In 2011, the Miami Dolphins swept the Buffalo Bills. In the three seasons since, the Bills have won four of five games against Miami, and are currently on a three-game winning streak dating back to the start of the 2013 season against their division rivals.
They'll put that hot streak against Miami on the line again this evening when they take on the Dolphins in South Florida on Thursday Night Football.
On September 14, after the Bills had extended their winning streak to three with a 29-10 thumping of Miami in Orchard Park, Dolphins linebacker Phillip Wheeler told reporters: "I think the Bills are built to beat us. They have a good scheme against us every year... Their defense stops our offense. Their offense runs the ball on us."
Wheeler isn't wrong about that first point. During the three-game win streak, the Bills have yielded just 31 points to the Dolphins, including 10 points in the last two games combined (both of which took place in Western New York). Bills defenders have sacked quarterback Ryan Tannehill a total of 13 times in those games, including 11 in the last two. (Mario Williams also had two key sacks in the Bills' 23-21 road win over Miami last October.)
Williams has four of those sacks, with at least one in each game. Kyle Williams has three, Jerry Hughes has two, Nickell Robey has two, and Stefan Charles and Da'Norris Searcy each have one. (It's time for Marcell Dareus to get on the sack-Tannehill train, no?)
The running game, however, is less ironclad. Buffalo accumulated just 90 yards on the ground in the road win last fall, relying instead on a Robey pick-six, three Dan Carpenter field goals, and that defense to eke out a tough win. And their 113-yard rushing output from Week 2 earlier this season was not especially excellent, either; Sammy Watkins (117 receiving yards) did most of the damage in that game. (They did run for 203 yards in Week 16 last season, so there's that.)
Still, Wheeler's point holds: the Bills have handled the Dolphins with relative ease in their last three meetings, largely because of their defense. But Miami presents its own set of problems, starting with their own defense and extending to the venue for tonight's game.
Even though they're 3-0 in their last three against the Dolphins, the Bills haven't exactly set the world on fire offensively in those contests. They've been responsible for just 57 points in those game (19 per), with the Robey pick-six and a C.J. Spiller kick return score bolstering the final outcomes. And aside from the 390-yard outburst in the home game last season, Miami has held the Bills to 268 and 315 yards of offense in the other two wins. EJ Manuel was not sacked earlier this season, but a Dolphins pass rush featuring Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon should have an easier go of trying to track down Kyle Orton.
Then there's the issue of the Bills playing in Miami. Prior to last season's road win, Buffalo had won just one of their previous five games against the Dolphins in South Florida. Even factoring in the two wins in six tries, the average final score of a Bills-Dolphins game in Miami has been 26-14 in favor of the home team. Three-game win streak or not, the Bills have not played particularly good football in Miami for the last half-decade.
Tonight's Bills-Dolphins matchup pits two 5-4 outfits trying desperately to stay relevant not only in the AFC playoff race, but also within a prayer of catching New England in the AFC East, as well. Time will tell which streak - the Bills' recent dominance over Miami, or their struggles playing in South Florida - will continue.