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  • Budd Bailey

Buffalo Bills: November 9, 1986 – Bills win first game under Levy

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

(Editor’s Note: Reedy Press has published “The Buffalo Bills: An Illustrated Timeline of a Storied Franchise.” The book was written by Greg Tranter and Budd Bailey; click here for more information. The authors wrote some potential chapters to the book that were not used, and didn’t want to put them to waste. Therefore, they thought people would like to read about those events from the team’s past on this site. It will give you a taste of what the text of the coffee-table book is like.)

As difficult as it is to imagine now, there was some skepticism about whether Marv Levy was the right man to coach the Bills immediately following his hiring. Yes, he had won two championships in the 1970s coaching the Montreal Alouettes – but that was in the Canadian Football League, not the NFL. Levy then went to Kansas City for five seasons, where he finished with an overall record of 31-42. In the USFL, Levy could only manage a 5-13 record in 1984 with the Chicago Blitz.

A crowd of 72,000 turned out at Rich Stadium less than a week after Levy’s hiring to see what the new coach could do. Upon arrival, everyone certainly noticed the wind – which was howling with 40 miles per hour gusts. “I’ve seen hurricanes in Mississippi with less velocity than that,” Kent Hull said after the game.

The wind had a large effect on the contest, as the two teams only could convert on one of four extra points. Buffalo took a 13-0 lead through halftime on touchdowns by Robb Riddick and Andre Reed. Pittsburgh cut the margin to 13-12 in the third period. But the Bills’ Scott Norwood figured out a way to kick a field goal to pad the lead with about 10 minutes left to play. That gave his team a cushion as it took a 16-12 victory.

Quarterback Jim Kelly, who threw only 22 passes on the windy day, was happy about the way the week had gone. “It’s a new atmosphere around here now,” he said. “… We were physically and mentally drained. We get to relax. … Football is fun around here again.”

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