Oct. 5, 1975 – The Bills entered the day with a 2-0 record on the year. They were second in football in scoring with 72 points, second in total offense with 795 yards – just one fewer than the leading Pittsburgh Steelers – and led the NFL with 619 rushing yards and just one giveaway.
Buffalo was coming off consecutive 300-yard rushing games, becoming the first team to do so since the Baltimore Colts in 1956, and one of only two teams to do so during the Super Bowl era, joined by the New York Jets in 2009.
Their rush offensive was led by, of course, O.J. Simpson, who, in just two games had already picked up 400 yards on the ground – 179 more than anyone else in football. Simpson was averaging 6.67 yards-per-carry, better than anyone else in the league by more than a yard-per-touch. Additionally, teammate Jim Braxton somehow managed to eek into the top-10 in rushing yards to that point, ranking 9th overall.
The Bills were set to host the Denver Broncos, who were also unbeaten, and ranked third in NFL, just in trail of Buffalo, with 762 total yards.
In the first quarter, the Bills took a 10-0 lead on a 39-yard field goal by John Leypoldt and a three-yard rushing score by Jim Braxton, PAT good. Buffalo would again strike first in the second quarter, on Jim Braxton’s second touchdown of the day – this time a 19-yard pass from Joe Ferguson, PAT good, and they now had a 17-0 lead.
Denver would finally answer with a score of their own as future Hall of Famer Floyd Little – playing in what would be his final career season – caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Charley Johnson. After a Jim Turner extra-point, Buffalo's lead shrunk to 17-7; however, J.D. Hill would catch Joe Ferguson’s second touchdown throw of the day, PAT good, and the Bills would carry a 24-7 lead into half.
The first score of the third quarter, like the previous two, belonged to Buffalo. A 16-yard touchdown run by O.J. Simpson, PAT good, the score now 31-7. Jim Braxton would then follow with his second rushing, third overall, touchdown of the game and after John Leypoldt’s four extra-point, the Bills led 38-7.
Denver would score once more, on an 80-yard passing touchdown to rookie Rick Upchurch – who would go on to be named to four Pro Bowls throughout his career – this time by former Penn Stater and 1971 Cotton Bowl Champion John Hufnagel – the only touchdown pass of his NFL career – that would be the last of the scoring for either side.
The Bills won handedly, 38-14.
Simpson had 138 yards rushing on 26 carries and Braxton had 102 yards on 17 carries. This was the first of two games that season in which the pair would both rush for at least 100 yards – they are the only Bills each to rush for 100-plus yards in the same game in multiple games in a single season.
As a team, Buffalo pounded out 293 yards on the ground, their fewest in any game that season. They are the only team during the Super Bowl era with at least as many rushing yards in three straight contests and the first overall to do so since the Chicago Cardinals of 1948.
Their 912 rushing yards through three games in 1975 still stands as the standard for most rushing yards to begin a season through Week Three. The following week, they became one of only three teams, along with the 1958 Browns – led by Jim Brown – joined by the 1980 Lions, to have 1,000-plus rushing yards through the first four weeks in a season.
Stats Wizard: In the featured game, O.J. Simpson had his third straight game with at least 100 yards rushing. He would add two more to give him five straight, which would be the third streak of his career with at least five 100-plus rushing yard games, including an NFL record seven straight from Dec. 10, 1972 to Oct. 14, 1973.
To that point, every other player during the Super Bowl era had combined for just one streak of five or more games – Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers had six straight during his rookie season in 1972. The season prior, Harris was teammates with Hufnagel at Penn State on the 1971 Cotton Bowl Championship team.
Since, the record has not only been shattered, but doubled. Barry Sanders rushed for at least 100 yards in a remarkable 14 straight games from Sept. 14, 1997 to Dec. 21, 1997. Sanders rushed for all of 2,000 yards during that stretch.
Incredibly, Sanders 2,000 total yards rushing during that 14-game stretch was still three yards shy of O.J. Simpson’s former record of 2,003 rushing yards during his entire 14-game season in 1973 – a record that has only been topped since the schedule expanded to 16 games.
Many of the stats in this article made possible by the Pro Football Reference Play Index.