Bills vs. Dolphins: Live Game Grades and Analysis for Buffalo

Joshua Cornwall@jcstatsContributor IDecember 22, 2013

Thad Lewis gets the start as EJ Manuel suffers a mystery knee injury.
Thad Lewis gets the start as EJ Manuel suffers a mystery knee injury.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills trounced the Miami Dolphins 19-0 to register their first sweep of their division rival in seven years. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller spoiled the Dolphins' playoff hopes with a dominating rushing performance in the second half to seal the game. 

Final Score:

Dolphins: 0

Bills: 19

Buffalo Bills Game Grades
Positional UnitFirst Half GradesGame Grades
Pass OffenseB-B
Run OffenseBA
Pass DefenseA-A
Run DefenseAA
Special TeamsCB-
Buffalo Bills Week 16

Final Analysis for the Buffalo Bills

Pass Offense: Lewis settled down after his tough start and was resigned to a game manager as the Bills fixated on establishing the run game in the second half. His numbers were not flashy, but Lewis moved the ball when he needed to and executed several tough third downs.

Run Offense: The recipe for success in 2013 always needed to be the run game, but too often this season the Bills haven’t committed to moving on the ground. The Bills ran for 198 yards last week against Jacksonville and they had a similarly impressive day against the Dolphins on a wet Sunday. Fred Jackson had his first 100-yard game this year and Spiller had a great fourth quarter to pad his stats. Perhaps the commitment to the run is a preview of what Bills fans should expect in Marrone’s second season.

Pass Defense: Seven sacks. The Bills surely cemented themselves as the sacks leader in the NFL for 2013 with an inspired performance against an overmatched Dolphins offensive line. Nickell Robey had a monster day with two pass break-ups and two sacks on corner blitzes. Was there a better trade this offseason than the Kelvin Sheppard for Jerry Hughes swap?

Hughes tripled his career total by tallying his 10th sack of the year in the fourth quarter. As a pure pass-rusher, Hughes is quickly becoming one of the best in the AFC. Stephon Gilmore had his second great game in a row after a midseason swoon following an injury. Gilmore held Brian Hartline to one catch for three yards until a 50-yard bomb by Matt Moore during garbage time.

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Run Defense: Dominant. Not a word the Bills get to use often when referencing their run defense. The front seven plugged every hole all afternoon and forced the Dolphins into passing situations in the tough conditions. Sure, the Dolphins are not a good running team, but this same Bills defense gave up 120 yards rushing to Miami in their first meeting.

Special Teams: McKelvin should have been pulled from the punt team after his second muff of the game, but Dan Carpenter brings this unit’s grade up. Carpenter hit on all four of his field goals and set a career high with his 31st made field goal on his last score of the game.

Coaching: Effort, effort, effort. The Bills had not won back-to-back games all season and they accomplished that feat in dominating fashion. The Bills were the better-coached team on Sunday and the end result reflects a great game plan by Marrone and his staff. A lot to feel good about the team moving forward, regardless of what happens next week in Foxborough.

Fred Jackson put the Bills on his back in the second half and he finished with an 100-yard rushing day.
Fred Jackson put the Bills on his back in the second half and he finished with an 100-yard rushing day.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

First-Half Analysis for the Buffalo Bills

Pass Offense: Backup quarterback Thad Lewis was really bad to start the game, beginning 1-for-7. Some of the misses were due to him taking several shots downfield, but the Bills also left a few points on the field because of overthrows. He redeemed himself in the second quarter and at one point went 9-for-10 over the course of two drives, before throwing a costly pick in Dolphins territory.

Run Offense: Take away Marquise Goodwin’s end-around that lost three yards and led to an injury, and Buffalo has gotten positive yardage on the majority of other carries. Fred Jackson has gotten a few more carries than Spiller and has a nice nine-yard touchdown on a cutback to give the Bills a 10-point lead. The use of the two running backs continues to be interesting, as a majority of Spiller’s carries have been between the tackles. His longest carry for nine yards was off the right tackle.

Pass Defense: The pass rush for Buffalo set the tone early and forced the Dolphins offense into more 3rd-and-long situations than they would like. Mike Pettine has changed the looks on third down to confuse Ryan Tannehill with Nickell Robey and Da’Norris Searcy each registering a sack from the secondary. Coverage has been excellent, only allowing a handful of intermediate comeback routes to Mike Wallace.

Run Defense: A week after making Jordan Todman look like an All-Pro, the Bills look dedicated to stopping Miami’s rushing attack. The Dolphins are not a team that has run the ball well this season, but there is consistently a Bills presence in the backfield. Not a recipe for success to sustain drives.

Special Teams: This unit had a shaky start with a Leodis McKelvin botched punt return and Brian Moorman’s 13-yard shank in the first quarter. However, Dan Carpenter continues to be an MVP for the Bills as he made another long field goal in less-than-stellar field conditions.

Coaching: The Bills had an uphill battle today against a hungry Dolphins squad, but their game plan has been superior thus far. Pettine gets an A+ for shutting down the Dolphins offense, while Nate Hackett has shown an aggression on the offensive end that Bills fans haven’t seen all year.

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