Dolphins sink Flutie Flakes in 24-17 wild-card win
Posted: Saturday January 02, 1999 09:17 PM
Armstrong sacked Flutie with a jarring tackle that shook the ball loose, defensive lineman Shane Burton recovered and the Dolphins nearly trampled Flutie as they celebrated. The turnover clinched Miami's wild 24-17 wild-card playoff victory Saturday.
In the Dolphins' jubilant locker room, coach Johnson crushed a box of Flutie Flakes on a table. The cereal spilled to the floor and the Dolphins gleefully stomped on the flakes.
"It's great to get the win, because Flutie is the comeback king," linebacker Zach Thomas said.
Miami's opponent next weekend will depend on Sunday's Jacksonville-New England outcome. If the Jaguars win, the Dolphins will play at Denver. If the Patriots win, the Dolphins will play the Jets in New York.
"We're going to enjoy this for a good 15 or 20 minutes, then start getting ready for the next one," Armstrong said.
In a game full of weird plays and crazy bounces, the last one went Miami's way.
The Bills twice erased deficits before falling behind 24-14, then rallied again. After Steve Christie kicked a 33-yard field goal with 1:33 left, Buffalo recovered an onside kick and drove 64 yards in 10 plays.
On first down at the 5-yard line, Flutie pumped to throw, cocked his arm again and was leveled by Armstrong, knocking the ball loose.
"I had a chance to put a solid hit on him," an exhausted Armstrong said. "I was elated, because I didn't know if I could go another play. I'm sure they're sitting over there thinking one got away from them."
Flutie said he never saw Armstrong.
"I was going to throw it out of the end zone," he said. "I felt I had plenty of time and took another peek. The next thing I knew, I got hit."
Burton's recovery with nine seconds left clinched Johnson's first postseason victory since his Dallas Cowboys beat the Bills in the 1994 Super Bowl.
"Buffalo has a very talented team, and they made a lot of plays," Johnson said. "Our guys made more plays."
The Dolphins earned their first playoff victory in four years and beat a team that ended their season three times in this decade.
The Bills couldn't overcome five turnovers and 93 yards in penalties. Eric Moulds' nine receptions for 240 yards -- an NFL playoff record -- weren't enough.
Weird plays and plot twists dominated the game, beginning with a 65-yard pass on the first play that Moulds then fumbled. But perhaps the deciding factor was a workmanlike effort by a Miami offense that had sputtered for much of the season.
Karim Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 95 yards and the Dolphins controlled the ball for 37 minutes thanks to scoring marches of 57, 66, 52, 77 and 50 yards. Each drive took at least eight plays.
Flutie went 21-for-36 for 360 yards and a touchdown, but he lost in his first NFL playoff game in 12 years.
"I expected to take this team to the Super Bowl this year," he said. "Some people were happy for us just to make the playoffs. That's not what this is all about."
There were plenty of moments that left fans shaking their heads -- or rubbing their eyes. Among them:
"We just made too many mistakes," Moulds said. "Penalties killed us on both sides of the ball. We just didn't play like the Buffalo Bills of the past few weeks."
Dolphins Pro Bowl tackle Tim Bowens left the game in the third period with an injured right bicep. Johnson said the injury might be similar to one that sidelined tackle Richmond Webb earlier this season for seven games. ... The Bills have lost five consecutive games in Miami. ... Buffalo's Thurman Thomas scored on a 1-yard run, giving him touchdowns in nine consecutive postseason games, an NFL record. ... Moulds broke the record of 227 yards receiving set by Anthony Carter of Minnesota in 1987 against San Francisco. ... Only seven Dolphins were with the team the last time they won a playoff game in 1994. ... Although the Dolphins barely averted a TV blackout because of slow ticket sales, the game drew a crowd of 72,698.
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