The most improved area for the 2013 Buffalo Bills is clearly their defense and they drove that point home with a dominating performance in the final home game of the season. Mike Pettine's unit completely smothered the Miami Dolphins as the Bills wrapped up a season sweep of their AFC East rivals for the first time since 2007, with a 19-0 victory in front of 54,305 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Just how dominant was the defense? I'm glad you asked. *Miami ran 52 plays on offense and totaled a measly 103 yards. *Miami's running game produced a grand total of 14 yards on 12 rushes. The Dolphins longest run of the game was three yards. *Miami was a woeful 2-14(14%) on third down. *Miami had 13 possessions and punted 10 times. There were two drives that ended with an interception and another on downs. *Miami did not register a first down on 9 of their 13 possessions. They went three and out on eight of those 12 drives. *Miami entered Bills territory on two occasions and their "deepest penetration", if you can call it that, was the Bills 32 yard line. *The Bills defense dominated Miami's offensive line on the way to seven sacks. The Bills now have a franchise record 56 sacks on the season. *Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 10-27 for 82 yards. This coming one week after he threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns in a win over New England.
Its too bad the game was blacked out because this defensive performance was impressive to watch. Remember, the game meant nothing for the Bills but the Dolphins came in knowing they controlled their own destiny. If Miami won their last two games of the season, they were guaranteed a playoff berth.
When Tannehill or Matt Moore, who came in when Tannehill was shaken up, did manage to get a pass off, the Bills cornerbacks were there to break up the play. Leodis McKelvin was credited with four passes defensed while Stephon Gilmore had three. McKelvin also had a pick.
Rookie corner Nickell Robey had a huge game. The undrafted free agent continues to be one of the biggest surprises of the season. Robey recorded a pair of sacks and should have had a third sack and safety but he couldn't bring Tannehill down in the end zone. The first sack came on a third and eight from the Bills 37 yard line on what turned out to be Miami's most promising drive of the game. Robey timed his blitz perfectly and came flying across the line of scrimmage just as the Dolphins snapped the ball. On the play prior to that, a Robey blitz stopped a Miami run for a loss of one yard. The other sack came on a third and 10 in the fourth quarter. A crushing hit by Robey on Mike Wallace jarred the ball loose from the Dolphins receiver in the first quarter.
Tannehill had no idea who was coming and where they were coming from. The Bills were getting sacks on four man rushes but, as has been the case many times this season, the opponent had no idea which players were coming as part of a four man rush.
The defense was the story of the game but there were other key contributions. Fred Jackson topped 100 yards against a good Miami run defense. Jackson became just the third player in Bills history to reach 5,000 yards rushing, joining Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas.
The Bills ran for 203 yards, which equaled their second best single game output of the season. Nursing a 10-0 lead just past the midway point of the third quarter, the Bills got the ball at their own five yard line and put together a season long 19 play drive. It took more than nine minutes off the clock, resulted in a field goal giving them a 13-0 lead and was keyed by the ground game which produced 59 of the 92 yards on the drive.
Thad Lewis, who is now 2-0 versus Miami, was good enough in this game. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 193 yards. He had to make due without top receiver Stevie Johnson and then lost Marquise Goodwin to an injury in the first quarter and Robert Woods to an ejection in the third quarter.
Lewis left some big plays, including a touchdown or two, on the field mostly in the first half. But he limited his mistakes to one interception and did a good job of holding onto the ball, considering his fumble troubles from his three previous starts. The Bills offensive line, which had seemed to be going backwards as the season went on, provided strong pass protection. Lewis had a clear pocket on most of his throws. Miami's defensive line, which had a combined 29.5 sacks coming into the game, didn't register a single sack of the Duke University product. Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon went unnoticed.
The win closes out what was a good season for the Bills at home, even though the record was only 4-3. They registered victories over three teams that currently have winning records: Carolina, Baltimore and Miami. Buffalo's losses came against three teams that will be in the playoffs: New England(23-21), Cincinnati (27-24 in overtime) and Kansas City(23-13).