Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams, who is in his 11th year in an NFL career that has included four trips to the Pro Bowl, found himself in an unusual position Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t the fact that he was playing against the Bills for the first time since his four-year stint in Buffalo ended on March 1 — we knew that was happening.
No. Williams found himself in an odd spot when the Dolphins (3-4) lined him up at defensive tackle late in their 28-25 win over the Bills, with Ndamukong Suh to his immediate left and Andre Branch at right defensive end. Cameron Wake was the left defensive end.
“I’m used to being able to see outside in,” Williams said. “It was definitely a big change. I was in foreign territory for that drive at the end of the game.”
Williams, who claimed that beating his former team was no bigger than any other win, said his move to tackle was a spontaneous call from defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
“That was drawing it up school-yard, for real,” Williams said. “I was a piece of the puzzle playing inside with a bunch of great men. I knew we were going to keep hunting.”
Williams said he has played inside sporadically throughout his career, but this was his most extensive time at the position. It was so extensive, in fact, that Suh was coaching him up on the field.
“It was kind of funny,” Williams said. “Suh was telling me what to do, even though it was regular stuff. We came out with the ‘W’, and that’s all that matters.”
The defensive line was a big part of that win, helping to hold Buffalo to 267 total yards. The Bills produced three touchdowns, but the blame for one of them was on the secondary for allowing a one-play “drive” – a 67-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin.
An asterisk could be placed by the final Bills TD since it came with just 14 seconds left in the game, and the Dolphins safely ahead at 28-17.
Williams finished with two tackles for losses and one quarterback hurry.
Among Williams’ teammates on the defensive line, Wake had 1.5 sacks, Suh and Jason Jones had one sack each, and Branch was credited with a half-sack.
It remains to be seen if the Dolphins will go back to their late-game experiment of having Williams moving inside. Jordan Phillips is the current starter at the defensive tackle spot opposite Suh, but this could be a chance to get Branch more playing time.
Either way, Dolphins coach Adam Gase has noticed the improvement of his defense during the team’s two-game win streak that started last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We’re tackling better,” Gase said, “because we’re gang-tackling.”
Williams, Wake and Suh all said that the Dolphins run game – Jay Ajayi had over 200 yards for the second straight game – has helped their defense as much as any other factor.
In fact, Wake said the Dolphins defense got so much rest during some of the offense’s long drives, that they did something fairly unusual during a regular season game.
“As a defensive guy, watching [Ajayi], first down, first down, eating up the clock,” Wake said. “We had guys getting on the bikes, staying warm.”