Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- Let's take a trip to hypothetical town:
A team has four red zone opportunities, forced three turnovers, held their opponents to 75 yards total after three quarters and even pumped in a punt return for a touchdown. The follow-up question upon hearing those statistics is, "Wow, how much did they win by?"
On Thursday night, the Buffalo Bills defied the odds of running away with a victory with all those statistics in their favor. In their narrow 19-14 win over the Miami Dolphins, the Bills squandered all four chances in the red zone by only managing 12 points.
The game should have been a runaway. It should have been a statement game -- especially considering how dominant their defense was against a terribly inefficient offense.
Then again, after a team has lost three in a row, in addition to five of their last six, I guess they'll take a win however terrible the packaging may be.
The Bills narrowly escaped Ralph Wilson Stadium with their first primetime win in over 11 years, and now sit with a belly full of optimism and the slightest of chances of breaking another streak that has lasted 12 years.
How did the Bills get to 4-6? Let's review some keys, shall we?
- Down only five points, the Miami Dolphins had all three timeouts and a chance to snatch yet another victory away from the Buffalo Bills. That was, until, Jairus Byrd made what many are anointing the interception of the season. Tannehill overthrew his target by a few yards expecting at worst an incompletion. Then again, he didn't account for the athleticism that Jairus Byrd brings to the table. The Bills' free safety continued his ball-hawking ways by sprinting to the overthrow and laying out for the play of the game. It didn't end the game right then and there, but it took away the momentum and infused the stadium with cheers from the Bills' faithful. Many exclaimed that they need to pay Byrd, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, as soon as possible. If you'll allow me to be coy… why? He will not be the priority heading in to this off-season because of simple economics. The Bills can simply plant the franchise tag on Byrd and buy themselves a few more months of negotiations after the beginning of free agency hits. To tag a safety, it costs considerably less than say… a left guard. In fact, a safety's tag number is among the lowest in the NFL. So no, I don't think they'll be under any more urgency to re-sign him before the season ends. But I'll tell you this: He is the best player on that defense, and if it weren't for C.J. Spiller being electric this season, he would be the best the Bills have to offer.
- In the second half, Chan Gailey did his best to let the Miami Dolphins creep back in to the game. The defense was playing their tails off and the offense could do nothing to hammer home the game. It seemed like Gailey's play-calling went in to a shell in that second half, as though they were so shell-shocked at playing with a lead to begin the second half that they went in to instant run-out-the-clock mode. Stevie Johnson talked about it after the game, a phrase that the Bills' lack on offense: a killer instinct. Whether it was failing to make the play they needed against Tennessee to run out the clock, or to blow an opportunity to win in New England, the Bills just haven't been able to close out a game on offense. The second-half adjustments, or lack thereof, have been one of the most frustrating parts about this regime.
- Coming in to the game, I believed that C.J. Spiller would bust out for the world to see. The only problem? The Miami Dolphins knew it was probably a good idea to attack number-28 in white and make Ryan Fitzpatrick beat them. Spiller is too talented to be stopped in full, gaining 130 yards on 25 total touches in the game. The Dolphins limited him to way below his single-game potential. Spiller certainly helped get the Bills within scoring range, but wasn't a part of the plan to punch it in the end zone.
- Speaking of that phenomenon, what the heck was the thinking behind that? Spiller rips through the defense for his best run of the day (20 yards), and those efforts earned him a seat on the pine for the next six plays. From all the conditioning Spiller has been through in his life, I'd tend to think he could come back after two or three plays. Instead, like a replay of a terrible image that gets forced on you (I'm thinking Clockwork Orange, eyes-pried-open style), Tashard Choice was on the field for six straight plays to end the first half. Astounding, and not in a good way.
- Coming in to the season, you'd think the best pass rusher on the team would be the one that is getting paid $100 million over the next six years. Much to the surprise of us all, the Bills' best pass rusher is someone that started 2011 on Detroit's practice squad. Kyle Moore transformed himself from a bubble-roster player to an indispensable piece to the Bills' pass rush, and has been doing it since training camp. Not only is he the Bills' best pass-rusher, but ProFootballFocus.com has him ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL in 'pass rush proficiency' for prototypical pass rushers which accounts for sacks and pressures. His emergence has made fans forget about Mark Anderson while he's been injured and the amount of money they paid him in the off-season. That day will be back soon, but Moore's story is hard not to root for.
- Kyle Williams thought his arm was broken after the first defensive snap of the game. He rushed off field and was immediately looked at by trainers. They put pressure on different points of his arm and he was cleared to return to action with a brace that covered most of his left arm. After the game, Williams said he dealt with a 'dead arm' feeling throughout the night, but battled through to have the type of performance that has been consistent for him. He fired through the opponents' offensive line and helped put his team in a spot to make a big play. Already dealing with a bum ankle, Williams is amongst the grittiest in that locker room.
- I'm willing to bet no one envied the position Chris Hairston was put in during the game against the Dolphins. Lining up in front of him for a majority of the game was one of the most efficient pass-rushers in all of football: Cameron Wake. However, what Hairston forgot to do was look a few separate times to see if Wake was on the field. For some reason, the Bills called pass plays that had their blockers all shade to the left, leaving Wake with either a free pass or only a running back to beat to get in on the quarterback. Hairston and Gailey both need to recognize that you can't let a guy that's on pace for 15 sacks go free in to the backfield with a shot on the quarterback in the plans. Bad job by both parties.
- It's not much of a coincidence that Kelvin Sheppard had what could have been his best game as a professional, and the Bills just so happened to stop the Dolphins' rushing attack before it ever got started. The middle linebacker has struggled at times with staying within his responsibilities, but those were not evident on Thursday night. Sheppard helped set the tone for the defense to play with a bit of a swagger that we haven't seen this season outside of the game in Cleveland.
- For the second straight week, Justin Rogers was the worst defensive player on the field for the Bills. He wasn't exposed until late when the Dolphins were driving in the fourth quarter. Mark Kelson pointed it out on the radio broadcast: Rogers tries to peek in to the backfield and then loses a step on his man. He needs to break that habit quickly, or else the Bills need to analyze a different option. To his credit though, he made a nice stop in the backfield on a run play. And, if it weren't for him peeking in the backfield, his man wouldn't have burned by him on the play that Jairus Byrd made his incredible interception.
- Leodis McKelvin is a dynamic kick returner. He deserves to go to the Pro Bowl for his efforts. End of story. Oh, and he helped out on the defensive side of the ball for the second straight game. McKelvin plays so much more confidently on the defensive side of the ball when he's returning kicks in a game. It really is noticeable.
- Growing up down south, Shawn Powell may have met a day that saw a temperature of 35 only a few times in his life. And not only that, but he had to perform at a high level for his livelihood in that bitter climate. It was a non-issue for the former Seminole, having his best punting game as a pro. That punt to pin the Dolphins inside the one-yard line late in the fourth quarter will be one fans of the Bills will remember for a while. It appears as though the Bills were on to something when they dumped Brian Moorman in favor of the rookie.
Bills' MVP: S Jairus Byrd - I've been amongst the loudest in saying he's one of the best in the NFL. Now, he may be the best in the NFL.
Bills' LVP: Chan Gailey - A poor second-half game plan and an overall lack of execution on offense almost cost the Bills a game in which they should have dominated.
Up Next: Sunday, November 25 vs. Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
- Chasing away the primetime demons of the 2000s, the Bills got a key victory over a divisional opponent on a national stage. Now with a 4-6 record, Buffalo has a tiny bit of momentum and an even slighter bit of likelihood that they'll make their way in to the postseason. Nonetheless, this Bills team needed this win in the absolute worst way. It wasn't pretty, and perhaps they should have lost in the end based on how many chances they squandered. But the Bills are still alive eleven weeks in to the season… barely.