After a tightly contested first half, Buffalo's passing attack found a groove. Balancing the offense just enough on the ground with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the offensive line gave Ryan Fitzpatrick enough time to get in a rhythm as 17 points proved to be enough in a 17-14 victory over Miami.
For Buffalo it was their first division victory of the season as they improved to 4-10. For Miami their playoff hopes were extinguished with the loss as they fell to 7-7 on the season and were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
"Our goal was to go out and prove we were not the team that everybody saw in the first half of the season," said head coach Chan Gailey. "The only way to prove it is to win games. You can talk about getting better. You can talk about improving, but if you don't win, everybody goes, 'Yeah, so what.' I'm glad that these guys have some wins now to be able to back that up."
The Bills got some help from Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter who missed all four of his field goal attempts in the game from 48, 61, 53 and 48 yards. It was the first time a Bills opponent had missed four field goals since 1970.
The Bills' second drive of the third quarter was the decisive drive of the game. Fitzpatrick led an 11-play 86-yard drive going 4-4 passing for 63 yards including a 15-yard strike to Stevie Johnson in tight coverage to give Buffalo a 17-7 lead on a double post play.
"That was a great drive," said Fitzpatrick. "That was the drive of the game for us. It was one-on-one coverage with Stevie and the first post took out the safety and clears it for Steve one-on-one with the corner. With that guy he's so special so talented. You just give him a chance. Give him a chance and he came down with it."
For Johnson it was his 10th touchdown reception of the season leaving him one shy of the team's single season record (Bill Brooks 11 – 1995).
Fitzpatrick finished the game 16-26 for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns with an interception. He now has 23 touchdown passes on the season.
Buffalo's defense would hold Miami scoreless in the third quarter getting some help from Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter who pushed a 53-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Come the fourth quarter however, Buffalo's effective pressure package was neutralized and Miami put together their best drive of the game. The Dolphins marched 77 yards on 11 plays with Chad Henne finding Brandon Marshall with a nine-yard touchdown pass in the right slot to make it a field goal game for the second time in the contest with 7:02 remaining.
The Bills offense however, couldn't run out the clock, giving Miami two more possessions before the game was over, but Carpenter missed the last of his four field goal attempts from 48 yards and the Dolphins poorly managed the clock in the waning seconds as time ran out with Brandon Marshall attempting a lateral that was recovered by Bryan Scott to end the game.
The Bills pressure packages worked well against a nicked up Miami offensive line. Arthur Moats led the effort with a sack and a half and a pair of quarterback hits.
"That's the game plan every week," said Moats. "You want to get pressure on the quarterback. Whether he's a great quarterback or an average quarterback you get pressure on him you're going to force him into mistakes and errors. We felt like we could do that as far as our different blitz packages and our front man rushes. It turned out well for us."
For Miami their opening drive proved prophetic as it concluded with a missed 48-yard field goal. The Dolphins offense was stuck in neutral as Buffalo slowed the Dolphins' ground game and got enough pressure on Chad Henne to force an errant throw on their third possession. Miami ran for just 65 yards on 19 carries. Gailey thought they would run it more.
"I was somewhat surprised that they didn't try to keep pounding the run a little bit more, but at the same time we got them into some longer yardage situations and they felt like they were having real trouble making third and long," Gailey said. "They thought that maybe they couldn't run it and try to end up third and seven, third and eight. I was surprised yes."
Late in the first quarter facing pressure from Chris Kelsay on a 2nd-and-10 from the Dolphins 46, Henne threw a pass intended for Patrick Cobbs, but George Wilson jumped the route for his second interception of the season.
Buffalo's offense would then capitalize on the turnover as David Nelson made two big plays on the scoring drive pulling in a 20-yard reception to set up 1st-and-goal. Nelson then pulled in an 18-yard touchdown catch in traffic from Ryan Fitzpatrick after two penalties backed the Bills up for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
"I think a lot of attention was on Stevie and that's what we expected this week," said Nelson. "We expected a lot of attention to be paid to Stevie because he's a great playmaker and does a lot of great things for us. He had two guys on him on that play. I just kind of got lost in the shuffle and they lost where I was and Fitz just did a great job of finding me."
Miami's offense continued to struggle with Kyle Williams and Arthur Moats contributing a tackle for loss and a sack to force another three-and-out for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins would finally get on the board after a field goal drive by Buffalo staked the Bills to a 10-0 lead with Rian Lindell putting a 29-yard attempt through the uprights.
Miami went to the air with Brandon Marshall and Anthony Fasano making back-to-back plays to get the Dolphins down to the Buffalo 36. A 15-yard facemask penalty by the Bills also helped giving Miami a 1st-and-goal at the six-yard line. On 2nd-and-goal from the six, Ronnie Brown took a direct snap to the right on a sweep and reached the front right corner of the end zone to pull Miami to within a field goal (10-7) with two minutes left in the half.
For Buffalo it was the fourth time in the last five meetings that they've beaten the Dolphins in their second meeting of the season, and their fourth win in their last six games.
"That was probably as good a team win as we've had," said Gailey. "I think that almost every guy that stepped on the field contributed something to the victory. When you get that that's a great feeling for a football team, to be able to fight through to get a win on the road like that against a division opponent."
Buffalo will take that momentum home as the Bills host division-leading New England next Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.