MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Here are how my five takes before the Buffalo Bills' 22-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins worked out:
1. Take control early to promptly extinguish any incentive the Dolphins might have. Semi-check.
The Bills did the taking control early part. They scored a touchdown, on a 26-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor to tight end Nick O'Leary, on their opening possession. They led 10-0 at halftime and 19-0 early in the third quarter before the Dolphins scored their first points, on a field goal, late in the third. They were up, 22-3, early in the fourth quarter.
Then, things began getting a bit shaky because the Dolphins wouldn't go away quietly.
Miami proceeded to score 13 unanswered points to make the game interesting until the Bills sealed it with Jordan Poyer's interception of a David Fales pass with 49 seconds left. Of course, the night got even more interesting for the Bills when they witnessed the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens, providing the help Buffalo needed to end its 17-year playoff drought.
2. Capitalize on another batch of interceptions from Jay Cutler. Not quite.
Cutler started the game, but after the Dolphins went three-and-out on the game's first series, he was pulled for backup David Fales. Cutler did have a third-down throw that cornerback E.J. Gaines dropped.
3. Get LeSean McCoy rolling from the start and keep him rolling. Nope.
Early in the third quarter, he left the game on the back of a cart with an ankle injury and didn't return. Before the injury, McCoy had only 10 yards on 11 carries. He consistently struggled to get out of the backfield.
Marcus Murphy and Mike Tolbert shared the rushing load for the Bills the rest of the way, and didn't get a whole lot accomplished, either. The Bills averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
4. Kelvin Benjamin builds on his breakout performance against the Patriots. Not even close.
Benjamin caught only two passes for 27 yards. The Dolphins did a good job of keeping him under wraps.
Still, Taylor had a strong game, making the most of his other targets. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 104.6.
Taylor had his typically strong game against the Dolphins. He read coverages well and avoided mistakes. It was the exact quarterbacking performance they needed on the day when their running game was pretty held in check.
5. Stay focused. Check.
For most of the game, the Bills did a good job of not allowing the distraction of what was taking place in the other games that impacted their playoff hopes to pull their attention from the task at hand.
The scoreboard operators at Hard Rock Stadium might have inadvertently done their part to help by not showing too many updates from the Ravens-Bengals game in the second half.
But give the Bills huge props for remaining mentally strong enough to overcome the fact they had put themselves in a difficult position to make the postseason yet ultimately doing what they had to do to benefit from the Ravens' loss. That's a credit to coach Sean McDermott and his staff.