Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: B+
LeSean McCoy’s first seven carries went for minus-4 yards. On 10 first-half carries, he gained just 7 yards. McCoy left the game on the Bills’ first possession of the second half, having to be carted off the field with a right ankle injury. Tyrod Taylor had an 18-yard rush on the Bills’ first possession after halftime. Rejoice, Bills fans – Marcus Murphy was the second running back to get a carry, not Mike Tolbert. Murphy ripped off a 25-yard gain to get the Bills in the red zone near the end of the first quarter. Kyle Williams, yes, that Kyle Williams scored on a 1-yard touchdown carry in the third quarter. Awesome.
PASSING GAME: A-
If Tyrod Taylor played every game like he does against the Dolphins, he’d likely be an All-Pro. He went 8 of 9 for 111 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter alone. Taylor did miss O’Leary for what would have been another touchdown in the second quarter, but was generally accurate, completing 19 of 27 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Charles Clay had another good game against his old team, with a team-high six catches for 64 yards. Taylor spread the ball around, completing passes to nine different receivers.
RUN DEFENSE: B
The game got off to a good start as rookie linebacker Matt Milano buried Kenyan Drake for a 3-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. Middle linebacker Preston Brown led the way with a dozen tackles. The Dolphins went away from the run in the second half with a big deficit, which helped the final numbers for Buffalo. The defense fell asleep on Miami quarterback David Fales’ 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
PASS DEFENSE: B-
Ramon Humber had a solid sequence in the second quarter, stopping Jakeem Grant after a 2-yard gain and then registering a third-down sack on the next play that led to a Miami punt. Leonard Johnson had a big pass defensed in the first quarter, forcing a turnover on downs. E.J. Gaines, returning from a one-game absence because of a knee injury, missed a golden opportunity to make a big play early, dropping a potential interception on the Bills’ first defensive series. Jordan Poyer came down with the game-cliching interception.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Stephen Hauschka played a clean game, with a 23-yard field goal that put the Bills up, 10-0. Penalties were a big problem, though. An illegal block against Deon Lacey cost the Bills big field position after a good punt return by Brandon Tate. Johnson took an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty on a punt return in the second quarter, which pushed the Bills back. Long snapper Reid Ferguson also took a holding penalty, which isn’t something you see every day. Fullback Patrick DiMarco failed to pull in the onside kick. Understatement alert: The Bills need to get better at that.
You have to love Sean McDermott for dialing up that play to Williams. The decision to kick a field goal on fourth and 1 from the Miami 15-yard line was a good one, because it gave the Bills a three-possession lead. The obligatory Mike Tolbert play was a third-and-12 pass that went for 6 yards. The fascination with Tolbert is really something. The Bills kept their composure well during the second-half skirmish.
Grading the Dolphins
RUNNING GAME: C
Fantasy tip: Grab Kenyan Drake early next year. He looks every bit like an every-down running back, especially when he was ripping off gains of 32 yards and 11 yards on Miami’s second offensive possession. Drake had eight carries for 58 yards in the first half, but couldn’t build on that in the second half after getting kicked out of the game for throwing a Bills helmet during a big skirmish. Backup Senorise Perry didn’t do much with his three carries, gaining 8 yards.
PASSING GAME: B
The Jay Cutler Era ended in Miami exactly as you would expect – with a dud. Cutler played one series, going 1 of 2 for 6 yards and nearly throwing an interception. Has anyone done less to earn $10 million than Cutler did this year? David Fales looked decent in relief, going 29 of 42 for 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jarvis Landry had nine catches for 92 yards, but was thrown out of the game for his meltdown in the second half. Landry is a good player, but is a loose cannon.
RUN DEFENSE: D-
Defensive end Andre Branch, who missed the Week 15 game against Buffalo, buried LeSean McCoy for a 5-yard loss on the first play of the Bills’ second offensive possession. The Dolphins largely contained McCoy in both games this season. That was the good news. The bad news was Mike Tolbert gained 39 yards on seven carries and unheralded Marcus Murphy had seven attempts for 41 yards. That’s inexcusable.
PASS DEFENSE: D
Poor Lawrence Timmons. The veteran linebacker got matched up in single coverage against LeSean McCoy and it went exactly how you’d expect – Timmons stumbled to the ground while McCoy went for an 18-yard gain. Cam Wake blew by Bills right tackle Jordan Mills in the second quarter for a third-down sack that led to a Buffalo punt. There was a blown coverage that led to O’Leary being wide open in the end zone.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
When will kick returners learn? Instead of taking a knee for a touchback, Senorise Perry brought the ball out in the second quarter … and didn’t make it to the 25-yard line. Punter Matt Haack had a nice net average of 43.0 but outkicked his coverage on a couple occasions. It must be nice punting in that South Florida weather for eight weeks every year. Cornerback Bobby McCain did a nice job recovering the onside kick.
Give Adam Gase credit. In a game with no meaning for Miami, he went for it on fourth and 7 from the Bills’ 29-yard line in the first quarter. And guess what? The Dolphins picked up the first down. Imagine that. The Dolphins treated Sunday’s season finale like a preseason game, and it’s hard to blame Gase for that. There was no reason to see Cutler play, since Ryan Tannehill will be back as the starter next season. Might as well see what Fales can do as a backup. That’s the only good thing I can say, though. Gase punted on a fourth and 1 in the second quarter from his own 31-yard line, which was weak. It was easy to wonder if Miami was ready to play after they had seven penalties before the second quarter started.