Grading the game: Dolphins vs. Bills

Grading the Miami Dolphins, position by position, in their victory over the Buffalo Bills.

12/24/2012 12:00 AM

12/24/2012 10:27 PM

QUARTERBACK

It was only a 130-yard performance for Ryan Tannehill and his completion percentage (52 percent) doesn’t exactly excite. But Tannehill’s pass to Rishard Matthews down the seam was a thing of beauty. His second touchdown to Reggie Bush had perfect touch. He didn’t come close to throwing an interception and he shows great maturity in throwing the football away rather than taking a sack or throwing into coverage. He also showed no fear in gaining 44 yards on six carries, including a 31-yard run to set up a TD. GRADE: B

RUNNING BACKS

We have seen the future, and it is good. Lamar Miller might soon be one of the better running backs in the division if you believe what you saw Sunday. He moved the pile, didn’t leave yards on the field and showed great instinct in breaking inside runs outside when there was no hole to exploit. Miller led the team with 73 yards on 10 carries. Reggie Bush did the heavy lifting with 19 carries, but his biggest contribution came as a pass catcher where he caught two touchdown throws. Where has this combination been all year? GRADE: B.

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Armon Binns seems to be a solid possession receiver while Rishard Matthews is steadily gaining more confidence and showing the game is not too fast for him. The Dolphins obviously targeted leading receiver Brian Hartline a team-high seven times but got only two catches out of it. Hartline did draw a pass interference and was open deep for a touchdown but failed to make a catch while he was hand-fighting with a defender. GRADE: C-plus.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Richie Incognito got run over on a field-goal attempt and that resulted in a block. John Jerry also had a couple of moments when he was 2 yards behind the scrimmage line on run plays. But this was overall a fine day for the offensive line. The mismatch of big-name pass-rusher Mario Williams against right tackle Nate Garner never really materialized as Williams had a hurry and one tipped pass but nothing else. Jonathan Martin had one bad moment with Shawne Merriman, but again no major issues. It was interior defensive lineman Marcel Dareus who did most of the damage for Buffalo with two sacks. The Dolphins linemen, meanwhile, did create avenues through which to run. GRADE: B.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Cameron Wake was his typical self, collecting a sack, forcing a fumble and also being credited for a quarterback hurry. Olivier Vernon, quiet for a while in recent weeks because he seemed to hit the rookie wall, showed up. He had a sack and slowed C.J. Spiller on his long run enough to let other Miami defenders tackle the fleet running back. Good hustle. Jared Odrick had a personal foul for hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick in the head. He also was offsides once. Randy Starks, who didn’t practice all week because he was away after a death in the family, had a tackle for loss but he also jumped offsides. The Bills averaged 5.5 yards per rush. GRADE: C-plus.

LINEBACKERS

Kevin Burnett was beaten on a completion but got the last laugh when he forced a fumble on the play. Karlos Dansby led the team with 10 tackles and had a quarterback hurry. Dansby and Burnett were used as double A-gap blitzers on at least two occasions, and although they didn’t get to the quarterback, they forced bad throws. GRADE: B-plus.

SECONDARY

Dimitri Patterson, who joined the team Wednesday, started at one cornerback and was listening to coaches barking instruction on many plays to let him know what the calls were. He nonetheless was very good in coverage and performed as well as anyone has this year at the position. Sean Smith left the game in the first half with a left knee injury and that thrust Bryan McCann into the game. McCann was solid. The Dolphins got great play from their safeties as Reshad Jones recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass and Chris Clemons recovered a fumble on the day. GRADE: A.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Nate Kaeding’s first field-goal attempt was blocked. That was a blocking issue. Kaeding was good on a 45-yarder. Miami’s kickoff teams did fine work, limiting the Bills to a 16-yard average on their two returns. Marcus Thigpen averaged 25 yards on his two returns. GRADE: C-plus.

COACHING

Miami’s offensive coaches apparently did something staffs have been doing for years: They figured out Dave Wannstedt’s defense in a rematch. The Miami defensive staff also did great work plugging together holes in the secondary even as the leaks were happening during the game, including losing Sean Smith to injury in the second half and not having Nolan Carroll active because he was injured last week. GRADE: B.

OVERALL

The Dolphins are out of the playoffs but at least they handled their business on this day and got some revenge against a division opponent in a rematch. GRADE: B.

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