Dolphins vs Bills: 9 Things We Learned from Miami's 30-23 Win

Scott AltmanCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2011

Dolphins vs Bills: 9 Things We Learned from Miami's 30-23 Win

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    The Miami Dolphins picked up their fifth victory of the 2011 NFL season on Sunday, defeating the Buffalo Bills, 30-23, in a snow-drenched shootout. 

    Miami dominated from the get-go thanks to a legendary performance by Reggie Bush, who ran for a career-high 205 yards. Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall reeled in a 65-yard touchdown and Vontae Davis intercepted two passes. 

    The Dolphins didn't miss a beat in their first game under interim head coach Todd Bowles, who deserves credit for keeping the 'Fins inspired and soaking great production out of the team's marquee players. 

    Even though the season is winding down to a close for Miami, there are still plenty of lessons to take away from Sunday's win. 

Just in Case You Still Had Any Doubt...Reggie Bush Can Be an Every-Down Back

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    Remember when the Miami Dolphins traded for Reggie Bush back in July?

    "He's not an every-down back," exclaimed pundits nationwide.

    But the Dolphins and Bush both insisted that wasn't true

    And on Sunday, Bush officially put all of his critics to rest. 

    Bush ran for a career-high 205 yards on 23 carries, including a game-sealing 76-yard touchdown scamper. The Dolphins front office often looks foolish, but this might have been the best offseason transaction in the entire league. 

Todd Bowles Has a Bright Future in the NFL, but He Won't Earn the Dolphins Job

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    Todd Bowles deserves some serious credit for coaching the Dolphins to a victory against the Bills on Sunday. Miami's locker room had to be shattered after Tony Sparano was fired, and trekking up to snowy Buffalo in a meaningless game probably didn't excite much of the roster.

    But Bowles managed to inspire the 'Fins, and they cruised to a win. 

    However, don't expect Bowles to earn the Dolphins head coaching job. Remember, this was a meaningless game against a struggling Bills team. Unless Miami wins out, Bowles will likely return to a secondary role on the coaching staff or find a job elsewhere. 

Vontae Davis May Be Ready to Become an Elite Cornerback

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    Just a few weeks ago, the Dolphins left Vontae Davis at home while they traveled to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. Davis allegedly showed up to practice hungover that week, and Tony Sparano sent a stern message to the young corner by benching him. 

    Since then, Davis has completely revived his game. On Sunday, he had the first multi-interception game of his career.

    Davis hasn't quite lived up to the expectations many had for him, but he now seems to be emerging as a legitimate lockdown cornerback. He surrendered some inexcusable receptions against Buffalo's receiving corps, but he is promising nonetheless. 

What Should We Make of Daniel Thomas?

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    Daniel Thomas rushed for 36 yards on eight carries against the Bills—solid production from the second-round draft pick. 

    But set aside a 28-yard run, and Thomas ran for just eight yards on seven carries. 

    Thomas has struggled mightily this season, but he does show the occasional glimpse of explosiveness. However, his inconsistency and overall lack of success is disconcerting. Thomas has two games left to show that he deserves an integral role in Miami's offense, or perhaps the Dolphins will hunt for another back to help backup Reggie Bush. 

Matt Moore Doesn't Seem to Have Much Room for Growth

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    Matt Moore should win team MVP honors for his incredible play this season, but he is by no means a long-term solution. 

    Moore doesn't appear capable of leading an aerial attack. Instead, he is simply a possession quarterback—he can protect the ball and win games, but he can't post big numbers or erase large deficits. This isn't groundbreaking analysis, but he reaffirmed all of these notions against the Bills.

    Moore played admirably, completing 10 of 20 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns. This performance essentially epitomized his abilities, which aren't sufficient to grant him the opportunity to be a franchise quarterback. 

The Dolphins Might Be Playing Themselves out of Contention for RGIII and Barkley

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    After Sunday's victory, the Dolphins now stand at 5-9. If the season ended today, teams like the Rams, Jaguars, Browns and Redskins would all draft ahead of the 'Fins. 

    All four of those teams could be in the market for quarterbacks this offseason, leaving Miami's chances of landing Robert Griffin III or Matt Barkley in serious jeopardy. 

    Miami has to face the Patriots and Jets over the next two weeks, and there's a good chance that they lose at least one of those two games. Regardless, though, the Dolphins might have already played themselves out of contention for a blue-chip QB, and they might have to trade up if they want one of them. 

Miami Should Be Able to Attract the Hottest Head Coach Candidates

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    In his weekly column, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter wrote about the Dolphins head coaching search. Schefter wrote:

    Ross undoubtedly will look to hire a head-coaching star. He might opt to pursue former Titans coach Jeff Fisher or former Steelers coach Bill Cowher. It would be a surprise if either man opted for the organization and its difficult working conditions in Miami, just as former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh bypassed the Dolphins. More than likely, the Dolphins will be unable to land the biggest names on the market and will have to turn to a coach with a lower profile to try to raise the organization to the heights of yesteryear. Worthy choices would include CFL coaching sensation Marc Trestman, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Packers assistant head coach Winston Moss, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer or even former Giants head coach Jim Fassel. Miami could do a lot worse than hiring any of these coaches.

    But after watching the Dolphins defeat the Bills on Sunday, it's extremely difficult to agree with anything Schefter said. The city of Miami itself should attract some candidates, but more importantly, the Dolphins have one of the league's youngest teams and they are loaded with talent. 

    Plus, they have played hard despite an 0-7 start, and more recently, the firing of their head coach. Expect the 'Fins to draw a big name in this offseason despite Schefter's insistence that they will not. 

Brian Hartline Rarely Gets Any Notoriety, but He Definitely Deserves Some

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    Outside of Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins wide receiver corps is nothing to write home about. 

    Brian Hartline and Davone Bess have both regressed statistically this season, but Hartline reminded us just how good he can be on Sunday. He reeled in three receptions for 69 yards, including a pair of acrobatic deep passes.

    Hartline has registered a measly 26 receptions on 47 targets this season, but he clearly obtains the skill set to be a serviceable receiver in this league. 

Brandon Marshall Needs to Curb His Drops Next Season

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    Nothing beats watching Brandon Marshall streak down the field for a 65-yard touchdown reception like he did on Sunday afternoon. After all, the Dolphins mortgaged so much to obtain him. 

    However, Marshall's drops have become a serious issue, one that he must shore up for next season. He dropped an inexcusable, wide-open touchdown catch against the Bills. 

    Before Sunday's game, Marshall ranked second in the league in drops with 11. He will likely be tied for the top spot after Sunday, which is an embarrassing nod for a player making over $10 million per season.