Before getting into the breakdown of yesterday’s Bills-Dolphins game, I must say as a fan, it feels really really good to be able to say we squished the Fish again. That game felt like a rivalry game. Terrell Owens said that prior to the game, fellow wide receiver Lee Evans called everyone together to explain the significance of the rivalry.
I’m glad that Evans did that. For too long, the Bills players haven’t cared about what has long been the most hated rivals of the Bills. Kudos to Evans on reminding the players of what this means to us fans.
Alright, on to the game. I admit that I actually picked the hated Dolphins to win this game. I figured with the Bills’ beat up offensive line, the Fins’ D would take over the game. I also thought that Ricky Williams would run roughshod over the Bills’ D even with the improvements we had made against the Jaguars and Maurice Jones-Drew the previous weekend.
With how the first series was going, it looked like I was going to be right about Williams. Then the Dolphins got cute. One of the assets of having Ronnie Brown run the Wildcat is that he can throw the ball every once in a while to keep defenses honest.
Well, while Williams is playing really good football, it became very obvious that he’s no Brown on first and goal by throwing a pick to let points come off the scoreboard.
The first half was definitely a slug fest, with neither team really taking control of the game. The Dolphins had their chances to take control of the game, with Williams gaining a lot of yardage. However, that pick on the first drive really hurt them.
So did Ryan Fitzpatrick with his legs. The Bills quarterback rolled out of the pocket from the Dolphins 31 yard line, had no one open and a clear lane. So he ran. And ran. And ran. 31 yards to the end zone for the longest scoring run by a Bills quarterback. He looked positively Doug Flutie-esque in that game.
Yes, he made mistakes. However, it’s completely obvious that Fitzpatrick is the gutsiest quarterback the Bills have had possibly since Flutie and he’s definitely the right man for the job right now. He probably isn’t the answer long-term for the Bills. He has a low ceiling because he isn’t the most accurate passer.
However, he gives the Bills the best chance to win the rest of the season. He’s reading defenses well, making the correct calls at the line, and he’s willing to put the ball up for his playmakers.
The game was deadlocked at seven going into the half. All things considered, the Bills had to be happy with that result.
However, the Dolphins got the ball to start the second half and drove down the field for nine minutes and punched the ball into the end zone. Huge drive. The Bills were done. This had happened in the past, and the team always collapsed.
Not this time. Interim head coach Perry Fewell has definitely given this team a new lease on life and a new outlook, because the offense got the ball back and actually answered with a long seven minute touchdown drive of their own. That’s when things began to feel like this was a completely different team.
That was confirmed when Brian Moorman pinned the Dolphins back at their own two, the defense held, and Fewell trusted Rian Lindell to line up for a 56-yard field goal.
To understand the significance of that, Lindell had never hit a field goal that long before. Also, he missed one for 44-yards earlier in the game. So what did he do?
He cleared the crossbar and gave the Bills a 17-14 lead. Then Drayton Florence finally got to cap off his very good game. Florence had the best game of his short Bills career on Sunday. He’s easily the most physical corner the Bills have and he covers extremely well.
On that three-and-out from the Dolphins two yard line, Florence made a huge pass breakup on first down that would have put the Dolphins out past their own 20.
On the next drive, Chris Kelsay got great pressure on quarterback Chad Henne, causing him to underthrow his receiver and Florence made him pay by picking it off. The Bills set up on their own 49 yard line with just over three minutes left. Time to run out the clock, right?
Wrong. As Fewell said in his press conference, the team focus was on being aggressive. If you see an opportunity, take it.
So Fitzpatrick seized an opportunity. The Dolphins had single coverage on Owens. Fitzpatrick audibled out of the pass play that had been called and had Owens run straight up the field. Fitzpatrick just put the ball up, Owens beat the rookie corner back cleanly and caught the ball for a 51-yard touchdown. The rout was on.
The defense picked off Henne three times in the fourth quarter, the offense scored 24 points in the fourth as well, and the Bills reversed their fourth quarter fortunes in a big way, beating the Dolphins 31-14.
So how did they do it? How did the Bills make this happen? Each phase of the team stepped up in a huge way. All three set out with specific goals in mind and achieved them.
The defense set out to do two things. First was to contain Ricky Williams. Yes, Williams had a good rushing day, clearing 100 yards and getting a touchdown. However, the majority of that yardage was had in the first half and part of the way through the third quarter. Usually teams run over the defense in the fourth. Williams was a non-factor in the fourth quarter.
The other objective was to force turnovers. Three interceptions in the fourth quarter was huge. Clutch, even. There was no fourth quarter collapse. The defense succeeded in forcing Henne to try to win the game, and then forced him to make bad throws and capitalized on them. Very successful day.
The offense came out with an aggressive mentality and it showed. They hung tough with the Dolphins, didn’t give up after the long scoring drive in the third, and then once they had the lead, they didn’t back off. This is the biggest difference between the Jauron era and how Fewell coaches.
Jauron would have had the team run out the clock with a 17-14 lead. Who knows what would have happened. Too often that’s resulted in a last minute loss. Not with Fewell, however. He preached aggressiveness. The best time to be aggressive is after creating a turnover. 24 fourth quarter points is aggressive. They had the Dolphins by their proverbial throats and didn’t let up for once. That’s why they won.
The special teams had a task almost as difficult as the defense having to contain Ricky Williams. They had to contain Ted Ginn Jr, who gashed the Jets a few weeks ago for two touchdown returns. However, on Sunday that was nowhere to be found. The coverage teams did absolutely phenomenal, filling the return lanes and not letting Ginn shake tackles.
This was a team win, there’s no question. Each phase did what they set out to do. The coaching staff had this team ready to fight, and they fought hard and for sixty minutes, rather than 58. Now for a short week and back to the fight on Thursday night against the New York Jets in Toronto.