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Jerry Sullivan: A sackful of fond memories from the Bills-Dolphins rivalry

Remember when the Bills-Dolphins rivalry actually meant something, when you circled the games on the calendar, when the stakes were large and there was a genuine feeling of disdain between the teams and their respective communities?

Well, those days are mostly gone, but there's one Bills player who would have fit in back then. Nickell Robey-Coleman is never shy about speaking his mind. He said that Miami wideout Jarvis Landry should have his wits about him today because of the cheap shot he laid on Aaron Williams in the first meeting.

Robey-Coleman admits that the Bills' playoff chances are "on life support." But he said the Bills are better (and they are favored) and that they're motivated to put a major crimp in the Dolphins' playoff plans.

"Oh, big-time," he said. "We're definitely going to do that. That's definitely the plan. Knock them out, send them onto the couch with us. We know we're better than them. We're the better team."

Not exactly Bryan Cox, but it gets the juices flowing for today's game at New Era Field. In fact, since it's the day before Christmas and I'm tired of talking about Rex Ryan's future, I feel this would be a nice opportunity for making spirits bright in Bills Land.

Look, there goes Mr. Positive Santa, sliding down the chimney with a sackful of fond Bills-Dolphins memories. My Top 10 moments from the rivalry since arriving in Buffalo in the spring of 1989:

1. Jan. 12, 1991 at Buffalo. AFC Divisional Playoff. Bills 44, Dolphins 34. 

Jim Kelly won a classic shootout against Dan Marino in the snow at what was then known as Rich Stadium. Kelly threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns, two to Andre Reed. Thurman Thomas, as good a big-game back as ever played, pounded away for 117 yards and two TDs on 32 carries.

I remember the feeling of dread when Marino kept bringing the Dolphins back. But Kelly was much more efficient that day, outgaining Marino through the air despite throwing 20 fewer passes. As was often the case in AFC playoff games, the Buffalo defense came through when it really mattered.

2. Sept. 10, 1989 at Miami. Bills 27, Dolphins 24.

It was the season opener, the first Bills game I watched after coming to Buffalo. I watched in my living room and was as surprised as the Miami defense when Kelly ran a quarterback draw and dove for a 2-yard TD as time expired.

Thomas had 159 scrimmage yards, launching his four-year run as the NFL leader in that category. He was always up for the Dolphins. The '89 opener began a seven-game stretch, including playoffs, in which he AVERAGED 167 yards against Miami.

3. Nov. 18, 1991 at Miami. Bills 41, Dolphins 27.

On a Monday night, the No-Huddle was at its peak against an average Miami team. I watched at a now-defunct sports bar on Hertel Avenue, where they gave out free shots whenever the Bills scored.

Thomas had 135 of the Bills' 262 rushing yards. I remember him defiantly firing the ball off the back wall of the end zone after scoring a TD. Kelly threw three TD passes. The defense picked off Marino twice and recovered three fumbles. Shots all around!

Jim Kelly throws against visiting Miami on Sept. 1, 1991. The Bills opened the season with a 35-31 win. (Jim McCoy/Buffalo News)

4. Dec. 1, 2002 at Buffalo. Bills 38, Dolphins 21.

The Drew Bledsoe hysteria was fading fast after a three-game losing streak, but he had one of his last huge days in a memorable snow game at the Ralph. Bledsoe threw for 306 yards and three TDs. Peerless Price caught a 73-yard TD and jumped into Jim Kelly's arms in the back of the end zone.

Kelly was returning from the men's room at the time. He had asked to be on the sidelines. It was a wild scene, with him urging on the crowd during the Bills' late surge during the biggest snowfall of the afternoon. Oh, Ricky Williams ran for 228 yards, a record against the Bills until the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell broke it two weeks ago.

5. Dec. 30, 1995 at Buffalo. AFC Wild Card Game. Bills 37, Dolphins 22.

Two weeks after Bryan Cox left the stadium spitting at Bills fans and being chased onto the bus by Cardwell Gardner, he was part of a defense that got shredded for an AFC playoff-record 341 yards rushing.

The Bills had 536 yards total in Don Shula's final game as an NFL head coach. Thomas had exactly 200 yards from scrimmage in the last great playoff performance of his career. Tim Tindale broke a 44-yard TD run, the only touchdown of his career. Marino threw for 422 yards, most of it in garbage time.

6. Sept. 14, 2014 at Buffalo. Bills 29, Dolphins 10.

The atmosphere was electric in the home opener, the first game after the Pegulas won the bid for the team and became the toasts of "Pegulaville". The game wasn't that close. Dan Carpenter kicked five field goals. Sammy Watkins caught a TD pass from EJ Manuel. C.J. Spiller had a 102-yard kickoff return, the last touchdown he ever scored for the Bills.

Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller high steps into the end zone to cap a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter on Sept. 14, 2014. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

7. Jan. 17, 1993 at Miami, AFC Championship Game. Bills 29, Dolphins 10.

Hey, same final score as No. 6! Kelly returned from injury after Frank Reich worked his magic in two playoff wins, including the famous comeback. Thomas had 166 total yards and scored the go-ahead TD on a 17-yard swing pass from Kelly. My most vivid memory is Phil Hansen tipping a Marino pass at the line and picking it off.

8. Nov. 1, 1998 at Buffalo. Bills 30, Dolphins 24.

It was Doug Flutie's third straight start, at the height of Flutiemania. The little guy led them from 10 points down in the fourth quarter of the Bills' fifth straight win. Flutie threw three TD passes and was running around and throwing jump passes at age 36. I remember he came on the field after the game to throw the ball around with his buddies.

Binghamton area fans show their colors and support for Doug Flutie during the Bills' win on Nov. 1, 1998. (Buffalo News file photo)

9. Dec. 23, 1990 at Buffalo. Bills 24, Dolphins 14.

With Reich filling in for an injured Kelly, the 12-2 Bills beat the 11-3 Dolphins to clinch the AFC East. Thomas (ho, hum) rushed for 154 yards. Reich outplayed Marino, going 15 of 21 for 234 yards with two TDs and no picks. I remember horses coming on the field afterwards. Fans tore down the goalposts, anyway.

10. Nov. 29, 2009 at Buffalo. Bills 31, Dolphins 14.

Perry Fewell got his first win as interim head coach and praised Ryan Fitzpatrick for having "big gonads" for chucking a 51-yard TD pass to Terrell Owens with the Bills leading late. Fred Jackson scored two TDs. Chad Henne was intercepted by – are you ready? – Corey Mace, Chris Draft and Drayton Florence.

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