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Brian Daboll moves upstairs, Bills' offense responds in a big way

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Brian Daboll switched things up Sunday – and we’re not just talking his facial hair.

The Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator’s familiar beard was gone before the game against the Miami Dolphins, replaced by a mustache. That led to some jokes on social media about the Bills winning by “a million.” They didn’t score quite that many, but the 37 they did put up at Hard Rock Stadium was a season high and more than enough to secure a much-needed, 37-20 win that improved the team to 7-3.

Daboll had a new vantage point for the game, working upstairs from the coaches’ booth for the first time this season. His calls were sent down to quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey and then relayed in.

“He’s been there before,” coach Sean McDermott said of Daboll moving upstairs. “Just another perspective, another set of eyes upstairs.”

McDermott didn’t want to make a big deal of the move, but the results spoke for themselves.

“All little things help here and there, so I’ll talk to Brian and see if he liked being up there, in terms of what he’s able to see,” McDermott said. “I used to call the defense from up there, and you can see a lot. … It’s hard to see from the sideline. It shouldn’t be, but it is. But the results were what they were.”

Quarterback Josh Allen said the only difference was that Daboll and Dorsey communicated via the phone.

“There were a couple of times where maybe I didn’t hear the play loud enough and I’m trying to rewind him and try to get his attention,” Allen said. “But it was very smooth today. It worked out, so that’ll probably be what we do from here on out.”

“And I really think it’s due to Daboll’s mustache, as well.”

2. The Bills have enjoyed remarkably good health this season, but suffered a potentially serious injury in the third quarter. Veteran right tackle Ty Nsekhe suffered a right ankle injury and was carted off the field after getting rolled up on by Dolphins defensive end Avery Moss on a play in which rookie Devin Singletary fumbled.

Bills players immediately motioned for athletic trainers to come out, and Nsekhe appeared to be in a good deal of pain. He was replaced by rookie Cody Ford.

If Nsekhe is out long term, the Bills will need Ford to elevate his game. Buffalo’s next opponent, the Denver Broncos, have a premier pass rusher in Von Miller.

3. The Bills needed more from Stephen Hauschka. The veteran kicker delivered in the first quarter, opening the scoring with a 51-yard field goal, his first successful attempt from 50-plus yards this season. Dating back to last year, Hauschka had missed his last five attempts from 50-plus before Sunday.

“It felt good. Of course, it's going to be a 50-yarder to start it off, right?” Hauschka said. “It was an interesting week, but it's part of the growth process for me as a kicker. … I want to see the ball go through the uprights just as much as every single fan in the city. I feel like I'm back on track and excited for that.”

Hauschka added a 34-yard field goal later in the first quarter. That’s the same distance he missed from in Week 10 at Cleveland. Hauschka came into the game making just 61.5% of his field goals, which ranked 31st in the NFL.

He added a third field goal in the first half when he was good from 21 yards out in the second quarter that extended the Bills’ lead to 16-0. Hauschka’s three field goals matched his season high. He also had three in the Week 7 over Miami.

“It was an unusual week. As kickers, we don't get interviewed much unless it's really good or really bad,” he said. “Just to get back on the field felt really good. I had a great week of practice, a great warmup and everything. It was just about letting my body do the work out there.”

4. Defensive end Jerry Hughes was active for the Bills. Hughes was listed as questionable on the final injury report after hurting his groin during the practice week, but was able to play in his 125th consecutive game. That’s the second-longest streak among active defensive ends, behind only New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan (138). Hughes had a sack, his second in three games, and has 3.5 on the season.

5. Sean McDermott finally ended a long losing streak. Since becoming the Bills’ coach, McDermott had challenged 12 plays before Sunday’s game. He got the first one of those right in Week 3 of the 2017 season, then had lost 11 straight, including two this season.

McDermott ended that streak in the second quarter, correctly throwing the flag when a throw to Dolphins receiver Allen Hurns was initially ruled an incompletion. McDermott challenged that Hurns caught the ball before fumbling on his own, and officials agreed after the review, stating that the Dolphins’ receiver took three steps before losing the ball. The fumble was recovered by safety Jordan Poyer.

The Bills went on a five-play drive and scored on a 23-yard touchdown to Dawson Knox with 1:23 remaining in the half.

"Every challenge is tight – that's why they're challenges," McDermott said. "I just felt like he had taken enough steps with the ball and was in control, and it was a big play on top of that, in terms of the gain they had versus the game and the resulting fumble recovery by us to get the ball back before half."

6. The Bills used a rotation of sorts at cornerback, using Kevin Johnson outside in place of starter Levi Wallace. The decision to use Johnson was made before the game and was not injury related. Wallace struggled in Week 10 against Cleveland, and was targeted often Sunday by Ryan Fitzpatrick when he was in the game.

Johnson made a great open-field tackle in the fourth quarter, dropping tight end Mike Gesicki after a 2-yard completion. Johnson then did a celebratory dance when he got up.

“You’ve got to have a little fun out there,” Johnson said.

7. The Bills sacked Fitzpatrick seven times Sunday, a single-game high this season and the most since they had seven sacks against Houston in Week 6 of the 2018 season. Former Dolphin Jordan Phillips had one of those sacks for the Bills, his seventh of the season, which leads all defensive tackles in the NFL. Additionally, defensive tackle Corey Liuget had his first sack as a member of the Bills in his second game with the team. Star Lotulelei also had his first sack of the season and his first as a member of the Bills in his second season with the team. Lotulelei’s last sack came in Week 16 of the 2017 season with the Carolina Panthers.

8. Bills cornerback Siran Neal left the game in the first half for evaluation of a head injury. Neal came into the game leading the team with six tackles on special teams – three more than anyone else. It was announced at the start of the third quarter that Neal would not return to the game because of a concussion.

9. In addition to Williams, the Bills’ other inactives: Running back T.J. Yeldon, tight end Tommy Sweeney, defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, safety Dean Marlowe and offensive linemen Ryan Bates and Ike Boettger.

Yeldon and Sweeney have been inactive for five consecutive games, while Taylor and Marlowe sat for the second straight game. Boettger has been inactive for all but one game this season, while Bates has dressed just three times, playing in two games.

Bills make impressive bounce-back with win vs. Dolphins

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