Bills receiver Sammy Watkins missed the team’s last game with an ankle injury and was limited in practice all week, even after a bye.
But he returned to action Sunday and torched the Dolphins for a career-high 168 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ 33-17 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“I take the blame for it,” said cornerback Brent Grimes, who was beaten for a 63-yard reception in the second quarter and a 44-yard touchdown in the third. “I didn’t bring my A-game today.”
Watkins beat Grimes by so much on the 63-yard catch that he bobbled the ball twice and still had plenty of room to reel it in. That set up a Karlos Williams touchdown run on the next play.
In the third quarter, Miami was driving in Buffalo territory with a chance to take the lead before Jerry Hughes blew past Jason Fox and forced a Ryan Tannehill fumble.
Five plays later, Watkins shook Grimes again, this time hauling in a 44-yard touchdown from Tyrod Taylor. Miami never got within one possession again.
“The one, I’m trying to fight for position and I just tripped over his legs,” Grimes said of the second-quarter pass. “The other one, I just, like I said, making mistakes at the line. He made the play. Hats off to him.”
But while Grimes was left licking his wounds and acknowledging that Miami’s best corner was no match for Buffalo’s best receiver, Watkins gave an analytical breakdown of how he was able to repeatedly beat the former Pro Bowler.
“I live by the film,” Watkins said. “I watched him, every game from 2-3 years ago. I watch how he plays press. He doesn’t switch it up. I kind of set it up … kept taking inside releases, kept selling it.
“I beat him inside on the first ‘go’ so I knew, when in doubt, that he’s going to jump inside. So I threw an inside release, kind of double move [on the touchdown], sold it with my body and he jumped. Then I just put my hand up and Tyrod delivered the ball.”
While the Bills ripped off 266 yards on the ground, Watkins was essentially the extent of their passing game. Taylor completed 11 of his 12 passes, with all eight targets for Watkins resulting in completions. No other Bills wide receiver had a catch in the game.
That makes things especially disappointing for Grimes, who is unlikely to be invited to another Pro Bowl with performances like Sunday’s.
The analytics website Pro Football Focus, which grades every play of every game multiple times, had Grimes rated as the league’s 15th-best performing corner entering Sunday’s game, but rated him just 29th in coverage (he was buoyed by his fourth overall rating in pass rush). That’s decent, but a far cry from the elite level the Dolphins need from their top corner.
Asked if he was banged up, Grimes said, “Yeah, but everybody is.”
Whatever the case, he’ll need to figure it out before next week’s trip to Philadelphia.
The Dolphins are now alone in the AFC East basement at 3-5 and have been beaten soundly twice in a row after claiming to turn the page following Joe Philbin’s dismissal.
“It’s a huge loss,” Grimes said. “It’s a division game. We needed a win, and lost. It’s bad.”