Bills’ pass rush, running attack too much for Dolphins
ORCHARD PARK – The Buffalo Bills (6-9) gave their fans an early Christmas present Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium as they dismantled the Miami Dolphins (8-7), 19-0.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Bills’ head coach Doug Marrone said. “They worked hard all week again. We talked to them about (getting) two wins in a row, which we haven’t done (this season). I’m excited about that. We have to finish strong.”
The main reason the Bills were able to put a damper on the Dolphins’ playoff plans was their ability to create pressure on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked seven times and held to just 10 of 27 passing for 82 yards.
“We’ve built a foundation from the beginning,” Bills’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “But we wanted to finish it. We wanted to have momentum going into next year. I think the guys really took that to heart, and said, ‘Hey, listen, this is our playoff game.’ And again, you just looked at the view from the sideline, our guys just looked a step quicker than (Miami) did.”
The Bills needed two sacks Sunday to break the team record of 50 set in 1964, and by the end of the game, the defense had shattered the old record and set a new one at 56 with one game to go.
“Those guys have done a good job all year,” Marrone said. “I think it’s very difficult. You have to pick and choose who you want to match up with, where you want to go, who do you want to slide to, who do you want to double-team inside, what do you want to do with Mario (Williams)? Jerry Hughes has really picked it up and played well. Then, plus now you’ve got people coming from the outside, other people. I think the quality of those players and the way they perform is at a very high level for pass rushing.”
Getting in on the action was 5-foot, 8-inch defensive back Nickell Robey, who was picked up by the Bills this offseason as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Southern California.
“Today was fun,” Robey said. “I felt like the D-line did a good job getting all the attention from the O-linemen, shifting the protection got me open a few times for some sacks. It was good, it was fun.”
Robey finished the game with a pair of sacks, but he thought he could have had more, including a near safety in the fourth quarter.
“I was so close,” Robey said. “I hate saying so close, because it didn’t happen. But I was so mad at myself because I didn’t slow down, I just went straight at him. I got a little too excited, came full speed and (Tannehill) just made a quarterback move on me and I went sliding all over the place.”
The Bills finished their schedule at Ralph Wilson Stadium at 4-3, the third straight year they’ve finished with a winning record on their home field.
“Our guys love playing at home,” Marrone said. “I know people say that, I think the fans are great, they’re outstanding. I think our guys get fired up. I think it’s a different feel and I have to do a good job of getting our players ready because we go on the road (Week 17). We have to get our players ready to go on the road and play like they’ve played at home.”
Heading into the game at 5-9, and having been eliminated from the AFC playoff picture weeks ago, the Bills had little to play for. But with the Dolphins entering the game with their playoff hopes still in tact, Buffalo had the chance to play the role of spoiler. And they did it quite well, as the defense held Miami to 103 yards on 52 offensive plays.
“You try not to kind of dwell on what you could’ve done different,” Bills’ defensive tackle Kyle Williams said of the season. “You just kind of fight human nature worrying about that. I think that we’ve got a chance to be really, really good because the combination of schematically what we’re doing and the combination of the players we have. Like I said, I feel more excited about what’s ahead of us than regret looking back.”
The Bills were impressive on third and fourth downs on Sunday as the Dolphins went just 2 of 15.
“We didn’t play well,” Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin said. We had no rhythm on offense. We didn’t have a lot of first downs on offense. We didn’t protect the quarterback well on offense. We didn’t run the ball well on offense. We didn’t convert third downs.
“They outplayed us,” Philbin continued. “I wish I had a better answer. If I had a better answer, I would have stopped it. But they clearly outplayed us at the line of scrimmage. That’s where football starts, and they played well. Give credit to them.”
On offense, the Bills did what they needed to do to put points on the board. Thad Lewis started for E.J. Manuel, who was missing yet another game with a knee injury, and did a serviceable job, passing for 193 yards. But it was what the Bills were able to do on the ground that was the catalyst for their offensive success on Sunday.
“For us to come out here and put together a performance like we did today, it’s something that we can definitely grow on,” Bills’ running back Fred Jackson, who became only the third back in Buffalo’s history to surpass 5,000 yards rushing, said. “We’ve got a great opportunity next week to go on and win a game in New England, which I haven’t done since I’ve been here.”
Jackson finished with 111 yards on 19 carries and the game’s only touchdown while C.J. Spiller added 77 yards on 20 touches.
“The way he goes about his business, I give him credit,” Marrone said of Jackson, who is battling a rib injury. “Everyone knows we had some time with him; we took him out during (practice) this week to rest him a little bit. He’s taken some good shots along the year.”
As a team, Buffalo racked up 203 yards on 51 attempts, cementing its place amongst the NFL’s top rushing teams.
“We had a great game plan going in,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to give credit to the coaches for that. They put together a game plan that worked well for us.”
Despite another losing season – the Bills have finished below .500 for nine consecutive years – Marrone is excited his team has something to build on moving forward.
“We, as a team, are disappointed in where we are from a record standpoint,” Marrone said. “But the difference is that I told (the media) during the week that these two games would be critical. We got off to a good start with this game, let’s go ahead and finish this (next) game strong.
“We feel good about ourselves knowing that there are situations we have to get better in,” Marrone continued. “but there are some things that we’ve done very well that we’re proud of.”