1982 - NFL Players' Strike, Playoff Door Closes
4-5 record, fourth of five in AFC East, eighth-tied of 14 in AFC, 15th-tied of 28 in NFL
There was a multitude of tension following the 1981 season for the league and the Bills. The Bills cut ties with starting guard Conrad Dobler by not inviting him to training camp. Running back Joe Cribbs declared himself a free agent in late August just prior to the season. Cribbs was unhappy with his contract and had been publicly fueding with Bills brass including calling the Bills a "no-class operation". Cribbs held out to begin the year. In the draft the Bills added linebacker Eugene Marve and also selected kicker Gary Anderson, the second-leading scorer in NFL history, but was cut before the season. On the second day of the 1982 NFL draft, the Bills traded their fifth-round pick to the Washington Redskins for eight-time Pro Bowl CB Lamar Parrish who played only seven games for the Bills.
In July prior to training camps opening around the league, the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired but play continued. The owners did not lock players out of training camps. Play continued for the first two weeks of the season but then the players went on strike. On September 23, 1982, the first game was canceled due to the strike. The Bills were 2-0 before the strike. Fifty-seven days later the strike ended and play resumed. When the players' strike ended so did Joe Cribbs holdout. In the second week after the strike the Bills went up against the Indianapolis Colts. The Bills defense set an all-time record by allowing only 88 yards, 52 passing and 36 rushing, in a 20-0 blowout win. Two weeks later the Bills defense was at it again, holding the Pittsburgh Steelers to 94 yards, including negative two yards passing for Terry Bradshaw, in a 13-0 shutout. The Bills were 4-2 and sitting pretty in the playoff race. Because of the loss of games divisions were thrown out and the league decided to seed the top 8 teams from each conference into a huge playoff. The Bills lost two straight to sit at 4-4 and be in danger of missing out on the playoffs with New England coming into town. With a win the Bills would secure a playoff spot. With a loss it would take a miracle to make it. Buffalo was up 13-3 in the second quarter but New England closed the gap to 13-10 by the end of the half. To start the second half the Patriots took the lead on a Steve Grogan touchdown pass but missed the extra point. At the conclusion of the third quarter the score was tied 16-16. But in the fourth, New England took over. The Patriots scored two touchdowns while the Bills could only managae a field goal and the Patriots won 30-19, clinching a playoff spot. Cleveland, Buffalo, and Seattle would finish with identical 4-5 records and only one spot available. Cleveland finished ahead of Buffalo and Seattle based on better conference record (4-3 to Bills' 3-3 to Seahawks' 3-5) and the Bills missed the playoffs.
As you would imagine, Buffalo's defense ended up very well in the season rankings. They gave up the 6th-fewest points, second-fewest overall yards and passing yards and the third-fewest first downs. The Bills cornerbacks were stacked on both sides with underrated veterans Mario Clark and Charles Romes shutting down opposing wide receivers for several years in a row. Ben Williams broke through and was named to his only Pro Bowl. Defensive linemate Fred Smerlas joined him on the Pro Bowl squad and Smerlas was also named to his only All-Pro team.