1981 Buffalo Bills season
Head Coach Chuck Knox
Home Field Rich Stadium
Record 10-6
Place 3rd in AFC East
Playoff Finish lost in divisional round game (at Cincinnati Bengals), 28-21
Previous Season Next Season
1980 1982

The 1981 Buffalo Bills season was the 22nd season for the club and its 12th in the National Football League.

The season's most memorable moment might have been a Hail Mary catch against the New England Patriots in Week Twelve.[1] The 36-yard touchdown pass from Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson to running back Roland Hooks as time expired won the game for Buffalo, 20–17.[2] The win proved to be crucial in giving Buffalo the final playoff spot in the AFC in 1981.[3] The Bills would make the playoffs, but lose 28-21 to the Cincinnati Bengals.


The Bills were coming off of their first division title since 1966, and their first since the 1970 AFl-NFL merger. Coach Chuck Knox's Bills, in his fourth season with the team, were considered a contender in the AFC.

In their 1981 NFL preview, Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman wrote, "A word of advice: Go to Vegas and take the price on Buffalo to go all the way. The odds are right. Just look at how close the Bills came last year. ... The Bills are a hungry team, on the rise. They'll have to stay almost injury-free, though, because they're in big trouble if one of the big boys goes down, i.e., [Joe] Ferguson, Nose Guard Freddy Smerlas, Wide Receiver Jerry Butler or Halfback Joe Cribbs, who handled the ball more times (389) than any back in the NFL, counting passes caught and punt and kick returns as well as his rushes."[4]

NFL DraftEdit

Running back Robb Riddick played eight seasons for the Bills; he started eight games and ran for 632 total yards in 1986, and he became a short-yardage specialist in 1988

Said Zimmerman about the team's first pick, "[Coach Chuck] Knox is a ball control coach, and he's been desperately trying to juice up the fullback position, to take some heat off the 190-pound Cribbs. But No. 1 draft choice Booker Moore from Penn State came down with a nerve disorder called Guillain–Barré syndrome."[5]

Round Pick # Player Position College
1 28 Booker Moore Running back Penn State
2 49 Chris Williams Defensive back LSU
2 49 Byron Franklin Wide receiver Auburn
3 76 Mike Mosley Wide receiver Texas A&M
3 84 Robert Geathers Defensive tackle South Carolina State
5 135 Calvin Clark Defensive end Purdue
6 161 Robert Holt Wide receiver Baylor
7 188 Steve Doolittle Linebacker Colorado
9 241 Robb Riddick Running back Millersville (PA)
10 272 Justin Cross Offensive tackle Western Colorado
11 299 Buster Barnett Tight end Jackson State
12 326 Keith Clark Linebacker Memphis



1981 Buffalo Bills staff
Front Office

Coaching Staff

Offensive Coaches

Defensive/Special Teams Coaches

Special Assignments


1981 Buffalo Bills roster

Running backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Note: Rookies in italics


  1. Hooks' Hail Mary catch video
  2. Buffalo Rumblings: Best Moments in Bills History, No. 21: Roland Hooks' Hail Mary Catch
  3. Had the Bills lost the game, the last wild card spot would have gone to 10–6 Denver, whom the Bills beat out for the spot by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
  4. Sports Illustrated, Sept. 7, 1981: PRO FOOTBALL '81, by Paul Zimmerman, page 48
  5. Sports Illustrated, Sept. 7, 1981: PRO FOOTBALL '81, by Paul Zimmerman, page 48

External linksEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.