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COMMENTARY

Bills-Dolphins Report Card: Rare 'A' grade for Buffalo's passing game

Jay Skurski

Grading the Buffalo Bills

RUNNING GAME: B+

Once again it was rookie quarterback Josh Allen leading the way. He finished with nine carries for 95 yards. That might not be a long-term strategy for success, but it worked Sunday. Allen is something to watch when he gets in the open field. His 30-yard touchdown run looked easy. LeSean McCoy got a huge hole – a rarity this season – and converted a 9-yard touchdown run. It was largely another tough day for McCoy, though, as he finished with 26 yards on 10 carries. Chris Ivory returned from injury and gained 45 yards on 14 carries. It will be interesting to see if he’s in the Bills’ plans for next year.

PASSING GAME: A-

Wide receiver Zay Jones had six catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He’d be a first-team All-Pro if he could play all his games against Miami. In two games against the Dolphins this year, Jones had 10 catches for 160 yards and four touchdowns. Rookie Robert Foster had four catches for 21 yards, and also scored a touchdown. McCoy added 18 yards on two catches. He looked like he had a spring in his step when he got in the open field. Ivory’s only catch went for 46 yards, most of it after the catch. Oh, and Kyle Williams got the first catch of his career. Awesome. The big slip up was Allen’s pick-six in the first half.

Watch: Kyle Williams makes first reception of his career in finale

RUN DEFENSE: B+

Rookie Tremaine Edmunds finished with 12 tackles, 11 of which were solo. Williams stuffed a run play by the Dolphins for a 3-yard loss, one of three tackles for losses (that weren’t sacks). Safeties Rafael Bush and Micah Hyde had the others. Excluding a 12-yard scramble by Ryan Tannehill, the defense gave up only one other run of 10-plus yards.

PASS DEFENSE: A

The pass rush was beastly, with Shaq Lawson leading the way with two sacks. Jerry Hughes and Edmunds also made a sack each, part of six hits on Tannehill. The Bills had seven passes defensed, including interceptions by Edmunds and Tre’Davious White before he got hurt. Jordan Phillips recovered the fumble forced by Lawson. Safety Jordan Poyer had one pass defensed and was kicking himself for not coming up with an interception. That was the kind of day it was – everyone on the defense thought they were going to get a pick.

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SPECIAL TEAMS: C-

Stephen Hauschka came up short on a 42-yard field-goal attempt. Isaiah McKenzie made a bad decision to field a punt, although it didn’t end up in the disaster it looked like it was going to be. His two returns went for 9 yards. Punter Matt Darr averaged just 34 net yards on three punts. The coverage units did well, limiting six Miami kick returns to an average of 19.7 yards per attempt. Kickoff returner Victor Bolden had 44 yards on two carries. He’ll likely be in the mix next year for the return jobs.

COACHING: A

Sean McDermott hit all the right notes in saying goodbye to Williams, right down to calling the pass play for him in the fourth quarter. Taking a timeout with 1:19 left to take Williams out was a nice touch. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll put together a strong game plan. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier might get some looks as a head coach candidate. The future of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman will be a hot topic in the coming days.

•••

Grading the Dolphins

RUNNING GAME: C

Thoroughly mediocre. Rookie Kalen Ballage led the way with 47 yards on 12 carries. Kenyan Drake was held to 43 yards on 11 attempts. Both Drake and Ballage fumbled, with Ballage’s being lost. Tannehill doesn’t look to have the mobility he once did, although he did have a 12-yard scramble. The Dolphins miss Frank Gore.

PASSING GAME: D

There’s no other way to put it: Tannehill stinks when playing in Buffalo. He finished 18 of 31 for 147 yards and two interceptions, a quarterback rating of 43.3. Miami doesn’t have many impressive weapons. That starts with former first-round pick Davante Parker, who finished without a catch on three targets. Drake did have 52 yards on five catches, one of which went for 19 yards and was Miami’s longest of the day. Kenny Stills threw a touchdown pass to Tannehill.

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RUN DEFENSE: D

When is Miami going to learn it would be a good idea to put a spy on Allen? The Bills’ quarterback ran for 230 yards in two games against the Dolphins. That’s embarrassing. It also overshadows the job Miami did against the Bills’ running backs. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan had a team-high seven tackles. Fellow linebacker Jerome Baker had six tackles, including two for a loss. Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and defensive end Andrew Branch each had a tackle for a loss.

PASS DEFENSE: F

Playing without Pro Bowler Xavien Howard was bad enough, but then the Dolphins lost safety Reshad Jones and cornerbacks Torry McTyer to injuries in the game – bad news for a secondary that struggled. The Dolphins got six quarterback hits, but managed just one sack of Allen, which came when Baker got into the backfield unblocked. Cam Wake, who has been tough against the Bills in previous meetings, was quiet. The Dolphins had just two passes defensed, one of which was Jones’ pick-six.

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SPECIAL TEAMS: C-

Punter Matt Haack averaged just 33.2 net yards on five punts, only one of which was downed inside the Bills’ 20-yard line. Rookie kicker Jason Sanders capped a strong season by making a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter. Drake averaged 22.5 yards on four kick returns. Danny Amendola had 9 yards on two punt returns.

COACHING: D

Adam Gase’s time with the Dolphins could be coming to an end. If he was hired to get the best out of Tannehill, he’s failed. The Dolphins are stuck in limbo, because they probably can’t do better than Tannehill next year, but know he’s not good enough to lead them to a championship. Miami didn’t completely fold after falling behind, 14-0, but the second-half effort wasn’t inspiring. The Dolphins also played undisciplined at times, having two players ejected.

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