Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills’ season finale against the Miami Dolphins Sunday at New Era Field:
1. Let’s see if it’s possible for the Bills to show even a decent level of competence for a whole game.
That wasn’t the case last Sunday, and it resulted in a 24-12 loss against the New England Patriots. That easily could have been a Bills upset win had receivers been able to make plays and coaches been able to figure out where to position defenders to provide at least a small amount of resistance to the Pats’ running game.
Tom Brady and company were ready for a fall, but have been so good for so long, they can come out on top just on memory if the opponent is tripping over itself. The Dolphins aren’t close to being strong enough to withstand sleepwalking the way the Patriots did. But expecting them to be ready to perform at a high level seems unrealistic.
2. An otherwise yawner of a game suddenly became a bit more interesting with Kyle Williams announcing that it will be the last of his NFL career.
Before then, fans had almost no reason to interrupt holiday celebrations by sitting in a stadium for three hours, or even tuning in on television. But some of them might actually do so just for the chance to take one last look at the veteran defensive tackle in a Bills uniform.
In 13 seasons, Williams became one of the most iconic players in club history. He overachieved his way from being a fifth-round draft pick from LSU in 2006 to a five-time Pro Bowler and one of the greatest leaders the Bills ever had.
His tremendous work ethic, mixed with heavy doses of grit and toughness, along with his charitable endeavors, made him a fan favorite. His intelligent and straight answers made him a go-to interview for the media.
Williams deserves the greatest sendoff he can receive. The Bills, who do a nice job of honoring players at such milestone moments, are primed to give him one.
3. Josh Allen is ready to finish his rookie season on a high note.
Allen had some ugly throws against the Patriots, to be certain, but his biggest problem was a lack of help from his pass-catchers and the absence of the Bills’ running game. He has made solid progress as a thrower, making proper reads and delivering the ball on time.
Allen also is doing a better job of knowing when to run and how to protect himself when he does. For the past two weeks, he has made a more conscious effort of staying in the pocket and showing enough patience to allow receivers to gain separation while not hanging in too long to allow the pass rush to get to him.
The Dolphins aren’t likely to generate a whole lot of pressure, which should allow Allen to feel a good deal of comfort to connect with targets, especially on deep routes. A win Sunday would give Allen a 5-5 record, which is respectable, and help fortify the foundation on which he can continue to build after an up-and-down rookie season.
4. It’s still hard to see LeSean McCoy being an integral part of the offense next season.
He’ll be 31 then, and there has been little that he has shown this season that indicates there are many dynamic plays in his future. Granted, the offensive line is not doing enough to open holes for McCoy or any of the team’s running backs. But he also seems to be doing less and less to create room for himself with the tremendous burst and elusiveness that were once staples of his game.
McCoy apparently got on Sean McDermott’s bad side last week with public comments that showed his primary concern was in doing all he can to boost his personal statistics. That goes against everything the coach has preached in establishing a team-first program. McCoy angered McDermott enough that he sat for the first play against the Patriots.
The two insist they’ve patched things up, and McDermott went out of his way this week to praise McCoy and reaffirm General Manager Brandon Beane’s stance that the Bills intend to make the veteran running back part of their offense next season. But there still seems to be a whole lot of time before that actually becomes a reality, and unless McCoy does something special against Miami to leave a positive lasting impression, there’s reason to question the team’s commitment to him beyond Sunday.
5. The Dolphins are going through the motions.
They’re taking a long trip from toasty South Florida to play a meaningless season-ending game and will do so in temperatures in the 30s.
They’ll be moving on from their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, as well as others in the front office and probably the coaching staff.
Their players can’t be certain who will be calling the shots after Sunday, and when such doubt exists, it has a way to translating into a poor showing. For the Dolphins, this has all of the makings of a classic “run-for-the-bus” kind of game.