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Posted: Sunday, 20 October 2013 10:13PM

Sideline Reactions: Bills 23 - Dolphins 21



MIAMI (WGR 550)  -- It took over a full calendar year, but the Buffalo Bills finally got back into the win column on the road. Despite a sluggish middle of the game, the Bills were able to stick together and claim a victory over the Miami Dolphins in last-minute fashion.

It wasn't the prettiest of ways to pull off a victory but the Bills were able to stick with it throughout the game, stick with their defensive playmaking ways, and took down the Dolphins 23-21.

How did they go about it? Well, the defense reigned supreme… that's how.

Mario's maniacal day
- Heading into the contest, Mario Williams was thought to be the key for the Bills in their hopes of beating a Miami team that was not only at home, but that was coming off their bye week as well. With the Bills shifting defensive pieces around, Williams got opportunities against both left tackle Jonathan Martin and right tackle Tyson Clabo. Not only did Williams beat them throughout the game, he annihilated them. He took over that contest much like he did against Byron Bell and the Carolina Panthers in Week Two, and his power moves proved to be the difference in the game. Some will argue that the Dolphins should have passed in that situation (FYI, your author had no problems with it), but Williams simply powered through Clabo and got to Ryan Tannehill to force the eventual game-winning fumble that was recovered by the Bills. Following two very average performances, Williams showed up playing at a superstar's level.

Robey finally rips one
- He's been quietly effective, but undrafted free agent Nickell Robey has been one of the most consistent members of the team's defense since being given the heightened role. Robey has been quite close to making big plays through the first six games, but his size inevitably limited how quickly he could jump a route and get to the ball. On Sunday, height and weight were no issue when Robey read Ryan Tannehill's eyes, jumped a route and easily scampered back the other way for a touchdown. Outside of the Week One game against New England, no slot receiver has been able to have an effective day and that's thanks in large part to Robey's play. He's been an underrated part of the defense and has quickly solved what used to be a very large problem in Buffalo.

3rd down defense
- Hats off to the defense and coordinator Mike Pettine once again for being able to bounce back from the defensive debacle last week in Orchard Park to help keep Miami from exploiting them in many of the same ways. Perhaps the most impressive part was how the Bills were able to put a stop to some of the third-down deficiencies they have had. Miami converted on only 3-of-13 chances to extend their drives, and all three conversions came on their touchdown drive in the third quarter. Throughout the rest of the game, the Bills didn't allow a single third-down conversion, which is astounding considering they've allowed almost 40-percent of third-down chances to extend opponent's drives. Going up against a Miami team that has failed to establish themselves offensively, Pettine played all the right notes to help put the Bills in a position to win.

2nd quarter disappearing act
- Through two games of the Thad Lewis era, the Buffalo Bills have completely lost their way in the second quarter after two very strong starts to the games. In the Cincinnati game, the Bills gained only 17 yards on 16 total plays yielded only three points. While it was a little better in Miami, the Bills gained only 76 yards on 18 plays, threw an interception and yielded three points once again. More importantly, they were only able to stand idly by as Miami got themselves back into the game with a pair of touchdowns to close the half. Perhaps it's only a trend that will last the two weeks, but the Bills have to learn how to sustain rather than just fly out to an early start and then disappear in the second quarter. It cost them the game against the Bengals, and very nearly also cost them versus the Dolphins.

Jackson guts it out
- Running back Fred Jackson defies logic at times in how he's able to stay on the field despite a perceived catastrophic injury happening. In 2012 he suffered a knee injury, only to return a couple of weeks later. In 2013, Jackson sprained his MCL and didn't miss any time with the injury. On Sunday, Jackson had Scott Chandler fall into his bad knee (the left one), and fell down writhing in pain. They even called for the cart to take him back to the locker room. Jackson called off the cart, propped himself up and attempted to walk off the injury. He not only did that, but he scored a touchdown and converted on the key third down play that helped the Bills to an easier field goal try and to run more time off the clock. Center Eric Wood used the term "gutsy" more than once to describe Jackson's efforts. There may not be a more appropriate word for the situation, considering how bad it could have been.

The kick return that wasn't
- The Bills had the Dolphins right where they wanted them. A 23-21 lead, Miami had no timeouts remaining and only 33 seconds to take the ball down the field and convert on a game-winning field goal. Then, the special teams unit proceeded to take "a couple of years" of Doug Marrone's life, or so the head coach said. Kicker Dan Carpenter had a mishit on the kickoff and return man Marcus Thigpen got the chance to return the ball. He followed his blockers, made one man miss and had only Carpenter to beat. The kicker was able to get one arm on him to slow him up, but a miss would have turned the game into perhaps the most heartbreaking loss of the season. Carpenter saved the Bills on two straight plays.

Dan Carpenter
- Speaking of the kicker, it was a nice moment for him to come back to the team and city that cut him (and the ones that booed him every time he lined up for a field goal) to convert on the game-winning kick. Enamored by the potential that Dustin Hopkins presented, not many gave Carpenter much thought as to being the permanent kicker. Fifteen straight field goals made later, Carpenter has become a bonafide weapon for Buffalo.

Lewis wakes up just in time
- As it was documented above, the Bills had their struggles in the second quarter. Much of that falls on the arm and legs of quarterback Thad Lewis, who really struggled to establish the offense throughout the game. He was missing on some easy slant patterns and showed the tendency of checking it down rather than hanging in the pocket. That all changed when Lewis took the biggest hit of the game in the third quarter that sent his helmet flying. Not only did he complete a deep pass to Stevie Johnson on that play, but the defender Jelani Jenkins took a roughing the passer penalty and got the Bills an additional 15 yards. Not to mention, Lewis popped right up without his helmet and looked straight at his team on the sidelines screaming and imploring them to rise up to the occasion. It was a nice moment for him, especially just four miles from where he grew up.

Bills' MVP: DE Mario Williams
- The defensive end had a matchup that he could potentially exploit, and he changed the course of the game with his play.

Bills' LVP: QB Thad Lewis
- The Bills got the victory, but Lewis missed a lot of potentially big plays on the field and suffered through some miscommunication problems with his receivers. He made a couple of big throws, but there were bigger plays to be had.

Up Next: Sunday, October 27 at New Orleans, 1 pm

Final Thoughts:
- The Buffalo Bills ended their drought on the road with a fulfilling last-minute victory that helped keep the season in tact. Had the Bills lost the game, a 2-7 start would have been likely with New Orleans and Kansas City up next in back-to-back weeks. With the victory, the Bills took another step under head coach Doug Marrone and claimed their first division win under him. They'll fly home happy, knowing the 2013 season isn't written off just yet.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
In light of the recent off field issues, has your enthusiasm for the NFL been affected?
  Yes. I'm not enjoying the games as much
  No. Why should it? Its a very small percentage of players
 
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