The regular season is dead and gone, and we move on to a whole new beast: The NFL Playoffs. As the Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East at home for the first time since 1995, we’re set to host the New England Patriots for round three of this divisional rivalry.
Buffalo has hosted four Wild Card games over the years. From the Indianapolis Colts last season to their first time as hosts against the Oilers in January of 1993. As visitors, we’ve had a rather different story. Though we won our first Wild Card game away against the New York Jets in 1981, we haven’t won this round on the road since. Let’s revisit our history with this tumultuous round of postseason action, where both legends and letdowns are were made reality.
1981 Wild Card: Bills @ Jets
In 1981, the Bills made their first official Wild Card appearance. Visiting their division rivals, the New York Jets, they were in for the game of their lives. The opening kickoff was returned for a score, but not the way you’d imagine: Charles Romes recovered the fumbled kickoff in Buffalo’s favor and took it 26 yards for the opening score.
The Bills, led by QB Joe Ferguson, got off to a hot start of their own. Storming out to a huge lead in the second quarter, they seemed destined for victory. A late push by the Jets brought the game all too close, but Bill Simpson picked off an errant pass at the one-yard line to save the day. Buffalo lost to the eventual AFC Champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, the next week.
Final Score: Buffalo Bills 31 – 27 New York Jets
1992 Wild Card: Oilers @ Bills
We all know how that one ended, don’t we? Nicknamed ‘The Comeback’, this win was the greatest in the history of the franchise. Maybe even the NFL. Buffalo was down their Hall of Fame starting QB and several of the most important men on the roster. Those that were active played through injuries. To say the Bills didn’t get off to a hot start may actually be an understatement. Their 35-3 deficit had more than half the stadium leaving the building in the beginning of the third quarter.
After what was indisputably the most efficient and impressive 14 minutes of football ever to occur, the Bills somehow took the lead. Though it went to overtime, they would prove themselves the victors. Check out the article below if you want to recount the entire epic tale of one of the most iconic moments in the history of the game, but strap in. It’s one hell of a ride.
Final Score: Houston Oilers 38 – 41 Buffalo Bills
1995 Wild Card: Dolphins @ Bills
After a tough two years, the Bills returned to the playoffs in style. They’d been oft-injured, and entered the game the healthiest they’d been all season, but still down several important players. They dominated their rivals regardless of that fact. It was brutal, as Buffalo entered the fourth quarter up 27-0. Miami managed to put some scores together in garbage time, but the offense smothered the Dolphins’ defense in a game that was put to bed long before it was over.
Final Score: Miami Dolphins 22 – 37 Buffalo Bills
1996 Wild Card: Jaguars @ Bills
Hard times had come for the Bills, and their only home Wild Card loss would come at the hands of an expansion team. It would cost them Jim Kelly, too. Permanently. With the game tied halfway through the fourth quarter, the Bills were frantic, unwilling to lose to the brand-new Jaguars. But they didn’t have a choice. Jim Kelly lost a poorly-timed fumble as he was taken out by a huge hit, then subsequently carted out of the stadium.
Kelly wouldn’t take another snap, Buffalo wouldn’t score another point, and they wouldn’t host another playoff game until 2020.
Final Score: Jacksonville Jaguars 30 – 27 Buffalo Bills
1998 Wild Card: Bills @ Dolphins
Call it Marino’s revenge. This Buffalo beatdown was the only real victory he ever had over the Bills. In reality, it was a pedestrian day for Dan as he played it safe. His defense did all the heavy lifting to combat what was otherwise an excellent game from Doug Flutie. Forcing and recovering four Bills fumbles, the game was in their hands from the beginning. Buffalo had a comeback in the works, but it fell short. And though a late field goal made it a one-score game it was never truly that close in the end.
Final Score: Buffalo Bills 17 – 24 Miami Dolphins
1999 Wild Card: Bills @ Titans
Another one for the record books is the so-called ‘Music City Miracle’, one of the most infamous games of the era. Inexplicably, Doug Flutie had been benched for Rob Johnson in the first round of the playoffs. It was a questionable decision, to say the least. Perhaps as revenge for ‘The Comeback’, the former Oilers-turned-Titans pulled out all the stops. Buffalo was good, and perhaps they should have won, as they took the lead on an ill-advised field goal with 16 seconds left on the clock.
It gave the Titans one chance with the ball on the return kickoff. One trick handoff later, plus a pass that might have been illegal, and the Titans were streaking down the sideline for the win. This game was the most miserable chapter in the expansive Bills-Titans rivalry.
Final Score: Buffalo Bills 16 – 22 Tennessee Titans
2017 Wild Card: Bills @ Jaguars
The NFL has been accused of fixing the playoffs countless times, but there’s no way they fixed this game. The Bills snuck into the playoffs for the first time in 18 years thanks to a beatdown of the Dolphins and an incredible play by Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd against the Ravens. They didn’t do anything when they got there, only putting up a lowly field goal in a losing effort against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it wasn’t about winning the game. It was about the start of something bigger. A few months later, Buffalo would draft Josh Allen and never look back.
Final Score: Buffalo Bills 3 –10 Jacksonville Jaguars
2019 Wild Card: Bills @ Texans
In the game that many believe fueled Josh Allen to become a superstar QB, things did not end well. A hot start should have kept going, but the opening kickoff of the second half, initially ruled a Buffalo touchdown, was overturned in favor of a ‘Common Sense Ruling’; something for which the NFL had no precedent. Later in the game, Buffalo had the chance for a game-winning field goal. However, they were pushed out of field goal range because Cody Ford was incorrectly called for a blindside block. The NFL apologized for getting it wrong, but it was too late. Apologies don’t win playoffs games. Still, the scorn of the loss stuck with this team, and maybe it still does, as they make another playoff push.
Final Score: Buffalo Bills 19 –22 Houston Texans
2020 Wild Card: Colts @ Bills
Buffalo’s first playoff win in 25 years didn’t come easy, but it did come at home. In one of the best games on Gabriel Davis’ resume, and an excellent effort from the defense, the Bills would secure their first visit to the divisional round since 1995. Clutch plays from Stefon Diggs and Tyler Bass put us comfortably in the lead, but we couldn’t stay comfy. A late defensive stop put an end to the ghosts of their past. Buffalo’s ideology of ‘Bend Don’t Break’ was on full display as they made the Colts into the first team in league history to lose a playoff game despite totaling over 450 yards of offense without a turnover.
Final Score: Indianapolis Colts 24 – 27 Buffalo Bills
2021 Wild Card: Patriots @ Bills
It’s officially here, the Wild Card round is coming to Buffalo for the second consecutive season. We are set to host the New England Patriots, whom we split the regular season series with in 2021.
Though those first two games told two different takes, we’re ready to repeat the second one. Buffalo is 3-1 against New England over the last two seasons, and ready to make it 4-1.