Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: F
The decision to play LeSean McCoy was a disaster. He admitted after the game that it could have hurt the team, and the results would indicate that. He ran for 11 yards on eight carries before leaving in the third quarter. If the team doesn’t trust Mike Gillislee to handle the load for a week against the 31-st ranked run defense in the league, why is he on the roster as the No. 2 running back? The 67 yards on 22 carries, an average of just 3.0 per rush, perfectly illustrates what a terrible day it was.
PASSING GAME: D
It looked like a preseason game with the receivers the Bills started, and for the most part the results would back that up. Tyrod Taylor struggled, completing just 14 of 28 passes. He was sacked four times as the offensive line struggled not only to open holes in the running game, but also protect Taylor. There were more troubling signs from Taylor – he missed a wide-open Nick O’Leary on a third down and took a sack, then couldn’t mount any kind of rally when the Bills got the ball back with just under 4 minutes left down by four points. The 66-yard touchdown strike from Taylor to Marquise Goodwin was a beauty.
RUN DEFENSE: R
As in, rated “R.” Shield your eyes from the horror, because this was graphic. The Bills were shredded to the tune of 256 yards on 42 carries. Simply put, they got their butts kicked along the line of scrimmage. The red-zone defense, which had been so good coming in, collapsed and allowed scoring runs of 4 and 12 yards in the second half.
PASS DEFENSE: C-
Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby were supposed to be one of the elite duos in the NFL, but haven’t come close to establishing themselves as that this season. Darby got beat for the deciding points when Miami receiver Kenny Stills got behind him for a 66-yard touchdown. Gilmore took a holding penalty that gave the Dolphins a free first down. The Dolphins went 5 of 12 on third down, with four of the conversions coming through the air and another on a scramble by Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
This was the only phase of the game the Bills won definitively. After a penalty forced Miami to punt again in the second quarter, Lerentee McCray blocked it, setting up a short field that the Bills capitalized on when Tyrod Taylor ran in from 10 yards out. Brandon Tate, who was an absolute monster, set up the Bills’ first points, which came on a Dan Carpenter field goal, with a 30-yard punt return. In the fourth quarter, Tate raced down field to down a Colton Schmidt punt at the 1-yard line. For a while, it looked like special teams alone might be the biggest contributing factor to a win.
It’s beyond easy to second-guess the decision to play LeSean McCoy. Rex Ryan said the Bills were “out everything-ed” and that’s an accurate statement. The decision to punt on fourth and 3 from the Miami 40-yard line was weak, weak, weak. There was another maddening blown timeout early in the third quarter. The offense had the same type of issues with getting plays off that were so apparent in the first two weeks.
Grading the Dolphins
RUNNING GAME: A+
They might build a statue of Jay Ajayi outside Hard Rock Stadium before the Dolphins’ next game. The 2015 fifth-round draft pick ran for more than 200 yards for the second straight game, just the fourth time in NFL history a player has done that. He finished with 214 yards on 29 carries, an average of 7.4 per rush, and scored a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The Dolphins’ starting offensive line, playing together for the second time this season, opened holes as big as I-95.
PASSING GAME: B-
Ryan Tannehill is no world beater, but made enough plays to get it done Sunday, finishing 15 of 25 for 204 yards and a touchdown. Stills finished with five catches for 100 yards, while Jarvis Landry was a tough cover for Buffalo, finishing with five receptions for 78 yards. A former first-round draft pick in 2015, DeVante Parker had just three catches for 20 yards. His pro career is off to a poor start.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Old friend Mario Williams had two tackles for loss, including a stop of Mike Gillislee in the fourth quarter that set the Bills back 10 yards. Led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins dominated up front. Before McCoy went out, he had very few holes to choose from. The league’s 31st-ranked run defense looked substantially better than that.
PASS DEFENSE: B
The Dolphins fared well in their first game without safety Reshad Jones, outside of a blown coverage by cornerback Byron Maxwell and/or safety Michael Thomas that led to Goodwin’s touchdown. The pass rush was fierce, led by hulking defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He had one sack and generally pushed around the Bills’ offensive line. Miami recorded five sacks as a team, including 1.5 from veteran Cam Wake. They also hit Taylor eight times.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Things were ugly here. The Dolphins had a punt blocked, took multiple penalties and were outperformed by on both the kick and punt coverage and return units. Punter Matt Darr averaged just 25 net yards on five punts thanks to the block and a 30-yard return allowed. Kicker Andrew Franks made field goals of 36 and 33 yards.
The Dolphins took 13 penalties for 116 yards. Landry said he didn’t know spinning the ball was a penalty. That’s hard to believe. It was somewhat confusing that Ajayi didn’t even get the ball more. Credit coach Adam Gase for keeping his team believing after a 1-4 start to the year.