Bills Failure Chronicles – September 21, 2003: Dolphins 17, Bills 7


It’s tough to be a Bills fan. We’ve suffered through some awful, heartbreaking losses. Each week, we’ll take a look at one awful game from years past in a feature called Bills Failure Chronicles.

With all the problems the Bills have had in recent seasons, you might think it would be hard to pick one’s least favorite Bills season. The year that frustrated you and enraged you the most. The year where your hopes were dashed even more brutally than usual. Can one terrible season really stand above the rest?

Absolutely. The 2003 Buffalo Bills still make so upset I can barely talk coherently about them.

The season started with tremendous promise, including two blowout wins to start the year….then this game happened.

Background: As much as I hate the 2003 season, it did feature my favorite Bills game ever:

Whenever I’m truly upset, I just think about that game. Cheers me right up. Belichick just standing dumbstruck on the sideline as Brady got hit again and again is a memory that will last a lifetime. Too bad that was the last time Buffalo beat New England. (Seriously.)

The Bills followed this up with a dominating road win over the Jaguars, and suddenly Buffalo was the toast of the league. Numerous power rankings featured Buffalo sitting at number 1. And why not? The offense was flying high behind Drew Bledsoe and running back Travis Henry, and the defense was looking great with veterans Takeo Spikes, Sam Adams, Lawyer Milloy, Nate Clements and others leading the way.

The Bills were riding a ton of momentum heading into a primetime Sunday night matchup against the hated Dolphins. That momentum was promptly killed.

The Terrible Result: The high-flying Buffalo offense came to a complete stop as the Dolphins rolled to a 17-7 win that wasn’t really as close as that score indicates. Ricky Williams assaulted the Buffalo defense all day, rushing for 153 yards on an insane 42 carries. The Bills defense simply couldn’t get the Miami offense off the field. And when the Buffalo offense was on the field, they only really threatened twice, and both ended with goal-line interceptions…one of which was thrown by the team’s running back (see below).

Buffalo did pull to within 3 early in the fourth quarter when Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler gifted a pick-six to Nate Clements. The Dolphins slammed the door shut though with a late Williams touchdown, and that was that.

Hope Spot: When Clements returned that pick for a score, you almost had a feeling that somehow, someway the Bills would pull this out. They had been so good in the first two games you almost wondered if there was a “team of destiny” feel about them. Obviously, there was not. At all.

Norwood Moment: I’m usually not a “bitch about the playcalling” kind of guy. I’m a big believer that talent and execution triumphs over clever playcalling most of the time. However, the decision to let freaking Travis Henry throw a pass while deep in Dolphins territory was simply inexcusable. Run the ball. Or let Bledsoe throw it. Or kick a field goal – the other team’s quarterback is freaking Jay Fielder. Really, do ANYTHING but a halfback option for Henry. His pass was so poorly thrown that I couldn’t believe the Bills coaching staff ever even considered letting him throw a ball in a real game.

The Bills actually quickly got the ball back after the Henry pick, and drove back to the Dolphins’ 8-yard line…where Bledsoe threw an interception in the endzone. Buffalo never threatened again.

Ridiculous Stat(s) of the Game:

1) Time of possession – 40:50 to 19:10 in favor of the Dolphins. Ouch.

2) Rush attempts – Buffalo: 14 carries, 41 yards. Miami: 44 carries, 166 yards. Double ouch.

3) Drew Bledsoe: Not good. 10-25, 98 yards, 2 INT.

4) The Bills went 1-for-9 on third downs. Just awful.

Personal Memory:

I actually shrugged this one off, as I figured it was just one bad game. I was so, so wrong.

Best Postgame Quote:

Bills coach Gregg Williams, defending the idiotic decision to let Henry throw the ball:

“We had been setting it up for the past few weeks,” Williams said. “We thought it was there. Travis got hit when he let it go. He probably should have tucked it and ran.”

Or he should never been put in that position in the first place. But go ahead and completely blame your players Gregg.


The Bills hung around the playoff picture for a while, but never really recovered from this debacle. The second half of the season was a complete disaster, and Buffalo cratered to a 6-10 finish. Williams was fired after the season. Henry went on to father a ton of kids.

Labatt’s Losing Level: (1 – I’ll be okay; 10 – Only getting blackout drunk will dull the pain)

This is an 8. At the time, it wasn’t so horrible, but it’s way worse in retrospect.

Past Bills Failure Chronicles:

Terrible QB Edition – Shitty Todd Collins

December 28, 1996: Jaguars 30, Bills 27

September 15, 2009: Patriots 25, Bills 24

November 28, 2010: Steelers 19, Bills 16 (OT)

October 8, 2007: Cowboys 25, Bills 24

January 2, 2005: Steelers 29, Bills 24

Feeling depressed after that? For a dose of positive Bills feelings check out Josh Cortina’s “Positivity” Series here on BLD!

If you’re a Dolphins fan, I hate you. Also visit, Fansided’s Dolphins blog.