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Sports Then and Now



Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions Take the NFL Back to 1980 14

Posted on September 25, 2011 by Dean Hybl

With a 3-0 start, the Buffalo Bills seem to be pointing in the right direction to start the 2011 season.

Considering that each team has posted only one winning season since 2000, dual 3-0 starts by the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions has the NFL turned upside down and fans in both cities celebrating like it is 1980 all over again.

Indeed, it was 31 years ago that both franchises started the season with perfect records during the first month of the season to become the darlings of the NFL.

The NFL was a little different back in 1980 as both teams relied on rookie running backs to spark their team. The Bills featured former Auburn Tiger Joe Cribbs while the Lions had a budding star in former Heisman Trophy winner Billy Simms.

Of course as we fast forward to 2011 the focus is no longer on the running game, though solid runners have helped both teams to their early starts.

The focus in today’s NFL is on the passing game and the Bills and Lions rely on Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Stafford much more than the 1980 squads relied on their starting quarterbacks Joe Ferguson and Gary Danielson.

Entering the 1980 season, both the Lions and Bills were coming off four straight losing seasons.

Following a 2-14 campaign in 1979, the Lions drafted Sims with the first pick in the NFL draft. Under third year head coach Monte Clark, the team won their first four games in dominating fashion. They outscored the Los Angeles Rams 41-20 and then combined an explosive offense with a dominating defense to allow their opponents seven points each in the next three games as they outscored the Packers, Cardinals and Vikings 76-21.

Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t maintain the momentum and finished just out of the playoffs with a 9-7 record. However, the winning season was their first since 1972 and started a four year stretch in which the Lions posted a 30-27 record and twice advanced to the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry →

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