The Buffalo Bills finally found a way to win a close game. The Bills went into Miami on Sunday and beat the Dolphins 23-21 on a last minute field-goal by former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter. This was an ugly win, but a win none the less. Here are some takeaways from a much needed Buffalo victory.
Thad Lewis showed some of his inexperience Sunday. Lewis was faced with constant pressure from Cameron Wake and company all game. Thad looked like he was having trouble figuring out where to go with the ball, often opting to dumping down to his backs. Lewis ended up finishing 21-32 with 202 yards and an interception in his first career victory as a starter. Lewis is going to need to continue to improve in the next few weeks as the Bills wait for their starter, E.J. Manuel, to return from his knee injury.
Injuries finally caught up with running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. These two backs have been banged up for what seems like all season, but still manage to be on the field on Sundays. Usually they have decent games, but this week was different. Spiller, who is hobbled by an ankle injury, only managed to rush for 11 yards, a season low for him. Jackson was a little bit better, rushing for 36 yards and a touchdown. The running game is a big part of the Bills’ offense, and they need these guys to get healthy for it to remain that way.
The rushing futility isn’t all Jackson and Spiller’s fault. The offensive line really struggled against the Dolphins front 7. Miami’s defensive linemen clogged every running lane, making the running game obsolete. Quarterback Thad Lewis was constantly under pressure, causing him to make quick decisions, something that he isn’t good enough to do yet. This offensive line has been getting bailed out all season with a healthy Spiller being elusive and E.J. Manuel using his legs to make plays. Now that Spiller is hurt and Thad Lewis is under center, this weakness is being exposed.
Defensively, the Bills couldn’t tackle anyone. Every Dolphins running back looked like Adrian Peterson out there. I didn’t look at the stat, but I think Miami had 1,298 rushing yards after contact. Just a ball park estimate.
Not everything on the defensive side was bad though. Buffalo did a decent job of getting pressure on the quarterback In the 4th quarter Mario Williams finally got to Ryan Tannehill, sacking him twice, the last one forcing a fumble that set up the game winning field goal.
The defensive backs played well during portions of the game, only allowing Tannehill to throw for 196 yards. Jairus Byrd and company was able to break up passes when they needed too. They forced 2 interceptions, both in the first half, one of which went for a touchdown. This secondary is finally all healthy and fans need to be patient as they get back into playing shape. Look for them to improve as the season goes on.
Although special teams is a small facet of the game, Buffalo almost had it bite them in the butt again this week. Last week against the Bengals, Buffalo allowed a punt to be returned to their own 30 yard line in overtime that set up the game winning field goal. This week, with only 36 seconds left in regulation, they allowed the Dolphins to return the ball to the 40. This almost cost them the game again. Luckily, the defense stepped up and got the stop.
Now that the Bills have some momentum, they look ahead to Week 8 where they…travel to New Orleans. Hmmm…well then. Forget I mentioned next week, enjoy the win Bills fans.