Bills vs. Dolphins: Takeaways from Buffalo's 23-21 Win over Miami
Unlike their game against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, Buffalo was on the winning side of another thrilling game. After jumping out to an early 14-0 lead, the Dolphins chipped away at the lead and were up 20-17 heading into the fourth.
The Bills defense stepped up over the final 15 minutes, shutting out the Dolphins offense with two sacks and a forced fumble. This allowed the Buffalo offense to put just enough points on the board with two field goals for their first road win.
The Offensive Line Is Regressing
Each week it has seemed like the Bills offensive line has regressed from the previous week. At the beginning of the season, EJ Manuel had a clean pocket and time to see plays develop. The running game was one of the best in the league, as the line opened huge holes for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
The game against Miami was arguably the worst game of the year for this group. Thad Lewis was constantly under pressure by Miami's defense and the running game had very little room to get going. The loss of Andy Levitre looks like it has had a bigger impact than most first thought.
Next week they face the Saints' defense led by Rob Ryan, who loves to bring pressure. This does not bode well for this group, who will have their hands full again.
C.J. Spiller Needs to Be Shut Down
C.J. Spiller deserves credit for suiting up every week, but he clearly is not healthy and can't help this team in his current state. Against Miami he only rushed the ball six times for 11 yards, a 1.8 yard per carry average. He also had three receptions for negative four yards and showed none of his trademark speed or quickness.
At the beginning of the season, Buffalo had one of the best running games in the NFL. With Spiller and Fred Jackson dealing with injuries, this part of the offense has become very ineffective. With Thad Lewis being inexperienced, the Bills need to get their running game back to take some of the pressure off the quarterback.
Turnovers Are Key to Bills' Win
If the reason for the Bills win had to be narrowed down to one thing, it would have to be turnovers. The Bills didn't waste any time forcing their first turnover when Nickell Robey returned an interception for a touchdown and a quick lead.
Before the first quarter was over, Ryan Tannehill had thrown his second interception on a poorly underthrown pass in the end zone. The last turnover didn't come until the fourth quarter and led to the team's game winning field goal when Mario Williams forced a fumble on the Dolphins' quarterback.
The Bills' defense has struggled for the majority of the season in terms of stopping offenses moving up and down the field, but one area they have excelled in is forcing turnovers. If they are able to force turnovers, this group will keep the Bills in the game. But if they can't, like against Cleveland, they will struggle.
The Bills Can Win on the Road
For the first time this year, Buffalo will be getting back on the plane to western New York with one more win than when they left. This win was important considering the fact that five of the team's final nine games are on the road.
This game looked like it was heading towards fans saying, "these are the same ol' Bills." Buffalo jumped out to a big 14-point lead, but Miami slowly chipped away at this and the Bills were down 21-17 heading into the fourth. In years past, this team would close up shop and move on to the next game.
However this team was able to stay composed and make plays when they needed to to get the win. This type of experience should help the Bills heading into future road games.
Veterans Lead by Example
With a team like this using as many young players in major roles, a veteran presence on the field and in the locker room is extremely important. Fred Jackson and Mario Williams are two veterans who led by example against the Dolphins and made plays when they were needed.
Fred Jackson had 85 yards from scrimmage and one rushing touchdown, but he was clearly not 100 percent after going down with a knee injury in the first quarter. Jackson understood Buffalo's running back situation and made sure he was on the field as much as he could be.
On the other side of the ball, Mario Williams had a huge fourth quarter with two sacks and a forced fumble. The fumble led to the Bills' game winning field goal. Williams has one of the highest sack totals in the NFL right now with 10 on the season.