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Miami cuts off its foes from pass Rush, coverage skills fuel Dolphins' success

The Buffalo Bills needed only 83 passing yards from J.P. Losman to beat the Miami Dolphins in Week Two.

The Bills almost surely will need a lot more than that when they play host to the Dolphins Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. However, a big passing day isn't going to be easy for the Bills to pull off.

Miami ranks fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and they're holding opposing passers to the third worst completion percentage in the league -- just 55.8 percent.

"They have a heckuva pass rush," said Bills quarterbacks coach Turk Schonert. "They get after the passer, they're aggressive, they attack, they bring safeties and linebackers.

"So if you're going to drop back and throw it, you've got to protect. And you've got to beat tight man coverage. They're going to be up in the wide receivers' faces. They're going to be pressed all day. It forces the quarterback to make accurate throws because there's going to be tight coverage. You have to be able to win against man coverage."

Miami is coming off its best pass-defense day of the season. The Dolphins held New England quarterback Tom Brady to just 78 passing yards and 48 percent completions in a 21-0 rout.

New England coach Bill Belichick said Miami did a better job than most teams of disguising their coverage.

"For the most part, they brought five [rushers], which is what they do," Belichick said. "They bring five and then they play a lot of split-safety coverage and double up on the receivers. They [also] bring some pressure and play the single safety [in deep center field] and man-up. They have different combinations of that."

The five-man rushes force a lot of dumpoffs. But if the offense isn't getting enough yards on first down, the dumpoffs only lead to punts. That's what has been happening lately.

Miami's combination coverages can be hard for the quarterback to decipher.

"They give the impression they're playing zone but they're really not," Schonert said. "They're playing match-up man. They play in and out on certain formations. So if one [receiver] goes in and one [receiver] goes out, they just stay in their area and they man the guy that goes to them."

The Dolphins are 5-1 since inserting Yeremiah Bell into the lineup at strong safety. Bell was a sixth-round pick in 2003. He has been an upgrade in coverage over Travares Tillman.

Miami has allowed the fewest big plays -- of 20 or more yards -- in the NFL. They've given up just 34. Chicago is second with 35 gains of 20-plus yards allowed.

Overall, Miami's defense ranks second in yards allowed, fifth in points allowed and ninth against the run.

The Bills did not need to throw much in their 16-6 win at Miami because their defense was even more dominant than Miami's.

The Bills had seven sacks and never trailed, so they were able to play very conservatively on offense.


Each of the Bills' key injured players practiced on Friday.

Left tackle Jason Peters practiced despite the bone bruise on his right knee. He is expected to play Sunday. So are linebacker Takeo Spikes (ankle), safety Donte Whitner (hamstring) and cornerback Terrence McGee (ankle). All officially remain questionable.

Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers (ankle) remains questionable, but he's expected to play as well. Miami's starting left guard, Jeno James (knee) probably will be a game-time decision.


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