The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins took a considerable step toward making their rivalry the ugliest in the league Sunday with a game that had everything.
Trash talking. Trash tackling. Trash dancing. Trash swirling around Rich Stadium with such intensity, it looked as if they were playing in some back alley.
The afternoon began with Bryan Cox, the outspoken Dolphin linebacker, walking onto the field while making obscene gestures with both hands.
It ended with Cox praising God after the Dolphins defeated the previously unbeaten Bills, 22-13, before a rain-soaked 79,635.
“We put a hell of a whipping on them, made a lot of people look like idiots,” said Cox, who had four tackles and the Dolphins’ first sack of the season. “I give thanks to God.”
It was only the Dolphins’ third victory in their last 15 games against the Bills. That stretch includes victories by the Bills in last season’s AFC championship game, in the playoffs after the 1990 season, and in an earlier East Division title-clinching game.
Cox set the tone for the rivalry several days ago when he derided the Bills and their fans, saying he didn’t like their “attitude.” He even vowed to “retire from football if I am ever traded up there.”
He then set the tone for the game on the second play, when he sacked Jim Kelly for a seven-yard loss. Amid stunned silence, Cox stood up, shook his arms several times, and then began high-stepping and shaking his hips.
“That’s my freak dance,” Cox said, later adding, “I’m no sucker. I’m a man. I can say what I want because I back it up.”
Kelly spent the rest of the game doing his own dance. He was chased around the backfield so much by the likes of Cox, Marco Coleman and Jeff Cross, the Bills gained only 22 yards on their first five series.
By then, with 11:23 remaining in the second quarter, the Dolphins led by 19-0. The Bills never regained their composure.
Don Shula, the Dolphins’ coach, said he didn’t mind Cox’ antics, as long as he played as mean as he talked.
“He put his butt on the line and he went out and he plays hard every ballgame,” Shula said of Cox. “He’s a guy that has added a lot to our football team, emotion, intensity, and I don’t want to do anything to destroy any of that.”
The Bills thought they had at least diminished the Dolphins’ fervor after the third-longest field goal in league history, Steve Christie’s wind-aided 59-yarder at the end of the first half that closed the gap to 19-6.
But using the running of Mark Higgs, who didn’t start, and the pass catching and blocking of Keith Byars, the Dolphins held the ball for 8:23 at the start of the second half.
The drive ended in Pete Stoyanovich’s third field goal of the game, a 24-yarder than put the finishing touches on a demoralized team that hadn’t played this poorly since last January in Pasadena.
“What it comes down to is, for whatever reason, they wanted it more than we did,” said the Bills’ Thurman Thomas, held to 63 total yards, including 46 rushing.
In their second game of the season, against the New York Jets, the Dolphins (2-1) had rushed for only 27 yards while giving up 429 in total offense.
On Sunday they rushed for 137 yards and gave up only 282 total yards.
“We couldn’t afford to fall two games behind Buffalo,” said Cox, a Pro Bowl starter last year. “Everybody thought we were cream puffs. So we took it away from them right in the beginning.”
Then they rubbed it in, drawing five penalties for late hits or intentional facemask violations in the first half alone.
They also laughed at the Bills after Dan Marino scored his first rushing touchdown in nearly two years, and seventh overall, on a four-yard run after a busted pass play at the end of the first quarter.
Irving Fryar earlier scored his first touchdown as a Dolphin, on a 36-yard pass play from Marino, who found him wide open after a zone coverage mixup. Marino moved into third-place on the all-time passing yardage list, surpassing Johnny Unitas’ 40,239 yards by 64.
Fryar, as did Cox, said he saw Bills fans making obscene gestures at him.
“There was a lot of people wagging their fingers at us,” he said. “But it doesn’t make a difference . . . what anybody thinks except the 47 people who go out on the field and play.”
The 47 Bills don’t like Cox. And they vowed revenge when the teams meet again Dec. 19 in Miami.
“If (Cox) wants to be that immature, that’s his problem,” Darryl Talley said. “I just want to let him know, what goes around, comes around.”