 7 777 28

[24] [25]

Week 13

1 234Total
Bills 7 737 24
• Colts 0 1477 28
  • Date: November 30
  • Location: Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 43 °F or 6.1 °C, wind 14 miles per hour (23 km/h; 12 kn)
  • Referee: Jerry Markbreit
  • TV announcers: NBC

[26]

Week 14

1 234OTTotal
Rams 0 0700 7
• Bills 0 0703 10

First ever win for Buffalo vs Rams

[27] [28]

Week 15

1 234Total
Bills 0 020 2
• Patriots 7 773 24
  • Date: December 14
  • Location: Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 28 °F or −2.2 °C, wind 15 miles per hour (24 km/h; 13 kn)
  • Referee: Cal Lepore
  • TV announcers (NBC): Bob Costas and Gene Washington

[29]

Week 16

1 234Total
• Bills 6 750 18
49ers 6 070 13

[30]

Postseason

Divisional

Buffalo Bills at San Diego Chargers
1 234Total
Bills 0 1400 14
• Chargers 3 0710 20

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."[31]

Notable events

In Week 15, the Bills became the thirty-fourth team to score only a safety in a full game. It was the first occurrence of this since the San Diego Chargers against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last game of the 1972 season, and there have been only three since, by the 1983 Minnesota Vikings, the 1993 Cincinnati Bengals, and the 2011 Atlanta Falcons in a playoff game.

References

  1. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com: 1980 NFL All-Pros
  2. ^ 1980 NFL Pro Bowlers
  3. ^ Buffalo Rumblings: September 7, 1980 – Bills End 20-Game Losing Streak To Dolphins
  4. ^ "Jeff Nixon - 1 Fumble Recovery, 3 Interceptions". YouTube.
  5. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com: Miami Dolphins 7 at Buffalo Bills 17 – Sunday, September 7, 1980
  6. ^ NFL.com: Bills stop skid vs. Dolphins
  7. ^ 100 Things Dolphins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Armando Salguero, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2020, ISBN 978-1-62937-722-3, p.179
  8. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com: In multiple seasons, from 1986 to 1996, playing for the Buffalo Bills, versus the Miami Dolphins, in the regular season, sorted by most games matching criteria
  9. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com: Greg Cater
  10. ^ "1980 Buffalo Bills Draftees". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  11. ^ Sports Illustrated, September 7, 1981: PRO FOOTBALL '81, by Paul Zimmerman, page 48
  12. ^ "1980 Buffalo Bills Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  13. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  14. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  15. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  16. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  17. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  18. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  19. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  20. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  21. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  22. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  23. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  24. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  25. ^ Brady, Erik (November 25, 2020). "How Talking Proud became an anthem for a generation of Bills fans". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on January 27, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  26. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  27. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  28. ^ Brady, Erik (February 15, 2022). "Remembering when Bills took a 'curtain call' after beating Rams". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on February 15, 2022. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  29. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  30. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  31. ^ Sports Illustrated, September 7, 1981: PRO FOOTBALL '81, by Paul Zimmerman, page 48
  • Bills on Pro Football Reference
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  • Bills Stats on jt-sw.com
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