1988 Buffalo Bills season

29th season in franchise history

1988 Buffalo Bills season
OwnerRalph Wilson
General managerBill Polian
Head coachMarv Levy
Home fieldRich Stadium
Results
Record12–4
Division place1st AFC East
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (vs. Oilers) 17–10
Lost AFC Championship (at Bengals) 10–21

The 1988 Buffalo Bills season was the franchise's 29th overall season as a football team and the 19th in the National Football League. The Bills ended a streak of four consecutive losing seasons by winning the AFC East; they finished the NFL's 1988 season with a record of twelve wins and four losses; it was the club's first winning season since 1981, its first 12-win season since the 1964 AFL championship season, and only the fifth double-digit win season in team history. The Bills were 8–0 at home for the first time in their franchise history.[1] On the road, the Bills were 4–4. From an attendance standpoint, the franchise set a record for attendance with 631,818 fans.[2]

This was the first of four consecutive AFC East titles for the Bills. They started the season 11–1 before losing three of their final four games, costing them the top seed in the AFC, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

It was Buffalo's first trip to the postseason since 1981. The Bills were the #2 seed in the AFC (behind #1 Cincinnati), giving the Bills their first home playoff game since the 1966 AFL Championship, and their first ever playoff game at Rich Stadium. The 1988 season would be the first of five AFC Championship game appearances over six seasons,[3] and their only loss in the conference championship game.

The 1988 season was the first for running back Thurman Thomas, nose tackle Jeff Wright, and linebacker Carlton Bailey. Thomas would rush for 881 yards, despite only carrying the ball 207 times (42.7% of total team carries by a running back) while sharing carries with Robb Riddick, Jamie Mueller and Ronnie Harmon.

The Bills had a dominant defense in 1988: they gave up the fewest points (237) and the fewest total yards (4,578) in the AFC in 1988. The defensive unit was given the nickname "Blizzard Defense,"[4][5] alluding to Buffalo's harsh winters.

Four Bills players made the All-Pro team in 1988: defensive end Bruce Smith, linebackers Shane Conlan and Cornelius Bennett, and kicker Scott Norwood.

Head coach Marv Levy was named NFL Coach of the Year by The Sporting News and UPI.

Offseason

NFL Draft

ESPN's cameras watched Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas in his home as he waited to be drafted. He fell to the second round, where the Bills made him their first pick at 40th overall. Thomas would go on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career, where he would eclipse O. J. Simpson's all-time team rushing record with 12,074 yards. Thomas would set an NFL record by leading the league in yards-from-scrimmage for four consecutive years, from 1989–1992. (The record of three was previously held by Hall of Famer Jim Brown.) Thomas was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1992.

1988 Buffalo Bills draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
2 40 Thurman Thomas *   RB Oklahoma State
3 65 Bernard Ford  WR Central Florida
5 123 Ezekial Gadson  DB Pittsburgh
5 135 Kirk Roach  K Western Carolina
6 150 Dan Murray  OLB East Stroudsburg
7 177 Tim Borcky  OT Memphis
7 184 Bo Wright  RB Alabama
8 204 John Hagy  DB Texas
8 213 Jeff Wright  DT Central Missouri State
9 235 Carlton Bailey  ILB North Carolina
10 262 Martin Mayhew  CB Florida State Placed on injured reserve
11 289 Pete Curkendall  DT Penn State
12 309 John Driscoll  OT New Hampshire
12 316 Tom Erlandson  LB Washington
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career

[6]

Personnel

Staff

1988 Buffalo Bills staff
Front office
  • President – Ralph Wilson
  • Vice President of Administration/General Manager – Bill Polian
  • Vice President of Football Operations – Marv Levy
  • Director of College Scouting – John Butler
  • Director of Pro Personnel/Asst. Director of Football Operations – Bob Ferguson
  • National Scout – Norm Pollom
  • College Scout – A. J. Smith
  • Administrative Assistant to the Head Coach – Chuck Dickerson

Head coaches

  • Head Coach – Marv Levy

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches
  • Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers – Walt Corey
  • Defensive Line – Ted Cottrell
  • Defensive Backs – Dick Roach
  • Defensive Assistant – Chuck Lester

Special teams coaches

Strength and conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning Coordinator – Rusty Jones

[7]

Roster

1988 Buffalo Bills roster

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

  • 68 Tony Brown OT (IR) Injury icon.svg
  • 82 Bernard Ford WR (IR) Injury icon.svg
  • -- Joe Johnson(Joe Howard) WR (IR) Injury icon.svg
  • -- Martin Mayhew CB (IR) Injury icon.svg
  • 57 Dan Murray ILB (IR) Injury icon.svg
  • 98 Elston Ridgle DE (IR) Injury icon.svg
  • 65 Tim Vogler G (IR) Injury icon.svg
  • -- Bo Wright RB (IR) Injury icon.svg


Rookies in italics

Regular season

Schedule

Week Date Opponent Result Record Game Site Attendance
1 September 4, 1988 Minnesota Vikings W 13–10 1–0 Rich Stadium 76,783
2 September 11, 1988 Miami Dolphins W 9–6 2–0 Rich Stadium 79,520
3 September 18, 1988 at New England Patriots W 16–14 3–0 Sullivan Stadium 55,945
4 September 25, 1988 Pittsburgh Steelers W 36–28 4–0 Rich Stadium 78,735
5 October 2, 1988 at Chicago Bears L 3–24 4–1 Soldier Field 62,793
6 October 9, 1988 Indianapolis Colts W 34–23 5–1 Rich Stadium 76,018
7 October 17, 1988 at New York Jets W 37–14 6–1 The Meadowlands 70,218
8 October 23, 1988 New England Patriots W 23–20 7–1 Rich Stadium 76,824
9 October 30, 1988 Green Bay Packers W 28–0 8–1 Rich Stadium 79,176
10 November 6, 1988 at Seattle Seahawks W 13–3 9–1 Kingdome 61,074
11 November 14, 1988 at Miami Dolphins W 31–6 10–1 Joe Robbie Stadium 67,091
12 November 20, 1988 New York Jets W 9–6 (OT) 11–1 Rich Stadium 78,389
13 November 27, 1988 at Cincinnati Bengals L 21–35 11–2 Riverfront Stadium 58,672
14 December 4, 1988 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 5–10 11–3 Tampa Stadium 49,498
15 December 11, 1988 Los Angeles Raiders W 37–21 12–3 Rich Stadium 77,348
16 December 18, 1988 at Indianapolis Colts L 14–17 12–4 Hoosier Dome 59,908

Season summary

Week 1

1 234Total
Vikings 0 307 10
Bills 10 003 13
  • Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com
Scoring summary
1BillsScott Norwood 27-yard field goalBills 3–0
1BillsThurman Thomas 5-yard run (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 10–0
2VikingsChuck Nelson 30-yard field goalBills 10–3
4BillsScott Norwood 26-yard field goalBills 13–3
4VikingsAllen Rice 2-yard run (Chuck Nelson kick)Bills 13–10

Week 2

Miami Dolphins (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
1 234Total
Dolphins 3 030 6
• Bills 0 306 9
Scoring summary
1MIAFuad Reveiz 31 yard field goalDolphins 3–0
2BUFScott Norwood 41 yard field goalTie 3–3
3MIAFuad Reveiz 27 yard field goalDolphins 6–3
4BUFScott Norwood 35 yard field goalTie 6–6
4BUFScott Norwood 28 yard field goalBills 9–6

[8]

Week 3

1 234Total
• Bills 0 3310 16
Patriots 0 1400 14
  • Date: September 18
  • Location: Sullivan Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 55,945
  • Game weather: 67 °F (19 °C) •Wind 14 miles per hour (23 km/h; 12 kn)
  • Referee: Fred Wyant
  • Television network: NBC
Scoring summary
2BUFScott Norwood 38 yard field goalBills 3–0
2NECedric Jones 41 yard pass from Steve Grogan (Teddy Garcia kick)Patriots 7–3
2NEStanley Morgan 19 yard pass from Steve Grogan (Teddy Garcia kick)Patriots 14–3
3BUFScott Norwood 44 yard field goalPatriots 14–6
4BUFRobb Riddick 3 yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Patriots 14–13
4BUFScott Norwood 41 yard field goalBills 16–14

[9]

Week 4

1 234Total
Steelers 0 14014 28
• Bills 10 6146 36
Scoring summary
Q1BUFNorwood 38 yard field goalBUF 3–0
Q1BUFBurkett 26 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 10–0
Q2PITBrister 1 yard run (Anderson kick)BUF 10–7
Q2BUFNorwood 39 yard field goalBUF 13–7
Q2PITWilliams 5 yard pass from Brister (Anderson kick)PIT 14–13
Q2BUFNorwood 39 yard field goalBUF 16–14
Q3BUFRiddick 1 yard run (Norwood kick)BUF 23–14
Q3BUFRiddick 5 yard blocked punt return (Norwood kick)BUF 30–14
Q4BUFNorwood 48 yard field goalBUF 33–14
Q4BUFNorwood 49 yard field goalBUF 36–14
Q4PITBrister 1 yard run (Anderson kick)BUF 36–17
Q4PITThompson 42 yard pass from Brister (Anderson kick)BUF 36–24

[10]

Week 5

Buffalo Bills (4-0) at Chicago Bears (4-0)
1 234Total
Bills 3 000 3
• Bears 7 1700 24
  • Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com
Scoring summary
1BearsEmery Moorehead 4-yard pass from Jim McMahon (Kevin Butler kick)Bears 7–0
1BillsScott Norwood 28-yard field goalBears 7–3
2BearsRon Morris 63-yard pass from Jim McMahon (Kevin Butler kick)Bears 14–3
2BearsKevin Butler 22-yard field goalBears 17–3
2BearsDennis Gentry 58-yard rush (Kevin Butler kick)Bears 24–3


[11]

Week 6

Indianapolis Colts (1-4) at Buffalo Bills (4-1)
1 234Total
Colts 10 733 23
Bills 0 71413 34
  • Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com
Scoring summary
1ColtsDean Biasucci 31-yard field goalColts 3–0
1ColtsChris Chandler 1-yard run (Dean Biasucci kick)Colts 10–0
2ColtsClarence Verdin 39-yard pass from Gary Hogeboom (Dean Biasucci kick)Colts 17–0
2BillsRonnie Harmon 26-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Colts 17–7
3BillsAndre Reed 16-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Colts 17–14
3ColtsDean Biasucci 40-yard field goalColts 20–14
3BillsAndre Reed 12-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 21–20
4ColtsDean Biasucci 22-yard field goalColts 23–21
4BillsScott Norwood 45-yard field goalBills 24–23
4BillsScott Norwood 19-yard field goalBills 27–23
4BillsRobb Riddick 1-yard run (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 34–23

Week 7

1 234Total
Bills 17 1433 37
Jets 0 770 14
Scoring summary
1BUFScott Norwood 30-yard field goalBills 3–0
1BUFAndre Reed 65-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 10–0
1BUFFlip Johnson 66-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 17–0
2BUFRobb Riddick 1-yard run (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 24–0
2NYJJohnny Hector 1-yard run (Pat Leahy kick)Bills 24–7
2BUFAndre Reed 16-yard pass from Jim Kelly (Scott Norwood kick)Bills 31–7
3BUFScott Norwood 34-yard field goalBills 34–7
3NYJErik McMillan 40-yard interception return (Pat Leahy kick)Bills 34–14
4BUFScott Norwood 28-yard field goalBills 37–14

[12]

Week 8

Week 9

1 234Total
Packers 0 000 0
• Bills 7 777 28
Scoring summary
Q1BUFRiddick 2 yard run (Norwood kick)BUF 7–0
Q2BUFRolle 1 yard pass from Kelly (Norwood kick)BUF 14–0
Q3BUFKelso 78 yard interception return (Norwood kick)BUF 21–0
Q4BUFSeals 7 yard fumble return (Norwood kick)BUF 28–0

[13]

Week 12

1 234OTTotal
Jets 0 3030 6
Bills 0 0333 9
  • Date: November 20
  • Location: Rich Stadium • Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 78,389
  • Game weather: 43 °F • Wind 10
  • Referee: Dick Hantak
  • TV announcers (NBC): Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy
Scoring summary
2NYJPat Leahy 23-yard field goalJets 3–0
3BUFScott Norwood 25-yard field goalTie 3–3
4BUFScott Norwood 26-yard field goalBills 6–3
4NYJPat Leahy 40-yard field goalTie 6–6
OTBUFScott Norwood 30-yard field goalBills 9–6

The Bills clinch the AFC Eastern division title.

[14]


Week 16

Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts
1 234Total
Bills 0 707 14
• Colts 3 0014 17

[15]

Standings

AFC East
  • view
  • talk
  • edit
W L T PCT DIV CONF PF PA STK
Buffalo Bills(2) 12 4 0 .750 7–1 10–2 329 237 L1
Indianapolis Colts 9 7 0 .563 5–3 7–5 354 315 W1
New England Patriots 9 7 0 .563 5–3 7–5 250 284 L1
New York Jets 8 7 1 .531 3–5 6–7–1 372 354 W2
Miami Dolphins 6 10 0 .375 0–8 3–9 319 380 L1

Playoffs

AFC Divisional Playoff

Buffalo Bills 17, Houston Oilers 10
1 2 34Total
Oilers 0 3 0710
Bills 0 7 7317

at Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York

Buffalo's first playoff game since 1981 was a 17–10 win over the Oilers. Jim Kelly threw for 244 yards and an interception while Thurman Thomas and Robb Riddick had rushing scores to go with 87 rushing yards. The Bills intercepted Warren Moon once and forced two Oilers fumbles.

AFC Championship Game

Cincinnati Bengals 21, Buffalo Bills 10
1 2 34Total
Bills 0 10 0010
Bengals 7 7 0721

at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati

The Bengals forced three interceptions and allowed only 45 rushing yards and 136 passing yards to go with an offense that held the ball for 39:29 out of sixty minutes. Bills starting running back Thurman Thomas was held to just six yards on four carries, while quarterback Jim Kelly completed only 14-of-30 passes for 161 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

Awards and records

All-Pros

First Team

Second Team

References

  1. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 262
  2. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 390
  3. ^ Buffalo also reached the conference championship following the 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons, winning them all
  4. ^ December 21, 1988, Milwaukee Journal | Retrieved January 11, 2012
  5. ^ December 22, 1988, Orlando Sentinel | Retrieved January 11, 2012: "ANOTHER BLIZZARD is sweeping through Buffalo. The effects of this one aren't being felt by residents, but by opposing teams at the Buffalo Bills' Rich Stadium. This blizzard is actually The Blizzard Defense, which is the name Bills defenders chose for themselves as part of a local newspaper's Name That Defense contest. Members of the AFC's top-ranked defense selected that name over dozens submitted by readers of The Buffalo News."
  6. ^ The Football Database. Retrieved 2014-Aug-11.
  7. ^ 1988 Buffalo Bills Media Guide. pp. 3–24.
  8. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  9. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  10. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2014-Aug-10.
  11. ^ [1]. Retrieved 2021-Apr-18.
  12. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  13. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2014-Dec-15.
  14. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  15. ^ |Pro-Football-Reference. Retrieved 2022-Mar-23.

External links

  • v
  • t
  • e
Buffalo Bills
  • Founded in 1960
  • Based and headquartered in Orchard Park, New York
Franchise
Stadiums
Culture
Lore
Rivalries
Division championships (12)
Conference championships (4)
League championships (2)
Wall of Fame
Media
Owners
Current league affiliations
Former league affiliation
  • Category
  • Commons