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Report Card

Bills define doing just enough in win over Dolphins

Jay Skurski

Running game: C+

Even with Buffalo Bills rookie Devin Singletary back in the lineup, it was veteran Frank Gore who continued to handle the bulk of the rushing duties. Gore gained 55 yards on 11 carries against his former team. He has 388 yards on the season and is on pace for 1,034. For a 36-year-old, that’s impressive. Quarterback Josh Allen, who ran wild against the Miami Dolphins twice last year, gained 32 yards on four attempts. At least a couple of those were designed rushes, too. Fullback Patrick DiMarco gained 4 yards on his only carry. They were an important 4 yards, too, as it got the Bills off their own goal line on what would become a 98-yard touchdown drive. As a team, the Bills finished with 117 yards on 23 attempts, an average of 5.1 yards per rush. The Bills are in the top 10 in the league, averaging 135.8 yards per game. Center Mitch Morse once again showed off his athleticism by getting out to lead a couple of rushing attempts to the edge. The increased athleticism along the offensive line is really on display in run blocking.

Passing game: B

Good luck drawing any conclusions about Josh Allen after this game. On one hand, his first half was atrocious – 6 of 15 for 90 yards and two sacks. On the other, his second half was almost perfect – 10 of 11 for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Allen is getting the job done when it counts, and for now that’s all that matters. His accuracy on deep balls remains a major concern. He overthrew Andre Roberts by a mile in the second half on what should have been a touchdown. It would have been nice to see him dominate a clearly inferior opponent. As it stands, though, he has the team off to a 5-1 start. Eight receivers caught a pass from Allen, led by John Brown, who had five catches for 83 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Cole Beasley had just three catches for 16 yards, but one of those was a 3-yard touchdown – his first of the season. Tight end Dawson Knox had two catches for 22 yards, but had his fourth drop of the year. That has to get cleaned up. DiMarco’s only catch of the game went for 27 yards – you would have made a lot of money betting he’d finish with more than 30 yards from scrimmage.

Run defense: C+

It felt like the Dolphins ran the ball better than their final numbers indicate: 30 carries, 109 yards, 3.6 yards per rush. Especially early, Miami had a lot of success on the ground, as third-string running back Mark Walton took his first handoff of the game for a 19-yard gain. The Dolphins appeared to continually attack the spot in the Bills’ defense normally occupied by linebacker Matt Milano. Safety Jordan Poyer continues to be outstanding against the run. He had two tackles for loss among his nine total tackles. Shaq Lawson and Lorenzo Alexander combined for one of the biggest plays against the run, stopping Kenyan Drake for a loss of 1 yard on a second-and-2 play for Miami with 12 minutes left near midfield. The Dolphins then threw incomplete on third down.

Pass defense: B-

The pass rushers got close to Ryan Fitzpatrick, hitting him five times, but the only sack of the game came from Ed Oliver on Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson, who was looking to throw on Miami’s first offensive play. Cornerback Levi Wallace was often targeted by Fitzpatrick. Cornerback Tre’Davious White saved the defense with a pair of huge turnovers in the second half. The Bills didn’t get their hands on many balls. Other than White’s interception, the only other pass defensed was recorded by Alexander. A good chunk of Fitzpatrick’s 282 yards came with the game in hand with about 30 seconds left, but take out those yards and he still threw for more than 230. Against a Buffalo secondary that has been so good this season, that qualifies as a disappointment. Cornerback Taron Johnson made a pair of tackles after missing the previous four games with a hamstring injury.

Special teams: B

Return man Andre Roberts really hasn’t done much for the Bills. An All-Pro last season for the Jets, Roberts had three punt returns for 22 yards against the Dolphins. For the season, Roberts has averaged 5.4 yards on 14 return attempts. Stephen Hauschka was the Bills’ best weapon in the first half. He hit field goals of 39, 43 and 45 yards to account for his team’s only points. Hauschka also boomed six touchbacks. The Bills did give up a first down on a fake field goal in the third quarter. The Dolphins’ Durham Smythe returned one kickoff just 12 yards. The Bills’ punt coverage allowed a 19-yard return by Preston Williams. Buffalo punter Corey Bojorquez averaged 42.3 gross yards and 36.0 net yards on three punts, placing one of them inside the Miami 20-yard line. That came when Bojorquez had good hang time on a punt from midfield in the fourth quarter, pinning the Dolphins back at their 8-yard line. Safety Micah Hyde scored on one of the stranger plays you'll see – an attempted onside kick by Miami that Hyde took 45 yards to the end zone.

Coaching: C

The Bills generally looked like they were asleep in the first half. That falls squarely on coach Sean McDermott. The team said all the right things afterward about how nobody took the Dolphins lightly, but that’s hard to believe after watching the first half. The defense had its worst showing of the season. It looked like the Dolphins ran the same run play about five times in the first half, and the Bills had no answers. There were too many designed runs for Allen called by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. It’s one thing if Allen scrambles on his own, but it’s just not smart to expose your franchise quarterback to that many hits. Roberts might be struggling as a punt returner, but he’s not getting much help from the blockers in front of him. Coordinator Heath Farwell shares some of that blame. Penalties continued to be an issue, with nine flags for 83 yards.

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