Week three is almost upon us, and we’re in dire need of another helping of rich Buffalo Bills history ahead of Sunday’s tilt against the Washington Football Team. From 1972 to the present, one would imagine that these two storied franchises might have met a great deal. However, with only 15 non-preseason matchups on record, they’re hardly familiar faces. Buffalo holds the all-time series lead with a 9-6 record. But, if we could turn back time, we’d gladly be 1-14, if that victory had only come at the right time.
The New NFL
The Bills would first play Washington all the way back in 1972 (under a different name), during the first season of Lou Saban’s second stint as our head coach. Though not as successful as his first run in Bills blue, Saban gave our running game, featuring breakout star O.J. Simpson, some legitimacy. He allowed us to control the flow of a game with consistency. On the back of O.J’s 100-yard game, Buffalo started this series on the right foot.
The scoring began with a 49-yard pick-6 in Buffalo’s favor, then a field goal. Washington responded well, leading three scoring drives in the second and third quarters, before the Bills took back control. A dominant fourth quarter from Simpson put Buffalo level, then Jim Braxton punched in another to seal the game. It would quickly go downhill after that, with Buffalo winning just one of their next six games. Unfortunately, we do have to talk about the last of those losses.
Super Bowl XXVI
It was the end of the 1991 season. In the AFC playoffs, the Bills crushed the Joe Montana-led Chiefs and survived a defensive duel against the Denver Broncos. They prepared to take on another NFC East team during the second of their four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
Washington, in possession of the top-ranked scoring offense and the second-ranked scoring defense, had other plans. Despite featuring the NFL’s top-two offenses, the first quarter opened and closed with no scoring to speak of. The second quarter didn’t hold back. Washington put up a field goal, forced a three-and-out from Kelly & Co., scored a touchdown, forced an interception, then scored another touchdown to close the half.
Buffalo had a chance to score before the whistle blew, but were forced out of field goal range after Andre Reed drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a missed pass-interference call. The call was so poor, Marv Levy used the opportunity at the half to confront the referee directly.
Things didn’t really improve after the halftime show, as Jim Kelly threw his third interception of the day on the first play of the quarter. One play later, the score was 24-0. There was precious little to be done, as Washington dominated in all phases of the game, eventually sealing the deal with two-straight time-consuming field goal drives to open the fourth quarter. They did allow some late-game garbage yards to end the contest, if it could even be called that. One of the most embarrassing losses in Buffalo Bills history, a game for which revenge has still yet to be meted out, was finally over.
Purely in terms of this rivalry, things would actually get much better for Buffalo once the Super Bowl was over. Washington has won only a single game in this series since that fateful day (2015). It seems as though, despite our general lack of success during that time, the one constant in an ever-changing and consistently faceless Buffalo roster was that at least Washington would be worse than us. This thought may have been best exemplified in the 2007 matchup.
If Buffalo’s 18-year playoff drought was a sign of a poor franchise, however, then maybe the only thing worse would be losing to that team consistently. Perhaps the Bills did get some revenge after all but, as Sunday approaches, let’s remember just how much more needs to be done before we can truly call ourselves even.
- The opening kickoff of the first game in the then-newly minted Rich Stadium was returned for a touchdown by Washington’s Herb Mul-Key during the 1973 preseason.
- Washington QB Taylor Heinicke has only taken a total of six snaps on the road in his career, only three of which were pass attempts. He has been in the league since 2017, appearing in ten games
- Since that fateful Super Bowl, the Buffalo Bills have outscored WFT by a total of 209-107 across eight matchups. The Bills are 7-1 against Washington in that span.
- The last two kickers Buffalo has drafted will face off this Sunday: Dustin Hopkins (2013) and Tyler Bass (2020).