Bills-Dolphins is Sunday.
Riot gear recommended.
We’re only half joking.
Because no two teams in the AFC East hate each other with quite the smoldering fury as Miami and Buffalo.
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In the Adam Gase era, this hasn’t been so much of a rivalry as it’s been a blood feud.
What started with a cheap, career-ending hit by Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry on Bills safety Aaron Williams in 2016 culminated with a helmet-chucking, flag-flying melee in the 2017 season finale.
Along the way, there was Andre Branch choking out Richie Incognito (prompting Incognito to heave Branch’s helmet) and a December 2017 slugfest that featured four unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness penalties and Dolphins guard Jesse Davis claiming he got cold-cocked.
But that was all a prelude to last New Year’s Eve, when a short Landry touchdown catch escalated into an all-out brawl, with Landry and Drake ultimately ejected from the game.
Gase later called it “about as embarrassing as I’ve seen in a long time. ... That was very frustrating to watch, and standing there and not being able to do anything. We need way better control from our best players in the heat of the moment.”
Embarrassing, definitely. But also consequential. Landry’s behavior in that game probably sealed his fate in Miami. Two months later the Dolphins traded him to the Browns, and the sense then was that the organization had enough of his antics.
But Drake, who dislodged Bills defensive end Ryan Davis’ helmet from his head and then shot-put it 20 yards downfield, remains. Drake has been in the middle of multiple heated exchanges with the Bills in his career, but is resolved not to lose control again.
“You can’t really let those situations get the best of me or my teammates, especially at the end of a game we had a chance to win,” Drake said. “That’s what I really remember, being in the locker room and not being on the field when I could help my team win the game.”
Drake added: “I just learned that at the end of the day, the most important thing to be is available. I wasn’t available at the end of that game for the decision I made from a personal standpoint. I felt like it was selfish. It’s nothing I’m proud of in any regard. I can’t put myself or my teammates in that situation again. Self-awareness and being, ‘That can’t happen.’ I’ve never been in that heated situation or thrown out of a game before. It’s about learning from lessons and making that same mistake twice.”
If he does, the season might be lost.
The Dolphins at 5-6 have no margin for error — Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard suggested they need to win out to make the playoffs — and they barely have enough healthy bodies to field at team as it is.
Plus, with Landry gone, the rivalry’s biggest instigator has been removed from the equation.
Gase did his best to deescalate tensions this week, acting as though the Bills and Dolphins were just any two teams.
“It seemed like that one incident,” Gase said. “It was just goal line and everybody was just in a mosh pit. There was probably some trash talking and a late hit just kind of started the whole thing up. It just got carried away.”
In truth, there have been multiple incidents, and probably will be more Sunday, based on Jordan Phillips’ remarks.
Phillips, a defensive tackle, played for the Dolphins from 2015 through September, only to be unceremoniously released because of his attitude. The Bills snapped him up, and now he wants payback.
“Whoever has something coming to them is going to get it on Sunday,” Phillips told Buffalo reporters. “I don’t care anything about professionalism, to be completely honest with you, going into this game. Everything’s going to be handled in between the sidelines. Once we’re inside those white lines, anything goes.”
In short, good luck Ted Larsen, the Dolphins guard who will often have to block Phillips, who has productive when motivated.
“I don’t blame him,” Larsen said. “He put a lot of hard work in. Things go a certain way. He’s obviously upset. He’s a good player. He’s shown than in games. It didn’t work out here, and obviously he’s got feelings. You can’t blame someone for that.”
So the names, faces and seasons change, but the bad blood remains the same.
“It’s like a three-way run for the top when it comes to us, the Bills and the Jets, trying to dethrone the Patriots,” Drake said. “Between us, it’s trying to make sure we hold ourselves accountable playing the teams we feel like we should go out there and have a good game against. ... We all have the notion we can take two from the other. We always go out there with extra mantra on our shoulders to know those teams off.”