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1973 Buffalo Bills season
Head Coach Lou Saban
Home Field Rich Stadium
(currently named Ralph Wilson Stadium)
Results
Record 9–5
Place 2nd AFC East
Playoff Finish did not qualify
Timeline
Previous season Next season
1972 1974

The 1973 Buffalo Bills season was the 14th season for the team and their 4th season in the National Football League (NFL). The season was defined by O.J. Simpson becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for 2000 yards in a season. The Buffalo Bills finished in second place in the American Football Conference East Division and finished the 1973 NFL season with a record of 9 wins and 5 losses. This was the team's second season with Lou Saban in his second tenure as head coach.[1] Saban had previously led the team to the 1964 and 1965 American Football League championships.[2] It was the first season that the team played in the new Rich Stadium, which has now been renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium, after several years using War Memorial Stadium as the team's home stadium.

The team had three participants in the January 20, 1974 Pro Bowl and two members of the All-Pro team. In addition to establishing a record for single-season rushing yardage of 2003, which lasted for eleven years, Simpson established the single-season record for rushing yards gained per game, which as of 2010 continues to be an NFL record. The team drafted several players in the 1973 NFL Draft who contributed to the offense as starters during this record setting season. The explosive offense centered around O.J. "Juice" Simpson was nicknamed the "Electric Company" for its ability to turn on the juice.

NFL DraftEdit

Buffalo selected the following players who played for the team in the 1973 season during the 1973 NFL Draft.[3]

Round Pick Player Position College
17Seymour, PaulPaul SeymourOffensive TackleMichigan
126DeLamielleure, JoeJoe DeLamielleureOffensive GuardMichigan State
232Winans, JeffJeff WinansDefensive TackleUSC
357Ferguson, JoeJoe FergusonQuarterbackArkansas
377Kampa, BobBob KampaDefensive TackleCalifornia
5110Francis, WallaceWallace FrancisWide ReceiverArkansas State
6136Skorupan, JohnJohn SkorupanLinebackerPenn State
7162McConnell, BrianBrian McConnellLinebackerMichigan State
14344Krakau, MervMerv KrakauLinebackerIowa State
= Pro Bowler = Hall of Famer

BackgroundEdit

The Bills were recovering from 1–13 and 4–9–1 records in 1972 and 1973. Incumbent starting quarterback Dennis Shaw found himself in a battle with 1973 NFL Draftee Joe Ferguson for the starting job. Simpson was coming off of his best season as a Bill in which he earned his first All-Pro recognition and first rushing title. During the[4] On April 19, 1973 the Bills traded Edgar Chandler, Jeff Lyman and Wayne Patrick to the New England Patriots for Jim Cheyunski, Halvor Hagen and Mike Montler.[5] Although Patrick had been the Bill's Fullback, he lost the starting job to Jim Braxton in 1972.[6] Key draft choices included quarterback Joe Ferguson, converted tight end Paul Seymour, offensive guard Joe DeLamielleure, linebackers John Skorupan and Merv Krakau. The Bills also made key acquisitions of the Miami Dolphins' top 1972 NFL Draft selection Mike Kadish in exchange for offensive lineman Irv Goode. The Bills traded defensive tackle Al Cowlings and acquired defensive end Earl Edwards. The Bills acquired Mike Montler from the New England Patriots. 10-year Bills veteran linebacker Mike Stratton left to play a final season with the San Diego Chargers.[7]

Regular seasonEdit

Although some describe almost the whole 1970s decade as the Electric Company era,[8] the 1973 season marked a new era in Bills history and is regarded by many as the beginning of the Electric Company era of the mid 1970s. The team ushered in a new stadium, new uniforms and a transformed team build through the draft and a few key trades.[7] With all the emphasis on rushing the team would only post to 100-yard receiving efforts.[9]

The Bills started the season 4–1 before falling to a 5–5 record and then winning their final 4 games.[9] In 1973, rookie Ferguson, who would be the Bills starting quarterback for 12 seasons,[10] started all 14 games at quarterback.[9] Dennis Shaw who had been the starter the previous three season, saw action in four games.[11] Simpson recorded 2,000 rushing yards during the season and was voted NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP), and the team had its first winning record since 1966.[1] The "Electric Company" of Simpson, Jim Braxton, rookie Seymour, and rookie DeLamielleure lead a dramatic turnaround on the field. The "Electric Company" was the offensive line (OG Reggie McKenzie, OT Dave Foley, C Mike Montler, OG Joe DeLamielleure and OT Donnie Green) which provided the electricity for the "Juice". Larry Watkins and Braxton shared the fullback duties with each accumulating over 400 yards rushing.[9] Braxton's 4.6 yards per carry was eighth in the NFL.[12] The offensive guards were a pair of young future All-Pro performers: Pro Football Hall of Famer DeLamielleure (drafted 26th overall in 1973) and College Football Hall of Famer McKenzie (drafted 27th overall in 1972).[13][14]

This was the fifth of nine consecutive seasons that Simpson led the team in rushing yards and the first of four times that Bob Chandler led the team in receiving yards.[1] Simpson began and ended the fourteen game season with two 5-game 100-yard rushing streaks.[15] Seymour, who had been a member of the 1972 College Football All-America Team as an offensive tackle for the Michigan Wolverines after having played two season at tight end,[16] became the team's starting tight end.[9] Seymour, who would play his entire career with the Bills, went on to be the starting tight end for a total of five seasons.[17] Jan White had been the tight end the previous two years.[18] During the season, Wallace Francis, who finished second in the league in kickoff return average, was the only player in the league to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.[19] John Leypoldt's 70% field goal percentage ranked fifth in the league.[19]

The season was the second of three Pro Bowl and first of two All-Pro season for cornerback Robert James.[20] J.D. Hill had been a Pro Bowl performer the prior season.[21] This was Foley's first and only Pro Bowl selection.[22] It was McKenzie's only All-Pro season.[13] The season marked the third of six Pro Bowls and 2nd of 5 consecutive All-Pro seasons for Simpson.[23] Both Simpson and James were returning Pro Bowl selections.[24] It was also the first of two times Simpson would lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns, first of three times he would lead the league in yards from scrimmage and the second of four times he would lead the league in rushing yards.[23] Although Simpson posted a career best 6.0 yards per carry in 1973, he was surpassed by Mercury Morris who posted a 6.4 yards per carry average for the 1973 Miami Dolphins. The only season that he led the league in yards per carry was two years later when he averaged 5.5 yards per carry.[19]

Although Simpson's 2003 yard total has now been eclipsed by 5 other runners,[25] as of 2010, his 143.1 yards per game continues to be an NFL single-season record because all subsequent runners reached 2000 yards in 16 games, while Simpson only needed 14.[26]

For his efforts, Simpson was named Associated Press Athlete of the Year.[27] The team was featured on Madden NFL '96 as one of the "classic" teams. It was listed along with the four consecutive American Football Conference champions from 1990–1993 as Bills teams on the list.[28]

ScheduleEdit

  • On Week 1, (played on September 16), against the New England Patriots, O.J.Simpson sets record with 250 yd rushing and two touchdowns.
  • On Week 14, (played on December 16), against the New York Jets. O.J. Simpson rushes for 200 yd and rushes for 2003 yd becoming the first RB to eclipse 2000 yd. Simpson breaks Jim Brown's record of 1863 set 10 years earlier.
Game Date Opponent Result Bills points Opponents Bills first downs Record
1 Sept. 16 at New England Patriots Win 31 13 23 1–0
2 Sept. 23 at San Diego Chargers Loss 7 34 16 1–1
3 Sept. 30 New York Jets Win 9 7 15 2–1
4 Oct. 7 Philadelphia Eagles Win 27 26 16 3–1
5 Oct. 14 Baltimore Colts Win 31 13 18 4–1
6 Oct. 21 at Miami Dolphins Loss 6 27 8 4–2
7 Oct. 29 Kansas City Chiefs Win 23 14 21 5–2
8 Nov. 4 at New Orleans Saints Loss 0 13 10 5–3
9 Nov. 11 Cincinnati Bengals Loss 13 16 10 5–4
10 Nov. 18 Miami Dolphins Loss 0 17 15 5–5
11 Nov. 25 at Baltimore Colts Win 24 17 16 6–5
12 Dec. 2 at Atlanta Falcons Win 17 6 17 7–5
13 Dec. 9 New England Patriots Win 37 13 13 8–5
14 Dec. 16 at New York Jets Win 34 14 21 9–5
[29]

Standings Edit

AFC East
TeamWLTPCTPFPA
Miami Dolphins 1220.857343150
Buffalo Bills 950.643259230
New England Patriots 590.357258300
New York Jets 4100.286240306
Baltimore Colts 4100.286226341
[30]

O.J. SimpsonEdit

O.J. Simpson had three 200-yard rushing games, six 150-yard rushing games and eleven 100-yard rushing games. He only rushed the ball 30 times twice all season, but totaled 2003 yards due to a 6.0 yards per carry average. Over the course of the season he was only credited with six receptions.[15]

Date Home/Away Opponent Result Rushes Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns Receptions Yards
September 16, 1973A NWE W 31–13 292508.62200
September 23, 1973A SDG L 7–34 221034.68100
September 30, 1973HNYJ W 9–7 241235.130215
October 7, 1973HPHI W 27–26 271716.331333
October 14, 1973HBAL W 31–13 221667.55200
October 21, 1973A MIA L 6–27 14553.93000
October 29, 1973HKAN W 23–14 391574.03200
November 4, 1973A NOR L 0–13 20793.95000
November 11, 1973HCIN L 13–16 20994.95100
November 18, 1973HMIA L 0–17 201206.000122
November 25, 1973A BAL W 24–17 151248.27100
December 2, 1973A ATL W 17–6 241375.71000
December 9, 1973HNWE W 37–13 222199.95100
December 16, 1973A NYJ W 34–14 342005.88100

Game SummariesEdit

Week 1Edit

Week 1: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots[31]
by Quarter1234 Total
Buffalo Bills (1–0) 7 3 7 14 31
New England Patriots (0–1) 6 0 7 0 13

Simpson rushed for 250 yards on 29 carries, setting a new NFL single-game rushing record. He surpassed Willie Ellison's 247-yard performance in 1971. Although the Bills had gone 0–6 in their exhibition schedule, they started the season with a 31–13 victory in Chuck Fairbanks's debut as New England Patriots coach. Simpson scored on an 80-yard run in the first quarter and a 22-yard run in the third quarter.[32]

Week 2Edit

Week 2: Buffalo Bills at San Diego Chargers[33]
by Quarter1234 Total
Buffalo Bills (1–1) 0 7 0 0 7
San Diego Chargers (1–1) 7 7 14 6 34

The Bills surrendered an opening kickoff return touchdown, 3 quarterback sacks and 4 interceptions. Despite 103 yards rushing by Simpson and 118 yards receiving by Hill. The Bills surrendered 27 consecutive points after Simpson tied the score 7–7 with a 6-yard second quarter run.[33]

Week 3Edit

Week 3: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills[34]
by Quarter1234 Total
New York Jets (1–2) 0 0 0 7 7
Buffalo Bills (2–1) 3 0 0 6 9
  • Location: Rich Stadium (astroturf)
    Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 PM
  • Game attendance: 77,425
  • Game weather: 53 degrees, relative humidity 62%, wind 9 mph

The Bills' Rich Stadium debut was a sellout of 80,200 with 2595 no-shows. Simpson rushed for 123 yards, giving him 476 in his first three games. The Bills scored on three Leypoldt field goals. He made a 42-yarder in the first quarter and added two more in the fourth quarter. The Jets almost became the Bills' first shutout victim since 1965, but Al Woodall (playing in place of an injured Joe Namath) hit Jerome Barkum for 34 yards with two seconds left.[35]

Week 4Edit

Week 4: Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills[36]
by Quarter1234 Total
Philadelphia Eagles (0–3–1) 6 10 7 3 26
Buffalo Bills (3–1) 10 14 0 3 27
  • Location: Rich Stadium (astroturf)
    Orchard Park, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 PM
  • Game attendance: 72,364
  • Game weather: 56 degrees, relative humidity 66%, wind 8 mph

The Bills opted for a 47-yard Leypoldt field goal with four minutes remaining after driving 42 yards to Eagles' 40-yard-line. The score held up in the final minutes.[37] On the day, Simpson's 171-yard rushing performance offset a pair of 100-yard performances by Tom Sullivan and Norm Bulaich.[36]

Week 5Edit

Week 5: Baltimore Colts at Buffalo Bills[38]
by Quarter1234 Total
Baltimore Colts (1–4) 3 3 0 7 13
Buffalo Bills (4–1) 0 10 7 14 31

O.J. posted 166 yards, giving him his fifth 100-yard rushing effort in five games and giving him 813 for the season. The Colts had given Simpson 1-yard losses on his first two carries. Ferguson got the scoring started by connecting with Larry Watkins for 10-yards and later scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper. Simpson scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter and on a 78-yard run in the fourth "thrilled a crowd of 78,875".[39]

Week 6Edit

Week 6: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins[40]
by Quarter1234 Total
Buffalo Bills (4–2) 3 0 0 3 6
Miami Dolphins (5–1) 3 21 3 0 27

Miami took over first place in the AFC East by halting Simpson's streak of consecutive 100-yard performances. They held him to 55 yards on 14 carries before he left the game with an ankle sprain in the fourth quarter. Miami posted a 21-point second quarter highlighted by a pair of touchdown passes from Bob Griese to Jim Mandich. The Bills made no first downs in the first half.[41] Leypoldt and Garo Yepremian opened and closed the scoring by swapping field goals. The Dolphins' other touchdown came when a 21-yard Paul Warfield reception set up a Mercury Morris 4-yard touchdown.[42]

Week 7Edit

Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills[43]
by Quarter1234 Total
Kansas City Chiefs (3–3–1) 0 7 0 7 14
Buffalo Bills (5–2) 14 0 9 0 23

Simpson set an NFL record for yards in the first seven games by surpassing 1,000 yards with a 157-yard effort. His total of 1,025 was 54 ahead of Brown's pace. Simpson set the NFL single-game record for carries with 39 surpassing the 38 by Jim Nance in 1966 and Harry Newman in 1934. In the game, the Chiefs fumbled on their opening possession on their own 15-yard-line, leading to a Bills touchdown on four consecutive rushes. Three plays into the Chiefs' second possession Cheyunski intercepted Len Dawson and returned it 31 yards to the 4-yard-line leading to another Simpson score, giving them a 14–0 lead 3:37 into the game. Leypoldt added three field goals.[44]

Week 8Edit

Week 8: Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints[45]
by Quarter1234 Total
Buffalo Bills (5–3) 0 0 0 0 0
New Orleans Saints (4–4) 3 10 0 0 13

Simpson had totaled 1025 yards in the first half of the season, which was ahead of the 971 Brown had gained in his first seven games.[46] The Saints posted all their scoring in the first half and kept the Bills to under 200 yards of total offense while shutting them out.[45]

Week 9Edit

Week 9: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills[47]
by Quarter1234 Total
Cincinnati Bengals (5–4) 6 7 0 3 16
Buffalo Bills (5–4) 3 3 7 0 13

Simpson posted 99 yards on 20 carries including a 32-yard game-tying touchdown run in the third quarter. He had a 1,203 total for nine games. It appeared the game would end in a tie until the Bengals' Horst Muhlmann made a 33-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.[41]

Week 10Edit

Week 10: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills[48]
by Quarter1234 Total
Miami Dolphins (9–1) 7 10 0 0 17
Buffalo Bills (5–5) 0 0 0 0 0

The Dolphins clinched the East Division title with a 17–0 shutout of the Bills. Miami's first touchdown drive included two fourth-and-one conversions by Jim Kiick. With Miami leading 10–0, Buffalo drove from their own 20-yard-line to the Dolphins' 4-yard-line and then turned the ball over on downs four plays later at the 1-yard-line.[49] In the game, the Bills were shut out despite a pair of 100-yard rushing efforts by Simpson and Braxton who posted 120 and 119 yards respectively.[48]

Week 11Edit

Week 11: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Colts[50]
by Quarter1234 Total
Buffalo Bills (6–5) 3 7 0 14 24
Baltimore Colts (2–9) 7 0 0 10 17

The Bills built a 10–7 halftime lead on the strength of a 58-yard Simpson touchdown run. Marty Domres connected with Tom Mitchell and George Hunt added a field goal to give Baltimore a 17–10 lead. Late in the game the Colts gave the Bills good field position following an 18-yard punt by David Lee. Ferguson passed for 38-yards to Bob Chandler to tie the score with 1:34 remaining. Then Dwight Harrison recorded a 31-yard interception return with 1:11 remaining to give the Bills their final margin of victory.[51] The game marked only the second and final time all season the Bills passed for 100 yards.[9]

Week 12Edit

Week 12: Buffalo Bills at Atlanta Falcons[52]
by Quarter1234 Total
Buffalo Bills (7–5) 7 3 7 0 17
Atlanta Falcons (8–4) 0 6 0 0 6

Braxton, who totaled 80 yards on 23 carries accounted for both of the Bills' touchdowns. Simpson posted 137 yards on 24 carries. The Falcon's scoring came from future Bills kicker Nick Mike-Mayer who posted two field goals.[52]

Week 13Edit

Week 13: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills[53]
by Quarter1234 Total
New England Patriots (5–8) 3 3 7 0 13
Buffalo Bills (8–5) 7 10 17 3 37

After New England posted a first quarter field goal, Francis returned the kickoff 90 yards to give the Bills a lead they would not relinquish. Simpson posted 219 yards on 22 carries including a 6-yard touchdown that put the Bills ahead 14–3 in the second quarter. Chandler caught two touchdown passes from Ferguson and Leypoldt added three field goals.[53] The effort earned Simpson his third NFL Offensive Player of the Week honor.[54]

Week 14Edit

Week 14: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets[55]
by Quarter1234 Total
Buffalo Bills (9–5) 7 14 7 6 34
New York Jets (4–10) 0 6 0 0 6

Simpson entered the final game needing 61 yards to eclipse Brown's record of 1863 yards and the team entered the game needing 177 rushing yards to break the team record of 2960 set by the 1972 Miami Dolphins.[54] He posted 200 yards on 34 carries to bring his total to 2003 in Weeb Ewbank's final game as Jets coach. He became the first to accumulate 200 yards in a game three times in a season. In O.J.'s post-game press conference, he brought the entire Electric Company to meet the media. Before he would field any questions, he introduced each of his teammates.[56]

RosterEdit

1973 Buffalo Bills rosterview · talk · edit
Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Source:
Pro-Football-Reference

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen

Special Teams

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Awards and recordsEdit

MilestonesEdit

  • O.J. Simpson, First 2,000 Yard Rushing Season in NFL History[25]
  • Single-season record: 143.1 rushing yards per game[26]
  • Single-season record: 2,243 yards from scrimmage[60]
  • Single-season record: 23 touchdowns[61]
  • Single-game record: 250 rushing yards[62]
  • First back-to-back 200-yard rushing games[63]
  • Single-game carries record (39)[44]
  • Consecutive 100-yard rushing games (7, ending with week 5).[64]
  • Single-season record: 3 200-yard games[63]
  • Single-season record: 11 100-yard games[63]

ReferencesEdit

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