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Immediate reactions: Bills 19, Dolphins 0

blog by Nick Mendola  • 

What if?

Man, this is frustrating. The more you watch the rest of the AFC, the more you realize just how badly the Buffalo Bills have bungled a prime opportunity to break their playoff drought.

And while there are a few “what if” queries that could’ve gone against the Bills (chiefly, “What if Ron Rivera had some courage late?”), there are simply so many little mistakes that could’ve danced them a game or two higher in their rebuild:

1) What if the Bills didn’t host Fumblepalooza 2013 late against the Falcons?
2) What if the Bills had Thad Lewis or anyone not named Jeff Tuel ready to fill in for Manuel in the Browns game?
3) What if the Bills could cover return threats against Cincinnati or Cleveland?
4) What if Sean Smith didn’t fall into his goal line pick of Tuel to lift the Chiefs over Buffalo?

There are SO. MANY. INFURIATING. MOMENTS. And I laud Bills leaders like Kyle Williams for continuing to look forward instead of dealing in regrets:

“I try not to dwell on what you could’ve done different. You just kinda fight human nature worrying about that. We’ve got a chance to be really really good because of the combination of schematically what we are doing and the talented players we have. I feel more excited about what’s ahead of us than regret looking back.”

Okay. So yes, the Bills beat Miami again.

—Just after punctuating a dominant 19-play, 92-yard touchdown drive, running back Fred Jackson (pictured in header) led Bills fans near the 35-yard line through a full rendition of the “Shout!” song. You think about his story, his skill set and the way he plays the game—today, through broken ribs—has there ever been a better example of what Buffalo fans want their players to be?

—Jackson, CJ Spiller and the Bills just tore through gaping holes all day for a total of 203 yards on the ground.

“Second series of that game, we knew we could run the ball on those guys and it was like blood in the water,” Jackson said. “Our offensive line was looking forward to getting out there, champing at the bit.”

—Thad Lewis hit on just one of his first six attempts, and that 57-yard completion to Robert Woods was aided by some mind-numbing defending by Nolan Carroll. Lewis wasn’t making bad choices, just being bullied by the wind. It’s worth noting that the weather was miserable. Speaking of bullying, how’d that work out for you, Miami?

—Wild scenario here after Lewis improved to 2-0 against Miami: what if the Bills used him like a situational reliever? Sign him to an extension and have him prepare only for Miami. Start EJ for 14 games but bring on Thad for the Dolphins. Analytics.

—The Buffalo Bills set their all-time sack record in the first quarter, tying it with Da’Norris Searcy and breaking it with Kyle Williams. It’s pretty annoying to consider that the league’s No. 1 pass rush entered the game starting at 7-9 as a best-case scenario.

—It’s shocking that this Miami Dolphins team came into the game in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot, not to mention an indictment on the AFC playoff picture.

I won’t take much away from the Bills, who did what they needed to do against an offensive line for whom “patchwork” is a kind adjective. But when Ryan Tannehill did get throws off, they seemed to oscillate between horrific drops by receivers and inaccurate “what?!?” tosses.

On offense, Bills receivers were open for much of the day even with No.1 receiver Stevie Johnson attending to family matters in California. A quarterback on his game—or of better quality than Thad Lewis—likely has Buffalo up three scores at half and perhaps more.

And this team beat the Patriots? Maybe Buffalo will finish 7-9.

—The end-around run that sank Marquise Goodwin with an injury was a bizarre call on several levels. For one, Buffalo was averaging 5 yards per carry from its backs and had very little cause to think trickery was needed to gain some yardage. They also ran the play left from the left hash, giving the speedster less room to string the play out.

Worse? The no-call after Goodwin was tackled well out-of-bounds. It was a slippery day, but if the league is serious about player safety they eliminate any grey area by flagging the play.

—Robert Woods was thrown out of the game for taking a swing at Miami safety Reshad Jones, sullying what looked certain to be a 100-yard game. He finished with 70 yards on three receptions.

—Doug Marrone kept choosing to kick field goals late despite being in Miami territory. He did not want anyone to get free coffee. This makes me sad.

—Back to Kyle Williams, who picked up his 10th sack while his team set the Bills record for most sacks in a season. Williams punctuated his watershed moment by winning a bet with his teammates:

“The D-line and some of the linebackers were joking around and they said, ‘What are you going to do when you get 10 sacks?’ I said I’d do Ric Flair’s ‘Nature Boy’ dance. They bet me I wouldn’t and I did it, so a little tribute to The Nature Boy.”

Stat-line I liked:
Miami running backs, 12 carries for 14 yards
— The Dolphins already hate run plays, and Buffalo made it easy for Miami to continue its tendencies by burying backs near the line of scrimmage.

Stat-line I didn’t like:
Leodis McKelvin, two fumbles
— The wind plagued Miami punt catchers, too, but McKelvin really really struggled to see the ball into his arms.

Game balls:
Robey and Kyle Williams
— Both players set the tone early, in particular Williams. The veteran defensive tackle simply had his way with the Dolphins interior line.

Next week:
New England on the road. Would you bet against the Bills picking up a win in New England when it devastates their draft stock and essentially won’t mean anything to the Patriots? I won’t. Buffalo 26-23.

Lastly:
What if? WHAT IF?!?

(Photos are courtesy of the Buffalo Bills Facebook page).

TAGGED: buffalo bills, football, fred jackson, immediate reactions, kyle williams, miami dolphins, nick mendola

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