Although the teams of the 1990s are more heralded due to their Super Bowl appearances, the 1988 Bills were a surprise team, made even more surprising by their longevity, perseverance and dominance. The Bills hosted the Patriots a week later and won another AFC East game in a division where everyone except Miami would finish over .500. Over the offseason, the Bills drafted three players who would have a great impact on the team: nose tackle Jeff Wright, linebacker Carlton Bailey – the hero of the 1991 AFC Championship game – and running back Thurman Thomas, a Heisman finalist from Oklahoma State who dropped into the second round of the draft due to a knee injury. They sent eight players to the Pro Bowl: Kelly, Reed, Hull, Smerlas, Bruce Smith, Bennett, Conlan and kicker Scott Norwood.

1988 Buffalo Bills.

Thomas rumbled for 116 yards and the defense scored two touchdowns in an easy 28-0 win over the woeful Green Bay Packers.

And those years were absolutely glorious for Bills fans. But the Bills turned it over four times and were beaten up front by the Bengal running game in a 35-21 loss. Buffalo’s real strength, however, was their defense, arguably the best in the AFC. The Bills led 14-3 in the fourth quarter.

Andre Reed was a Pro Bowl receiver and caught 71 passes for 968 yards. In an unusual move, owner Ralph Wilson (at the suggestion of then-new general manager Bill Polian) ventured outside the organization for the replacement coach. ( Log Out / 

They won another battle with the Miami Dolphins 9-6, getting a pair of fourth-quarter field goals from kicker Scott Norwood to come from behind. 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 12 wins and 4 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.

Through their first 18 seasons in the NFL, they won 37.9% of their games, with three total playoff appearances (and one Chuck Knox-era win) to show for it. Thomas would go on to a Hall of Fame career, where he would eclipse O.J.

Two of the wins, over the Dolphins and Steelers, came against bad teams.

Levy won the first game with his new team, and finished the season at 2-5. TheSportsNotebook has individual articles on the most consequential teams from that time period, from their key players to their season-defining moments.

They were 4-0 and after not reaching the playoffs—or even having had a winning season since 1981—no one was going to complain.

The Buffalo Bills would have the great dynasty of the AFC in the early 1990s, winning four straight conference championships from 1990-93. The Bills started the season with two close home games: a loss to the Jets and a thrilling last-minute win over the Oilers. (The record of three was previously held by Hall of Famer Jim Brown.) From an attendance standpoint, the franchise set a record for attendance with 631,818 fans.[2]. The 1988 Buffalo Bills were the edition that first cracked the postseason with Marv Levy at head coach and Jim Kelly at quarterback. Although opening day at Rich Stadium in 1986 was a regional holiday, it would not pay off in a great deal of success.

The Bills also picked up long-time Chiefs defensive lineman Art Still, giving the Bills one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Bennett’s presence gave the Bills’ defense instant credibility in 1987, even though he only played in eight games. College Football History Articles, Sports History Articles. Simpson's all-time team rushing record with 12,074 yards. Yet all the games had been close. Kelly then went 66 yards to Flip Johnson. And they were ready. But Kelly threw three picks, and the Bengals found a running game while the Bills didn’t.

Buffalo’s giveaway/takeaway ratio was a pathetic negative-21, the worst in football. A rookie named Thurman Thomas who would make an immediate impact and eventually become one of the NFL’s best.

Buffalo would end up as the #2 seed behind Cincinnati, and it would prove costly.

It was still the defense that really carries this Buffalo team. The Bills dispersed running game duties among four players, Robb Riddick and Jamie Mueller at fullback, along with Ronnie Harmon at halfback.

Posted on March 30, 2014 by William H. At press time, the Buffalo Bills have the longest current streak without a playoff appearance, at fourteen seasons.

But the December slide continued when this excellent Buffalo defense allowed Gary Hogeboom to lead consecutive touchdown drives and the Colts won 17-14. Head coach Marv Levy was named NFL Coach of the Year by The Sporting News and UPI. Defensive end Sean McNanie and linebacker Eugene Marve were serviceable players, as was long-time Buffalo cornerback Steve Freeman. Kelly hit Reed with a 65-yard touchdown strike to get the scoring underway in the first quarter.

Another big display of running took place in a 9-6 overtime win over the Jets. Kent Hull, the Pro Bowl center, anchored the offensive line and a talented young left tackle in Will Wolford began to make his mark. The mediocrity of this number is further amplified in that includes the 1990s, the so-called “glory years” of the franchise, in which the Bills won four consecutive AFC Championships (1990-1993), and made the playoffs all but two seasons (1994 & 1997). The Bills 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.

But their defense gradually took control.

And the fourth? That was the bad news. But though the 1990s were the halcyon days of Ralph Wilson’s franchise, the foundation for the team’s success carried over from the late 1980s.

The Bills offense wasn’t dreadful, but it wasn’t scary either.

The Bills in 1986 were not devoid of talent: in addition to Kelly, and wide receiver Andre Reed, the ’86 team had defensive end Bruce Smith – the first overall pick of the 1985 Draft – linebacker Darryl Talley, nose tackle Fred Smerlas, and a very solid offensive line, consisting of long-time tackles Ken Jones and Joe Devlin, veteran guard Jim Ritcher, and two talented rookies, center Kent Hull, and guard Will Wolford, both of whom would go to multiple Pro Bowls for the Bills in later years. Quarterback Jim Kelly, who had been drafted by Buffalo in 1983, but chose instead to sign with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers, showed up to Orchard Park, NY, and signed with the team, in what was the richest contract in NFL history at the time. Go deep into the heart of the 1978-88 era in baseball, college football and the NFL. Buffalo’s offense in 1988 was still enigmatic: the passing game, despite the presence of Reed, was inconsistent. The Bills allowed 5,523 total yards (24th) and 3,802 passing yards (second-to-last). He fell to the second round, where the Bills made him their first pick at 40th overall. Click the images below to be taken into the library and back to another era.

But they gave the margin for error away in a terrible 10-5 road loss at lousy Tampa Bay. Buffalo opened the season at home with the Minnesota Vikings, a team on the rise and fresh off reaching the NFC Championship Game in 1987. The defense ranked 3rd.

From 1978 to 1990, I covered, by my rough count, 184 Buffalo Bills regular season and postseason football games. Change ), Football For Those of Us Who Can't Quite Let Go of the Past, Thurman Thomas: Is He the NFL’s Best Back? The United States Football League had folded, and so before the ’86 season, an influx of former USFL players entered the NFL. They also traded for hard-hitting Cardinals safety Leonard Smith, who would be the vocal leader of the defense well into the Super Bowl years. New Year’s Day dawned in Buffalo, and the Bills hosted the Houston Oilers in the AFC divisional playoff.

Year-by-year seasonal narratives through noteworthy eras in the modern history of different franchises and programs. 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. Buffalo still had a loss to give in the race for the #1 seed. By the time 1988 rolled around, there was palpable optimism in Buffalo, although not much was expected of the Bills outside of Western New York. ESPN's cameras watched Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas in his home as he waited to be drafted. Part of this was due to Kelly’s three comeback victories and five game-winning drives. The Bills committed 12 penalties and rushed for just 39 yards. Buffalo entered 1988 with legitimate playoff aspirations.Kelly was 28-years-old and would throw for over 3,300 yards in a Pro Bowl season.

NFL History Articles, Sports History Articles But from 1982 to 1987, the Bills went 27-61, a winning percentage of 30.7%, the third-worst in the league during that span. But Buffalo benefited by huge improvements in two key areas of the game in the late-’80s: the running game, and defense. Whereas the ’86 version was porous, the ’88 Blizzard Defense was stifling.

Buffalo’s coach at the start of the 1986 season, the bumbling Hank Bullough, was fired after a Week Nine loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs, with the Bills at 2-7. It was, without question, the best time in history to be a sports fan in Western New York.]. Norwood delivered the Bills again the following week in New England. 1988 Buffalo Bills (NFL) 1st place American Football Conference Eastern Division 12-4-0 .750 1988 Buffalo Bills, 1988 NFL, 1988 NFL season, 1988 sports, Buffalo Bills history, NFL history articles, sports history articles. As a member of the American Football League, the Bills … They never won the Super Bowl, but the four straight appearances remain unprecedented. The franchise made the postseason seven times in eight years under Levy and it was the 1988 Buffalo Bills that got the run started. It didn’t appear that the Bills were going to get better anytime soon.

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In 1987, Levy got the Bills to 7-8 (there were only 15 games played due to a players’ strike).

During that 1987 season, the Bills made some major acquisitions. The Bills allowed the third-fewest points in the NFL, the fourth-fewest total yards, and fourth-fewest passing yards. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. They were able to restore their mojo by beating up the Los Angeles Raiders at home 37-21, keyed by Thomas’ 106 rushing yards.

Buffalo’s running game, though not quite elite, was very efficient. In 1984 and 1985, the Bills had back-to-back 2-14 debacles. Buffalo went to 4-0 with a home victory over what was a subpar Pittsburgh Steelers team. From 1970, the year that the NFL merged with the decade-old American Football League, through 1979, the Bills won 36.1% of their games. The Bills would end the season 4-12, failing to win consecutive games, and going 1-7 on the road. Buddy Ryan Takes The 1988 Philadelphia Eagles Back To The Top Of The NFC East The 1988 Seattle Seahawks Win The Franchise’s First Division Title. Nose tackle Fred Smerlas and inside linebacker Shane Conlan also reached the Pro Bowl on a unit that was not only talented, but young.

But it was not an impressive 4-0.

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