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Bills' Run Defense Didn't Break Against Dolphins

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills' rushing defense was a major point of emphasis over the offseason with the additions of Dwan Edwards and Andra Davis in free agency and Torell Troup in the draft. Early returns on the defensive transition from a 4-3 to 3-4 are still inconclusive, but the Bills' rushing defense was effective Sunday despite a 14-minute difference in time of possession.

Last year, the Miami Dolphins rushed for 250 and 157 yards against the Bills. In each game, the leading rusher - Ronnie Brown in October and Ricky Williams in November - gained 115 yards. Each rusher averaged over four yards per carry. As a team, they ran for 5.6 and 4.2 yards per carry in the two games.

Juxtapose that with Sunday. Buffalo's rushing defense held Brown to 65 yards and Williams to 62. The combined 127 yards is twelve over what each back gained individually against the Bills in a single game a season ago. Yes, they gave up over 100 yards on the ground, but as a team, the Dolphins were held to 3.7 yards per rush.

While it may be true that whenever the Dolphins needed a yard or two for a first down they were able to gain the necessary distance, the longest run on the day was 17 yards. The Bills kept the long run in check all day, allowing only two over 10 yards, and ultimately never allowed a backbreaking scamper despite being on the field for nearly two-thirds of the game.

Time of possession should have killed the Bills' defense. They were on the field for a shade under 37 minutes. In the 11 games the Bills have lost the time of possession last year, they allowed an average of 157 yards on the ground, in most cases allowing the opponent to salt away the game in the fourth quarter. The defense didn't allow that to happen yesterday, keeping the offense in the game despite being behind the entire game.

When the Dolphins got the ball with less than two minutes left, the Bills' run defense forced them to go three and out, giving the offense one more chance. That alone should show you the difference between last year's unit and this year's. At least it was a chance.