Each week, Buffalo Rumblings will prepare you for the Buffalo Bills' upcoming opponent by looking back into the history of the series to find a memorable game or moment. This week, we look into the surprisingly lackluster history of the Bills-Jets series to find this memorable game.
The history of the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets is rather hit-and-miss. As the New York Post pointed out this week, the two teams have only finished with winning records in the same year four times in 51 seasons. The two teams have only made the playoffs together three times, and only once played in the post-season. That post-season game holds major significance to the Bills franchise, though.
The AFL Bills played in the 1966 AFL Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs for the right to go to Super Bowl I. As we talked about earlier this season, Buffalo lost that game, and the team descended into the cellar of the AFL as their stars aged.
When Buffalo joined the NFL during the merger between the two leagues, they were similarly bad and didn't make their first playoff appearance until 1974, losing to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bills once again fell into the cellar and didn't rejoin the post-season until 1980, where they lost to the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card round.
The Bills were the last team into the playoffs in 1981, too, but this time was different. They were playing the division rival Jets for the first time in a playoff game. The Bills had opened the season with a 31-0 beatdown of the Jets, but New York evened the season series at one with a win in Week 7.
With a 10-5-1 record, the Jets hosted the 10-6 Bills in the Wild Card round thanks to a tie-breaking win over the Denver Broncos in Week 8. The Bills opened up on the Jets in the first quarter, taking a 17-0 lead into the second quarter before Joe Ferguson's second touchdown pass made it 24-0 in the second quarter.
New York came back with 10 points before the half to close the gap. After halftime, the Jets drove to Buffalo's two-yard line before the Bills defense made a key stand and New York kicked a field goal to get the score to 24-13. After a Joe Cribbs 45-yard touchdown run, the Jets scored two touchdowns in the fourth to close to 31-27.
With time winding down in the game, the Jets were threatening to take the lead, but quarterback Richard Todd threw an interception in the waning seconds and Buffalo won their first playoff game since 1965, a span of 16 years, and their first as a member of the National Football League.
It's the only playoff game in NFL history where the winning quarterback threw four interceptions, but Ferguson's stat line of 17-of-34 passes for 268 yards, two scores, and four picks was enough to get the win. The Bills were out-gained 419 to 321 in total yards, committed eight penalties to New York's five, and turned the ball over five times, but found a way to win thanks to a defense that recorded five turnovers (four on Todd interceptions) as the Jets racked up 377 yards through the air on 50 passing attempts.
The Bills' next playoff appearance and win wouldn't be until 1988 - seven seasons and four head coaches later.
This game was the last game ever coached by Jets legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Weeb Ewbank. Ewbank guided the Jets to their Super Bowl victory in 1968. This game was the only post-season loss of his career after winning the 1958 and 1959 NFL Championships and Super Bowl III.