Buffalo Makes It Easy for Miami to Wrap Up AFC East Title, 28-0

From Times Wire Services

For the Miami Dolphins, much of the season had been a struggle. But they breezed into the playoffs Sunday by beating the bumbling Buffalo Bills, 28-0, to win the AFC Eastern Division championship and finish the regular season at 12-4.

The Dolphins won their final seven games to rebound from a 5-4 start.

The Dolphins didn't play very well Sunday, outgaining the Bills only 308 to 299 yards and leading only 14-0 midway through the final quarter. But Miami didn't have to play as well as it had in recent weeks against the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears.

The Bills didn't put up much of a fight, committing 19 penalties and turning the ball over six times.

Buffalo Coach Hank Bullough said: "The Miami Dolphins are a better football team than us. I thought we could win if we played errorless, flawless football. We didn't do it."

Miami quarterback Dan Marino hit Bruce Hardy on first-half touchdown passes of 19 and 5 yards, Tony Nathan ran one yard for the Dolphins' third touchdown and Ron Davenport rambled 13 yards for the final touchdown before a crowd of 64,811 at the Orange Bowl.

The Dolphins finished the regular season one game ahead of division rivals New England and the New York Jets. The Dolphins have won or shared the AFC East title 12 of the past 15 years and also had the best record of AFC East teams in the strike season of 1982, when standings were registered by conference rather than division.

The Dolphins get a week off before they have their first playoff game either Jan. 4 or 5 in the Orange Bowl against AFC Central champion Cleveland.

Buffalo finished the season at 2-14, tying Tampa Bay for the worst record in the NFL. But the Bills can't even take solace in getting a high draft pick, having given up their first-round choice in a trade with Cleveland that the Browns used in a special draft to take quarterback Bernie Kosar.

The Bills twice failed to score from inside the Miami five-yard line, had three passes intercepted and lost three fumbles. Two of the turnovers led to Miami touchdowns.

Late in the first half, the Dolphins stopped Buffalo running back Joe Cribbs on fourth and one at the two-yard line. And in the third quarter, defensive back William Judson intercepted a pass by the Bills' Bruce Mathison at the one-yard line to stop the only other Buffalo threat.

The five-yard pass to Hardy came three plays after an interception by Miami linebacker Jackie Shipp, who stepped in front of Eason Ramson. The Dolphins had to go only 32 yards to score and they got 23 on the first play after the interception as Marino hit Mark Clayton on a curl in. Two plays later, Marino hit Hardy for his 30th touchdown pass of the season.

Marino, who set the NFL record of 48 touchdown passes in a season last year, is only the fourth quarterback to pass for 30 or more touchdowns two straight seasons.

At the end of the first half, Dolphin wide receiver Mark Duper and Bill defensive back Derrick Burroughs got into a fight. Both were ejected from the game.

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