I wasn't feeling so good about the Bills chances as the second half was playing out though.
When the Bills went three and out on their first offensive possession of the third quarter, I was thinking 'this is how I felt during the game in Cleveland after EJ Manuel was knocked out'. I don't mean Thad Lewis was playing as badly as Jeff Tuel did when he was thrust into the job but I felt like the offense wasn't going to be able to score another touchdown and the defense would have to win the game for the Bills. That is exactly how the game played out.After giving up a third quarter touchdown which put the Dolphins in front 21-17 for their first lead of the day, the defense clamped down and kept Miami off the board the rest of the game.
Miami's last four possessions produced two punts, the game changing Ryan Tannehill fumble and a turnover on downs on the last play of the game. Mike Pettine's group gave up just 23 total yards on those four possessions.
The defense came up big with three takeaways in the game, the first ending up in a touchdown as Nickell Robey returned a Tannehill interception for a score on the game's opening drive.
The second takeaway kept Miami from potentially scoring as Aaron Williams picked off a badly thrown Tannehill pass in the Bills end zone.
Of course, the all important final takeaway of the day was the fumble forced by Mario Williams which set the Bills up at the Miami 34 yard line and led to the game winning drive.
Mario Williams had a huge day with a number of very important plays including the sack and strip with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter.
In the second quarter, Miami began a drive at the Bills 31 yard line following a Thad Lewis interception. On second down, Williams tackled Dolphins running back Lamar Miller for a four yard loss and on third down it was pressure from Williams that forced Tannehill to throw the ball away for an incomplete pass. Caleb Sturgis missed a 51 yard field goal, barely, as it hit the right upright. If Williams doesn't get that 4 yard tackle for loss, does that kick stays inside the upright?
In the fourth quarter, Miami was facing a second and eight from the Bills 43 yard line, Williams recorded a sack as he cleanly beat right tackle Tyson Clabo with an inside move. That left Miami with a third and 15 and they ended up punting after Kiko Alonso stopped a screen pass for a three yard loss.
Mario Williams wasn't the only player on defense coming up with key plays.
On Miami's final drive of the game, Leodis Mckelvin had a diving pass breakup on first down. Aaron Williams had solid coverage on Brian Hartline on a second down incompletion(although I admit I was waiting for a yellow flag to come flying into the picture at which point I would have cursed the NFL's existence). Mario Williams forced Tannehill out of the pocket on the final play of the game and nearly got another sack.
As far as other stars from the game, how about Bills kicker Dan Carpenter who beat the team that released him with the game winning field goal? Carpenter has been a tremendous pickup. He missed his very first field goal attempt as a Bill but since then, has connected on 15 straight.
Then there's old reliable, Fred Jackson. How many times have you said to yourself or to your friends, while watching a Bills game, "I love Fred Jackson". Add another one to the long list. On that game winning field goal drive, Jackson's never say die running and yards after contact were responsible for a huge first down on third and four at the Miami 28. For a while it looked like Jackson might not be around for most of the game as he was shaken up in the first quarter when his ankle was rolled up on by teammate Scott Chandler.
You want to know how cool Fred Jackson is? Last Monday during his segment on our show, Jackson said the Bills failure to get a touchdown on that series of goal line plays against the Bengals was on him. He also vowed to make it up to Jeremy White since Jeremy told Fred "I've got you on my fantasy team too". Mission accomplished on both accounts.
TJ Graham, who contributed mostly short gains in the passing game as a rookie, followed up a strong effort against Cincinnati with a 30 yard catch against Miami. It was the Bills longest pass play of the game and led to a Carpenter field goal that gave the Bills a 17-7 lead.
It all added up to the Bills snapping an eight game road losing streak against AFC East competition and getting their first division win of the season in their third try.