Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: B-
It felt like the Buffalo Bills rushed for more than they actually did. LeSean McCoy got the 39 yards he needed to reach 10,000 career rushing yards, finishing with 50 yards on 20 carries. That career achievement overshadowed what was a tough day for Shady. Tyrod Taylor ran better than he has in weeks. His 42 rushing yards are the most he’s had since Week 7. Backup Travaris Cadet continues to provide a spark, producing 24 yards on six carries.
PASSING GAME: B+
If we stopped grading after the first half, it would have been an A+. Taylor was magnificent in the first half, going 12 of 18 for 165 yards, one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown. His ability to escape the pocket when the rush closed in was brilliant. Tight end Charles Clay had a big game against his former team with 68 yards on five catches. Taylor’s back-to-back throws in the second quarter that produced a 16-yard touchdown by McCoy and a 29-yard gain by Clay were two of his best all season.
RUN DEFENSE: B
A big lead meant the Dolphins went away from the run, which was good news for the Bills, because they had their hands full with Kenyan Drake. Miami finished with 100 yards on 21 carries, just eight of which came in the second half. Micah Hyde shot through the line for a tackle for loss early, while defensive ends Eddie Yarbrough and Ryan Davis gave the Bills solid play opposite Jerry Hughes in the run game. Linebacker Matt Milano had just three tackles, but he was impressive in blowing up a pay that allowed Hughes to stop Drake for a 5-yard loss.
PASS DEFENSE: A
Three interceptions, all of which came in the second half, put this game away for Buffalo. Rookie Tre’Davious White got the last one to clinch the win, while safety Jordan Poyer and cornerback Shareece Wright got one each in the third quarter. White was once again a beast, allowing just three catches on eight targets. Ryan Davis had a big sack in the first half on a third-and-goal play inside the red zone, helping hold Miami to a field goal. Cap Capi got a sack in the fourth quarter as the pass rush was able to pin its ears back knowing the Dolphins had to throw.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Colton Schmidt was the man, again. He punted five times for 205 yards, a net average of 34.4 yards that was hurt some because of where the Bills were punting from. Schmidt placed three of his five punts inside the Dolphins’ 20-yard line, including one that was neatly downed at the 1-yard line by the combination of Lafayette Pitts and Andre Holmes. Stephen Hauschka was perfect on his attempts and reached the end zone for a touchback on three of his five kickoffs.
A minor point of contention: I didn’t love the Bills going for it on fourth-and-7 from the Dolphins’ 36-yard line in the third quarter. More specifically, if that was go-for-it territory, I didn’t like the third-down call, which was a deep ball. So, too, was the fourth-down call. At that point, with how Miami was playing, I would have been OK with a punt — which I can’t believe I’m saying. I also would have kicked a field goal when heading 21-6 and facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to go up three possessions. The Bills did kick a field goal, but not before a penalty backed them up. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison got conservative with his play calling once he had a big lead.
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Grading the Dolphins
RUNNING GAME: C+
Kenyan Drake’s got game. It’s easy to see now why the Dolphins were comfortable moving Jay Ajayi at the trade deadline. Drake, who gained 78 yards on 16 carries and scored Miami’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter, looks like he’s only going to get better with more experience. Miami averaged a healthy 4.8 yards per carry.
PASSING GAME: F
Jay Cutler looked like he would rather be anywhere in the world other than New Era Field. Coming off a fabulous performance on Monday night against the Patriots, Cutler laid a big-time egg in a game the Dolphins needed to keep their playoff hopes alive. He threw three interceptions, which was bad enough, but could barely even handle snaps by the end of the game. Cutler fumbled a ridiculous four times, even though he got each one back. Jarvis Landry had 10 catches for 99 yards, but Kenny Stills was quiet with just one catch for 8 yards.
RUN DEFENSE: C+
I almost felt bad for linebacker Stephone Anthony in the second quarter, watching him stumble all over himself trying to chase down Taylor. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is a stud, with seven tackles, including three for a loss. Miami racked up seven tackles for loss, with backup defensive end Charles Harris, starting in place of Andre Branch, adding two. Cornerback Bobby McCain did a nice job early forcing a McCoy run inside when it looked like there was a lot of space outside the numbers.
PASS DEFENSE: C-
Safety Reshad Jones got bowled over by Clay in the first half. His fellow safety, T.J. McDonald, was in coverage on Clay’s 29-yard gain. Linebacker Kiko Alonso got straight-up embarrassed in coverage over the middle by McCoy. Cam Wake remains a handful coming off the edge, getting one of Miami’s two sacks. Xavien Howard had the other on a cornerback blitz.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
It was a pretty clean game for Miami here. Punter Matt Haack averaged 41.3 net yards on four punts. The Dolphins’ coverage units were superb. Kicker Cody Parkey hit three field goals in much colder weather than he’s used to kicking in. An unnecessary roughness penalty against linebacker Mike Hull hurt the overall grade.
It’s not like Adam Gase told Cutler to go throw three interceptions, but it was somewhat odd Gase was so willing to go to halftime trailing, 21-6, after getting the ball with 33 seconds left and two timeouts in the second quarter. There was also a lack of urgency at the end of the game with the clock tick, tick, ticking away.