It’s days like Sunday that really make you think about what could have been for the Buffalo Bills. Facing an opponent with a much better record and playing for their playoff lives, the Bills stood tall and destroyed Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins.
The loss makes things really interesting in the AFC Wild Card race. Miami, the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers are all tied at 8-7 with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the mix at 7-8. As for the Bills? Sunday was the first time since Weeks 2 and 3 of last season that the Bills have won two in a row.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right into what we learned from Sunday’s 19-0 home victory.
I Be Like Dang
So the Bills have a pretty good pass rush. On the strength of seven sacks (which pushed them to a new team-record of 56, besting 1964’s high of 50 during a 14-game season), the Bills defense held the Dolphins to just 103 yards of total offense or just two yards per play.
Tannehill never stood a chance, going 10-of-27 for just 82 yards before being injured. Matt Moore wasn’t much better, going 2-of-6 for 53 yards and two interceptions. Everyone on the defense got in on the sack party. Kyle Williams and rookie corner Nickell Robey had a pair of sacks apiece while Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes and Da’Norris Searcy chipped in one each for the Bills’ first shutout at The Ralph since they beat Miami 21-0 on Dec. 17, 2006.
Not only that, but the Bills shut down the running game completely. The Dolphins only ran the ball a dozen times for 14 yards with Lamar Miller picking up a team-high eight yards. It was the kind of dominating performance we all thought the defense was capable of this season.
If the Bills can bring back this group with an improved offense next year, it might be time to start thinking, dare I say it, playoffs.
Fred Jackson Express
Part of the reason the Bills rolled is because the Dolphins could not stop them on the ground. Fred Jackson had a banner day, running the ball 19 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. C.J. Spiller joined the party with another 77 yards of his own as the Bills topped 200 yards rushing on the day.
It’s no secret by now that when the Bills win they’re usually carried by the defense and the running game, and that was painfully apparent on Sunday. The problem this season has been that when the run game goes down the offense struggles mightily. And unfortunately, there are questions abound heading into next year. What’s going on with Jackson? Will they have him back? Is Spiller an every-down back or is he going to have to be platooned for the rest of his career?
It’s nice to see the ground game take off, but for the Bills to be successful they need to get consistency out of the running game.
An Emerging Secondary Target
With Stevie Johnson out due to a death in the family, the default No. 1 receiver role fell into the hands of Robert Woods. He wasn’t outstanding, but his three catches for 70 yards is hard to complain about.
Woods has slowly evolved into a more dependable target, and the potential is apparent as the year has progressed. If the offense is going to take the next step forward and make the Bills better next season, Woods will need to be a huge part of that.
Having Woods and Johnson playing at their absolute best at all times could turn the receiving unit into a plus overnight.