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Immediate reactions: Bills 23, Dolphins 21

blog by Nick Mendola  • 

Mario Williams may have the media personality of a roll of Scotch tape, but goodness gracious he is a freak of nature.

Minutes after Mario made as vicious of a sack as rules will allow, the Bills’ offense decided Miami should get another chance to end the divisional win. Only No. 94 was there, again, stripping the ball away from Tannehill on sack No. 2 of the day. After a brief moment of Kyle Williams thinking “Touchdown?!?,” Kyle fell on the ball and Buffalo ran, ran, ran ‘til their coach let their kicker go for the win and then…

Dan Carpenter!!!!!!! Former Dolphin kicker!!!!! Dan from Montana!!!! Dannah Montana!!!

The kicker was good from 31 against his old mates. Buffalo led 23-21, Miami had no timeouts remaining and the Bills special teams simply had to make one play. Unfortunately, that’s been a problem this year and remains so. In fact, had Carpenter not slowed up Marcus Thigpen on the return, it could’ve been death by poor tackling yet again.

Still, Miami had another chance. One more look from their own 46.

First down: Leodis breakup.

Second down: Inexplicable non-penalty on Aaron Williams.

Third down: Ryan Tannehill misses a wide-open touchdown over a beaten Aaron Williams.

Fourth down: Mario almost sack. THEN: Mario almost sack again, but Tannehill gets the bomb away, only to see his Hail Mary batted down by Stephon Gilmore and 30 other Bills.

Mario. My goodness. Williams’ 10 sacks already qualify as his fourth-best season, and he’s through seven weeks. His career-best is 14. Have to think he’s getting there and could hardly come at a better time for a team whose 3-4 record and 1-2 division mark look light years better than 2-5 and 0-3.

What else happened? Well…

- Oh, the undrafted practice squad quarterback from Duke on an injured foot making his third NFL start wasn’t looking like Peyton Manning? Expectations, Bills fans…

Admittedly, though, it was hard to watch Lewis continually throw short of the first-down marker on third down (regardless of how front of mind you kept in mind about his experience level).

- It took just over 90 seconds for the Bills defense to make a mark on the game, as diminutive defensive back Nickell Robey jumped a short pass intended for Brandon Gibson and made a nice two-handed grab that he returned for a score. I’ll admit to not have been impressed with Robey over the preseason and early parts of the regular season, but there’s a reason Mike Pettine’s a defensive coordinator and I’m not. They see things in young guys.

- Miami’s first touchdown, Tannehill’s toss to Charles Clay, came after some confusion behind the Bills front four. Outside rusher Jerry Hughes seemed to call Mario Williams to switch sides. As the two crisscrossed, Tannehill snapped quickly and Clay was wide open in space.

- Let’s put aside Stevie Johnson’s cool off-field deeds for a second and ask whether, just as a football player, he isn’t Slava Kozlov. He’s infuriating in that he’s super-talented but just plays his own game at all times. Has it worked a bunch? Sure, I don’t hate the dude. But from his has-to-be-team-leading drops to his unorthodox route running, his 2013 has been rather annoying.

- Jairus Byrd is either injured or uninterested, but he hasn’t looked like a player who deserves franchise money.

- Buffalo’s offensive line simply disappeared for much of the second quarter, as Thad Lewis was hit on a significant percentage of his drop-backs. The two biggest plays, a Hail Mary-type bomb to T.J. Graham and a big run by fullback Frank Summers, came despite the line (Lewis had to heave the ball to Graham under pressure while Summers dodged an awfully-scared-looking tackle from Reshad Jones.

- Fred Jackson is, to borrow a Boss phrase, tougher than the rest. He’s not a “Handsome Dan,” “Good Lookin’ Joe” or “Sweet Talking Romeo” but he’s like that old sledgehammer your dad got from your grandfather, just a thick piece of wood with a sledge on the end that gets the job done. Yes, he’s been hobbled by injuries as much as any other well-used NFL player but he looks the type who’d try to play through a hurricane.

If they created a prototypical RB for a non-NFLPA sanctioned video game (I believe it was Mack Strong in Commodore 64’s “4th and Inches”), it’d be based on Jackson. Twitterer @Bubbalandes called him Fred “Paul Pierce” Jackson. As a Celtics fan, I love that. Not flashy but dependably solid.

EDIT (4:57 p.m.): @Bubbalandes tweeted me to let me know he meant to say Freddie was embellishing his injury a la P-squared in the ‘08 Finals, but I’m happy to be here to accidentally twist his statement to reflect reality. Can’t believe I have to watch him play for the NETS this year.

- With under seven minutes to play, the Bills’ defense made its first truly inspiring plays since the pick-six. On second down with the Bills on their heels thanks to Stephon Gilmore’s club hand, Mario Williams absolutely embarrassed Dolphins tackle Tyson Clabo before unloading on Tannehill for the Bills’ first sack. One play later, Kiko Alonso made a strong wrap-up tackle to force Miami to punt.

- For the record, the fact that it took the Bills until the 4th quarter to get a sack on a team that has been absolutely destroyed as pass blockers is pretty rough. Twenty-four sacks in five games heading into the afternoon.

- Aaron Williams celebrates everything remotely positive, which would be more easily digested if the positive came more often than the negative.

- There are so many times I question why the National Football League continues to thrive and most of them include sentences with phrases like “one knee equals two feet.” Of course it does. It’s anatomy. Geniuses. All of them.

- Saw some Tweets calling for the removal of Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, which is when you know things are getting a little looney. He’s made significant rookie mistakes this season, in particular in the red zone, but let’s not forget that he’s down to a practice squad quarterback and the Bills apparently decided to sign “What the heck?” to play left guard?

Stat-line I liked:
Carpenter, 3-for-3 field goals, 2-for-2 XPs
— Honestly, the Duck Dynasty-looking dude was an afterthought signing after Dustin Hopkins was injured. As talented as the rookie from Florida State might be, is he 15-of-16 with as many big makes as Carpenter has hit?

Stat-line I didn’t like:
Bills, 30 rushes, 90 yards
— The way to make Thad Lewis more productive is to let the opposition know you can run. With Jackson and CJ Spiller hobbled, it was going to be a challenge, but the run didn’t work until late… and still not so much.

Game balls:
Mario Williams and Fred Jackson
— No-brainers.

Next week:
Thad Lewis versus Drew Brees in the latter’s home stadium. New Orleans 38, Bills 17.

Lastly:
3-4 with a road win against a divisional opponent. It could most definitely be worse. Should be 2-1 since your projected franchise quarterback was injured and had to cede his job to a “nobody.” Life’s alright if you’re a long-term thinking Bills fan.

TAGGED: buffalo bills, football, fred jackson, immediate reactions, mario williams, miami dolphins, nick mendola, nickell robey, ryan tannehill

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