Dolphins intend to turn the tables on Bills, fans Victory would erase long, cold losing day

January 12, 1991|By Mike Preston

It was one long, cold day the Miami Dolphins won't forget.

"You want to know how crazy their fans were?" said Miami running back Sammie Smith. "They had a lady in a bikini the last time we were there [in Buffalo], and it was probably 30 degrees."

That was only a couple of weeks ago, Dec. 23, to be exact. That was the day Miami played the Bills in suburban Buffalo's Rich Stadium and lost, 24-14, as the Bills clinched the American Football Conference East championship.

Not only were the Dolphins embarrassed on the field, they were harassed by Buffalo fans as they left the the stadium. The fans, after tearing down the goal posts, partied in the path of the team bus, made obscene gestures and one bus window was broken by a thrown object.

The rudeness only adds to the incentives for Miami, which will play Buffalo today (12:30 p.m.) in Rich Stadium. This time it's for the right to play in the AFC championship game.

Miami coach Don Shula has downplayed the revenge factor this week, but his players think differently.

"Revenge? They won one. We won one. Now the winner goes to the AFC championship game; that's all you need," said Shula. "What do you mean by revenge? Put a dagger in the guy or what?"

No, but something a little distasteful.

"If we win, we're going to tear down their goal post," said Miami safety Louis Oliver.

"We've got to be aggressive," said Miami fullback Tony Paige. "We've got to play nasty. We've got to play like it's a street fight."

The last time it was more like a Buffalo mugging even though the Bills were without starting quarterback Jim Kelly, who suffered torn ligaments and cartilage in his left knee against the New York Giants Dec. 15.

But Kelly, who was having one of his better seasons, was given the OK by Dr. Richard Weiss Monday to begin practicing.

Neither Kelly or Bills coach Marv Levy have said who will start against the Dolphins, and Levy said that decision won't be announced until this morning.

Shula, though, is preparing for Kelly and backup Frank Reich, the former Maryland standout, who played well against Miami the last time the teams met.

"You do prepare for their idiosyncrasies," said Shula. "Their offensive style hasn't changed that much with Reich in there at quarterback, but we want to make sure that we understand that the things that Kelly might do that are a little bit different if Jim is ready to play."

Actually, it wasn't so much the play of Reich that hurt Miami as the running of halfback Thurman Thomas and the rowdy fans.

In Buffalo's win, Thomas outrushed Miami, 154 to 35. When Miami routed Buffalo, 30-7, in the second game of the season, Miami had 128 compared to 23 rushing yards for Thomas.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, their best bet to stop Buffalo's rushing attack, linebacker John Offerdahl, sprained his left foot in last Saturday's 17-16 win over Kansas City and is listed as questionable.

"We just have to do a better job on Thomas and their offensive line this time around," said Shula. "Meanwhile, we'll have to wait and see on his [Offerdahl's] availability. His arch was sprained and the foot is very sore."

As for the Buffalo fans, the Dolphins consider playing in Rich Stadium one of their ultimate challenges. Bills fans hate the Dolphins. So do the Bills.

"I like Miami, at least until the season starts," said Bills linebacker Shane Conlan. "Really, it's the best of three. They beat us pretty bad the first time and we beat them the last time."

Miami guard Keith Sims feels it is important for the Dolphins to score early.

"If you let them [fans] get into it, it can be a heck of a distraction because they're loud, they scream, they yell and they try to mock you on the sidelines," he said.

Oliver said: "A lot of people get upset about their fans being rowdy, but when it's game time they get behind their team. That's a lot we have to deal with."

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