A rare fast start by the offense made the Buffalo Bills' path to victory over the Miami Dolphins a lot easier on Sunday.
The Bills scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time this season. (Two field goal drives were the only opening-march scores for Buffalo in the first 13 games.)
The Bills scored more than 14 points in the first half for the first time. They held a lead of more than 10 points at halftime for the first time.
They had touchdown drives of 81, 75 and 80 yards in the first half. Only once this season have they had three touchdown drives of more than 75 yards in a full game. That was in the win over Tampa Bay.
"I thought we were dynamic in terms of the mix of run-pass, and we opened it up down the field a couple of times, which kept them a little bit off balance at times," said Bills coach Sean McDermott.
The Bills' first-half big-gainers top the 10 plays that shaped the 24-16 win over Miami.
1. T-mobile. The opening drive was kept alive when Tyrod Taylor eluded two rushers to find LeSean McCoy for a 12-yard gain on a third-and-5 play. The Bills' QB didn't pull the trigger, left the pocket, spun out of the arms of Cameron Wake, sprinted away from Charles Harris, then threw over the middle.
"He's a good athlete," said Miami cornerback Bobby McCain. "He's a good quarterback. He uses his feet really well, getting out of the pocket. He's better scrambling. We couldn't contain him, we didn't contain him, we didn't do our job."
2. Busted coverage. Three plays later, the Dolphins over-reacted to a play-action run fake wide to the left and let Nick O'Leary go uncovered down the right sideline. The 25-yard catch went to the Miami 4 to set up the first TD. Either linebacker Lawrence Timmons or McCain, both fooled by the fake, dropped the coverage.
3. Fullback lead. Patrick DiMarco got the blowout lead block on safety Reshad Jones on McCoy's 4-yard TD run to cap the first drive. Jordan Mills got to the second level and sealed off linebacker Chase Allen.
4. Easy pickings. The Bills perfectly executed a rub route on the 16-yard TD pass to McCoy that gave them a 14-6 lead. McCoy was in the right slot with Clay to the outside. Clay ran a short slant and McCoy cut outside him, running linebacker Stephone Anthony into the tight end.
McCoy did a good job of pushing upfield before cutting wide. Clay did a good job of not extending his arms and blocking Anthony. When Taylor saw a linebacker matched on McCoy, he knew he had an easy throw.
"Something we've had in the game plan for a couple weeks, we just haven't had the opportunity to get the look," Taylor said. "We were able to get the look we wanted today. I have all the confidence in the world in Shady going out there and making a play."
5. Drop in the bucket. Taylor's best pass of the day keyed the Bills' third TD drive. He hit Clay for a 25-yard gain to the Buffalo 49. The pass was a perfect floater over the shoulder. Clay ran a corner route – up and out to the right sideline – against man coverage from safety T.J. McDonald. Credit the offensive line with excellent pass protection. Miami blitzed a fifth rusher but Taylor had time to step up.
6. QB draw. Taylor scored on a 9-yard draw play with 33 seconds left in the half. He was too fast for the linebacker, Anthony, and for Jones, the free safety.
"The play is actually designed to go up the middle, and they inserted a safety, and he's the free guy," Taylor said. "I basically have to make him make a miss. I was able to get behind the lineman and jump back, make a jump cut to the left. Now I know it's just me and him, and I have to get to the pylon."
7. Playing center field. Bills safety Jordan Poyer covered a lot of ground to get to the left sideline and intercept an overthrow by Jay Cutler for Kenny Stills on Miami's first drive of the third quarter.
"I kind of had an idea before the play was snapped where the ball was going," Poyer said. "I saw the formation. I saw who was where and the down and distance. They needed a chunk play to get the first. I was able to get a good jump on the ball."
"Our corner was able to put hands on Stills and disrupt his route," Poyer said of Tre White.
8. Bad overthrow. Cutler threw off his back foot and overthrew Stills on Miami's next possession. Shareece Wright intercepted and returned it 54 yards. Wright was lurking in his zone with no one to cover. Stills was cutting across from the other side of the field.
"I was just looking to the back side when my receiver went underneath," Wright said. "He threw it. We've been talking about that play. He's not going to see me back there on that side."
9. Unsportsmanlike. Miami's first fourth-quarter drive was wasted when receiver Jarvis Landry was called for setting a pick, then flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"Obviously we're a team that the refs look at as far as pick plays," Landry said. "I did not pick the guy. I was getting jammed. DeVante came free and got the first down . . . I just told him, 'That's a bad call.' I've had the opportunity to speak to refs and talk to refs and this guy, he just didn't want anyone to talk to him or challenge what he was saying."
10. Last chance. White's interception of another Cutler overthrow with 28 seconds left sealed it.