The Buffalo Bills ended their road schedule on a low note yesterday, losing 24-10 to the Miami Dolphins. Buffalo's defense could not stop the Dolphins in the middle two quarters. The offense managed just three points up until the fourth quarter, and turned the ball over four times in total. The team's penalties added up to more yards than any skill position player, aside from the excellent C.J. Spiller. This trip to South Beach had few bright spots.
The Good. I saw one bright spot: Spiller. He touched the ball 26 times for 173 yards, split between 138 on the ground and 35 in the passing game. The Dolphins entered the game sixth in yards per rush allowed and eighth in rushing yards allowed per game. Spiller once again proved he's matchup proof, shredding a good run defense on their home turf.
Regardless of any changes made for next year, Spiller needs to maintain that touch count. Spiller can be the feature back when healthy, and a weapon that no team in the league can stop without significantly weakening their pass defense positioning. He's the real deal. His 62-yard run was Barry Sanders-esque. If he's ever featured for a full season, he could be a star. He was on Sunday, and has been all season.
The Bad. All of Buffalo's flaws were on display on Sunday. There were those aforementioned four turnovers. The line couldn't protect Ryan Fitzpatrick, who took some big shots. Even when he was protected, he missed on a handful of throws. When he connected, receivers fumbled or couldn't hang on to complete the reception - a Stevie Johnson touchdown drop comes to mind. And when it counted late in the game, Buffalo crumbled under the pressure as Fitzpatrick threw another late-game interception.
The defense got gashed. Ryan Tannehill managed the game well, made smart plays, and didn't turn the ball over. He's not Russell Wilson, but the defense couldn't stop him on the ground, and the former Texas A&M wide receiver gashed Buffalo on a 31-yard run, adding to his two touchdown throws to Reggie Bush.
In all, the defense got slashed for 182 yards on the ground. Miami did run 35 times, but given the total yards, the Dolphins gained 5.2 yards per rush. They allowed Miami to convert 50 percent of their third downs. Marcell Dareus got to Tannehill four times (for two sacks) and Mario Williams got close, but the rest of the defense didn't get close to Tannehill. Buffalo played for pride on defense, and only came up with more shame.
Let's Not Overreact. From my seat, I thought the Bills played hard. I don't think they let up, particularly late in the game as they mounted a comeback. Overmatched? Yes. Undisciplined? Yes. Lacking in skill and talent at certain positions? Yes. But hey - don't claim they quit.
Outlook. Buffalo's season ends as it began - with the New York Jets. The game in Week 1 was a matchup of teams thought to be ready to challenge for a division title. Now, we'll see two teams with coaches under fire, uncertain futures at quarterback, and underachieving players throughout the roster. The Bills proved to be a paper tiger on defense, and Fitzpatrick never elevated his game to the level required of a playoff team. Mark Sanchez looks to be done in New York, along with Tim Tebow, and the Jets' once-powerful defense was nearly as futile as Buffalo's against rushing attacks. It's a game for die-hard fans, featuring two teams with a lot to think about as the off-season begins in just eight days.