“When we’re healthy, we’re going to be pretty tough.”
Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan couldn’t have said it better.
In a game that signaled the return of several key offensive starters, the Buffalo Bills fired off against an AFC East foe, winning 33-17 over the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had 225 total yards and a beautiful touchdown pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who reeled in 8 catches for 168 yards. Running back LeSean McCoy had 16 carries for 112 yards rushing and a touchdown, while rookie running back Karlos Williams needed only 9 carries to run for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.
For Taylor (missed last two games), Watkins (three games) and Williams (three games), it was a nice welcome back into the lineup. For Buffalo, the trio’s return was validation that the offense is dangerous when healthy.
Miami running back Lamar Miller had 141 all-purpose yards (97 receiving), while Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry reeled in 11 catches for 69 yards.
Here are some other postgame observations from Buffalo’s second division win of the year:
- The penalties reared their ugly head once again. Buffalo was flagged another 13 times for 94 yards, but it was the two personal fouls that had people shaking their head. Bills linebacker Preston Brown had a face mask penalty when he had his man wrapped up, with no need to grab near the opponent’s face mask. But the Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes added to his league leading sixth personal foul penalty of the year by hitting Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill WELL after he was out of bounds. Hughes may have atoned with a strip-sack when Miami was threatening to make it a one-score game, but he hasn’t made enough of those plays this year to counter his horrible lack of discipline.
- The Bills offense teed off on Miami again. Taylor didn’t need to do much in the passing game, with McCoy and Williams taking all of the rushing yards they pleased. But once again, as he usually has done this season, Taylor answered the bell when a play needed to be made. With Miami backing Buffalo out of field goal range, and a 3rd-and-14 looming, Taylor lofted a beauty of a deep ball to Watkins, who had beaten his man right off of the line. The Bills had a 5 point lead before that throw, then Buffalo broke the game open.
- There have been issues with the Bills on defense, and the headlines usually deal with pressure- or lack thereof- on opposing quarterbacks. It needs to be pointed out that Buffalo has done an awful job with covering running backs in the passing game. The Bills have allowed 416 yards on 36 catches to opposing running backs this year, which is 11.5 yards per catch. That’s right, a first down per catch to backs out of the backfield. It’s clear that linebackers Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham are not fitting well into Ryan’s scheme.
- It was refreshing to see the Bills at close to full strength on offense. McCoy is better when Williams is healthy. They feed off of each other. Watkins makes the passing game go, either by taking over or by being shadowed and opening up wideouts Robert Woods and Chris Hogan and tight end Charles Clay. If the Bills want to make some noise in a playoff push, they need Taylor, McCoy, Williams and Watkins healthy. The offense needs them in order to have a chance to help win games, as the defense has shown flaws in their game.
- Bills cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby continue to be among the best tandems in the NFL. At the end of the first half, Miami gambled and tried to throw a pass for a touchdown. However, Gilmore was there to break it up. The play before that, Gilmore took a pass interference penalty that directly stopped a touchdown. Darby didn’t allow many big plays, even though there were many passes completed.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Bills (4-4, 2-1 AFC East) don’t have much time to celebrate, as they head to East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on the New York Jets (5-3, 1-1 AFC East) in a game of many stories. First, the winner takes the inside track on second place in the AFC East and controls their own fate in the AFC playoff picture. Second, Buffalo faces off against former Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and former head coach Chan Gailey, who is now New York’s offensive coordinator.
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