The Buffalo Bills grinded out a tough victory against the Miami Dolphins in Orchard Park on Sunday, winning 26-11 and completing the season sweep of the Dolphins in the process.
It was not a game many expected or wanted. After the Dolphins lost two close games against two bad teams in the Jaguars and Falcons, many people expected the Bills to trounce the Dolphins, as they have many times in the Josh Allen era. It was a win, and that is ultimately what is most important, but it was filled with errors, penalties, and far too many miscues offensively.
The Bills have a lot to figure out, and it’s not something that fans want to hear, especially coming out of the bye week, but it’s the truth. For now though, we’ll take a look at what was most inspiring about the Bills today, what needs more questions asked, what unit requires a better performance, and what was most irksome about the day.
Inspire: Allen and Beasley, and the Bills defense.
Cole Beasley was the savior the Bills offense needed in the second half. Beasley finished with 10 catches for 110 yards and absolutely dominated the Dolphins, keeping the Bills offense alive on numerous occasions when they looked dead in the water.
With the addition of Sanders to the offense and the emergence of Knox as a legitimate TE, Beasley’s production has dropped from where it was in previous seasons, but it is very clear that the Bills still understand the veteran’s value to the offense, and it showed up in a big way today.
Allen finished the game 29/42 for 249 passing yards, and two passing TDs, while also being the Bills’ leading rusher with 8 attempts for 55 yards and 1 rushing TD. After a very slow start, Allen recovered and played at a high level for the rest of the game.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Bills’ defense, and their smothering performance today. They were put in unfavorable positions for most of the day with the offense struggling early on, but they just kept fighting and making stops. Some things went their way, such as a shanked field goal at the end of a long Dolphins drive, and a botched snap that hit TE Mike Gesicki as he came in motion across the formation, giving the Bills possession at the end of the first half. The Bills defense still played extremely well, Ed Oliver was a force all day, Tre White came very close to numerous turnovers, and Jordan Poyer came up with a clutch interception late in the fourth quarter, but the standout play to me was the hit Matt Milano delivered early in the third quarter that seemed to energize the Bills sideline, and wake up the team as a whole.
Inquire: Bills’ Offensive Line
With Spencer Brown missing this game due to a back injury suffered in practice, the Bills had to shuffle their offensive line (again). The last 3 weeks saw a lineup of Dawkins, Feliciano, Morse, Williams, and Brown from Left to Right. With Brown out, they moved Feliciano from Left Guard to Right Guard, pushed Daryl Williams back out to Right Tackle, and started Ike Boettger at Left Guard. One injury caused a shift of 3 different players on the OL.
What is also telling, and perhaps foreshadowing a potential move before the trade deadline, Cody Ford was not a part of the Bills’ OL shuffle and he seems to be firmly on the bench for this team. There are plenty of teams with OL needs across the NFL, and while Ford would be a worthwhile project for a team to take on, it’s also unlikely that the Bills won’t want to exacerbate their OL depth even further this season if they can help it. It’s unlikely Ford gets moved, despite his lack of playing time.
Require: Bills’ conservative coaching
The Bills seemed far too conservative all game, not wanting to make mistakes and give the Dolphins a better chance to win the game. It ended up working against them, as they played into the Dolphins heavy-blitz attack, trying to pressure Allen.
McDermott seemed too willing to settle for FGs, and while Tyler Bass is borderline automatic from almost any range, it’s not a winning formula in the future. Great teams don’t settle for FGs when they can get short conversions on fourth down. Good teams score TDs, and push the ball downfield. The Bills did a great job of adjusting, throwing more short passes to beat the Dolphins blitz, but it’s concerning that they came out flat and conservative coming off a bye week.
Irk: Brian Daboll
Brian Daboll made some good adjustments at halftime to counter Miami’s heavy blitzing approach, but the offensive play calling as a whole was uninspired and lagging. Especially coming off a bye, the Bills seemed very unprepared for a Dolphins defense that has been in shambles for the last few weeks. Daboll seemed particularly determined to establish the run on early downs, despite it not being effective at any point, or any down during the entire game. Again, coming out of a bye, against a familiar opponent that you have dominated easily in previous matchups, it should not take until the 3rd quarter to look even semi-competent against any team.
The Bills’ next game will be against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, who seem to be another Florida team mired in disorganization and messy controversies. The Jaguars are still a talented team, and if there is one clear takeaway from this game, it is that the Bills cannot afford to overlook any team moving forward. As Jags HC Urban Meyer learned early on, ‘It’s like playing Alabama every week.’