Since Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill became the Dolphins’ coach/quarterback tandem, the Buffalo Bills have flummoxed Tannehill, frequently overpowered the Dolphins’ offensive line and defeated Miami in four of their five meetings.
And at least one Bills player is confident that will happen again Thursday night when the teams meet at Sun Life Stadium.
“We’re going to go out and we’re going to beat that [butt]. Point blank. Period,” cornerback Leodis McKelvin told reporters Sunday.
Said Dolphins right guard Mike Pouncey. “You can’t talk about it, you got to do it.”
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The Bills are hardly the ideal opponent for Miami on a short week, even more so considering left tackle Branden Albert’s season-ending knee injury leaves the Dolphins more vulnerable against the Bills’ physical defensive front.
“I think the Bills are built to beat us,” linebacker Philip Wheeler said after Buffalo’s 29-10 drubbing of the Dolphins in Week 2. “They have a good scheme against us every year.
“Their defense stops our offense. Their offense runs the ball on us.”
Pouncey said in the three most recent games against Buffalo, “We came out slow and turned over the ball. Once these types of teams get up on you, they thrive on that. Last year [Buffalo] was our biggest challenge. This one is bigger.”
Philbin bemoaned that in the September loss to Buffalo and said, “We had five negative plays in the first half on offense. A blocked punt in the first half. We [allowed] two 28-yard passes that we felt were more mistakes, schematic things on our end. We have to make sure those things don’t happen in the rematch.”
Among the problems that have emerged against Buffalo during the Philbin/Tannehill era:
▪ Tannehill has completed only 52.4 percent of his passes in five career games against the Bills, well below his 60.5 percent career average.
His 67 passer rating in those games is well below his 81.6 career rating.
And Tannehill is averaging only 157.6 passing yards per game against Buffalo, with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Tannehill, incidentally, was limited in practice Monday by right shoulder and ankle injuries, but he’s expected to play Thursday.
▪ One reason Tannehill has struggled against Buffalo is Miami’s inability to slow the Bills’ pass rush. Buffalo has sacked Tannehill 18 times in the five games, including four times in their September meeting and seven times in Miami’s 19-0 loss at Buffalo last December.
Mario Williams and Kyle Williams each have four sacks against the Dolphins in their past three meetings, and Jerry Hughes has two in the past two games against Miami.
A Mario Williams sack late in their October meeting at Sun Life Stadium last year led to a Tannehill fumble and set up Buffalo’s game-winning field goal in a 23-21 victory — - an embarrassing loss for the Dolphins considering the Bills were playing Thad Lewis, their No. 3 quarterback at the time.
Without Albert, a diminished, reshuffled offensive line could spell trouble against a Bills defense that leads the league with 34 sacks.
▪ The Bills have run for 120, 203 and 113 yards in their past three games against the Dolphins. Conversely, the Dolphins produced just 90, 14 and 80 yards rushing in those three games.
The Bills are without injured C.J. Spiller, who had 69 yards on 12 carries against Miami in September, but Fred Jackson — back from a groin injury — has given the Dolphins problems at times in the past, including an 18-carry, 105-yard game in December.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have averaged just 3.0, 1.2 and 3.8 yards per rush in their past three games against Buffalo. Their starting running back, Lamar Miller, has been battling a shoulder injury and played only 11 of Miami’s 61 offensive snaps against Detroit but said he could have played more if needed and will definitely play Thursday.
“We need to do better,” Philbin said of the running game. “I didn’t think there were a lot of gaping holes we missed, but there were a couple of opportunities for more yards than we got.”
The Bills, who were quarterbacked by EJ Manuel during their Week 2 meeting, are now led by Kyle Orton, who has 10 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 98.4 passer rating in five starts.
The Dolphins also will have to slow rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, who had eight catches for 117 yards in their September meeting.
Besides Albert’s injury and Miller’s shoulder issues, the Dolphins have other health concerns. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, and guard Daryn Colledge (back) didn’t participate in Monday’s light practice. Nine others — Tannehill, Charles Clay, Miller, Koa Misi, Dion Jordan, Dion Sims, Jimmy Wilson, Kelvin Sheppard and John Denney — were limited.