The injured animal of a Dolphins offensive line lay before Buffalo’s predatory defensive line Thursday night. In the first half, the Bills pounced with all the mercy you’d expect in the NFL jungle.
But in the second half of the Dolphins 22-9 win, the Dolphins line fought back with the survival instincts of a wounded animal. They kept quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright enough times for Tannehill to direct two touchdown drives as, in a battle of defenses and kickers, the Bills broke first.
Oh, the NFL’s sack leaders got theirs, especially former No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Mario Williams. Williams got three and half sacks, one against a scheme that pitted tight end Dion Sims alone against Williams, a concept quickly put in the Bad Idea circular file. Also, when Buffalo needed to get the ball back with 4:44 left in the game, Williams picked up a third down sack.
Williams also authored the funniest play of the night when he batted a Tannehill pass back into Tannehill’s arms. A tackle by defensive tackle Kyle Williams (no relation) ended the 4-yard loss, the first Dolphins quarterback completion to himself since it happened to Damon Huard against Oakland in 1999.
The Dolphins’ second possession ended when defensive end Jerry Hughes caught Tannehill from behind on a scramble and dislodged the ball. Buffalo safety Duke Williams recovered at the Bills’ 12.
Yes, the Buffalo defensive line got theirs…but they didn’t get enough.
With a remixed offensive line, the Dolphins running game should’ve been a Sisyphean tale of failure. Brandon Albert’s season ending knee injury moved rookie Ja’Wuan James to left tackle and Dallas Thomas to right tackle. Shelley Smith started at left guard for Daryn Colledge, put down for the third game in a row by his bad back.
Instead, Lamar Miller ripped off 86 yards on just 15 carries (5.7 per carry) and Daniel Thomas got 23 yards on his five carries (4.6 per carry). They kept the Dolphins from being one dimensional, death against most NFL defenses, swift death against Buffalo’s defensive line.
Over the first three quarters, the Dolphins went three for six on third down, including a 32-yard completion on third and 24, feasting time for a defensive line. And with the game in the balance in the third quarter and early in the fourth, Tannehill stayed clean on the Dolphins two touchdown drives as 9-3, Buffalo became 19-9, Dolphins.
He completed five of six for 59 yards on the drive that ended with Tannehill bootlegging right, stopping and hitting Brandon Gibson for a 7-yard touchdown. The second drive, Miller and Thomas ran four times for 19 yards while Tannehill completed a 12-yard pass, got a 24-yard pass interference call on Stephon Gillmore on a deep cross to Mike Wallace, then hit Jarvis Landry for an 8-yard score.