NFL Playoff Recap (Buffalo-Miami)
Posted: Sat January 2, 1999 at 6:17 p.m. ESTMIAMI 24, BUFFALO 17
MIAMI (Ticker) -- Flutie magic nearly haunted Jimmy Johnson again, but the Miami Dolphins' defense had the final say.
Defensive end Trace Armstrong sacked Flutie and jarred the ball loose and tackle Shane Burton recovered the fumble at the Miami 3-yard line with nine seconds left to preserve a 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills in a thrilling AFC wild card game.
The Dolphins won their first postseason game in four years and will play the Denver Broncos or New York Jets in the divisional playoffs next weekend.
Flutie completed 21-of-36 passes for a career-high 360 yards, but threw for just one touchdown with an interception. He spent most of the day throwing to Eric Moulds, who set an NFL playoff record with 240 yards on nine catches.
While Buffalo piled up the yards, Miami's defense forced five turnovers, including three by Flutie.
"Buffalo's a very talented team and they made a lot of plays," said Johnson. "But our guys made more plays. We came up with some big plays with the turnovers."
While at Boston College in 1984, Flutie stunned Johnson's University of Miami squad with his famous "Hail Mary" touchdown pass. Earlier this year, he directed the Bills to 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 30-24 victory over the Dolphins.
Today, Johnson finally prevailed as he received balance from his offense. Dan Marino passed for 235 yards and a touchdown and Karim Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 95 yards and a score.
"Everyone said we couldn't run the ball," said Johnson. "Karim had close to 100 yards and we rushed for over 100 yards against a defensive team that is ranked among the top in the league against the run."
After Marino drilled Lamar Thomas with a 12-yard touchdown to give Miami a 24-14 lead with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter, Flutie geared up for another miracle. He led the Bills on a seven-play, 65-yard drive, including two passes for 38 yards to Moulds, setting up a 34-yard field goal by Steve Christie with 1:33 remaining.
The Bills thought they had a touchdown on the drive when Andre Reed caught a nine-yard pass over the middle and appeared to reach over the goal line with the ball. But he was ruled down at the 1. Incensed, Reed bumped an official and was penalized 14 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Although it appeared the bump was inadvertent, Reed was ejected by referee Mike Carey.
"I don't know what to say," said Reed. "I was just getting up. I didn't even know that an official was there. I got up and the guy was right there."
Set back by the penalty, the Bills had to settle for a field goal after two incompletions by Flutie.
But Buffalo put the ball back in Flutie's hands when Kurt Schulz recovered the ensuing on-side kick, which was fumbled by Sam Madison at the Bills 31.
On the first play, Flutie lofted a 30-yard pass to Moulds to the Miami 39. Following two incompletions, Flutie hit Reed's replacement, rookie Kamil Loud, for 12 yards with 65 seconds left.
Flutie ran up the middle for five yards and hit Moulds and Kevin Williams with five-yard passes to move the Bills to the Miami 12 with 31 seconds left. Following a three-yard pass to Thurman Thomas, Flutie ran four yards and called Buffalo's final timeout with 17 seconds remaining.
But Miami's defense rose to the occasion and forced its fifth turnover to seal the win. Flutie faded back to pass, held the ball in the pocket too long and paid the price when he was belted by Armstrong.
"I didn't see Trace Armstrong on the last play," said Flutie. "I recoiled my arm and that's when I got hit."
"Our guys got a good push and the coverage was there and I just dipped underneath them," explained Armstrong, who fought off Thomas' block before hitting Flutie.
Marino, who completed 23-of-34 passes, had high praise for Flutie.
"Doug's got a big heart," Marino said. "It was hard to watch him in the final minutes. I was just telling everyone on the sideline to stay ready in case we had to get back for an overtime."
Johnson won his first postseason game as Dolphins coach. Miami had lost three straight playoff games and was 0-3 against the Bills in the postseason, including a 37-22 loss in the wild card round at Buffalo in 1995, Don Shula's last game as coach.
Abdul-Jabbar's three-yard TD run with 2:32 left in the third quarter and a two-point conversion run by Stanley Pritchett gave the Dolphins a 14-7 lead. The 12-play, 52-yard drive featured nine running plays for 35 yards.
But Flutie needed only four plays to move Buffalo 81 yards to the tying touchdown, a 32-yard pass to Moulds. The drive featured a 29-yard pass interference penalty against Patrick Surtain and a 23-yard pass to Moulds.
Olindo Mare's third field goal of the game, a 23-yarder with 9:45 left in the third quarter, broke the tie for Miami and capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive.
The Bills held a 7-6 halftime lead with the help of a onside kick recovery in Miami territory. It was a bizarre half which began with a long pass completion and fumble and ended with a "Hail Mary" completion followed by a missed field goal.
Miami controlled the ball for nearly 19 minutes in the half and built a 6-0 lead on a pair of field goals by Mare. But after Mare's second field goal, a 40-yarder with 10:36 left in the second quarter, Johnson opted for the element of surprise with an onside kick.
Buffalo was not fooled and Dan Brandenburg recovered at the Miami 42. Flutie took the opportunity and immediately connected with Moulds on a 37-yard pass over the middle. One play later, Thomas -- one of three players remaining from the Bills' four Super Bowl teams -- scored on a one-yard run to put Buffalo ahead with 8:54 left in the half.
Later in the second quarter, the Bills drove 71 yards in 11 plays to the Miami 6, but safety Brock Marion intercepted a flip pass by Flutie intended for Reed at the Miami 1 and returned it 19 yards. A face mask penalty by Moulds tacked on 15 yards.
With just 15 seconds left in the half, Marino unloaded a "Hail Mary" pass to Oronde Gadsden for a 52-yard completion. As Gadsden was being tackled, he lateraled to O.J. McDuffie, who ran four yards to the Buffalo 9.
However, Mare's 26-yard kick on the half's final play bounced off the right upright.
Mare kicked a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter to cap a 16-play, 57-yard drive.
The first play from scrimmage set the tone for the bizarre half. Flutie hit Moulds with a 65-yard pass up the right side but Moulds was caught from behind by cornerback Terrell Buckley, who punched away the ball inside the Miami 20. Marion recovered at the 12 and returned it 17 yards.
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