For once this season the Bills owned the fourth quarter, and it was pivotal as Buffalo outscored the Dolphins 24-0 to overcome a touchdown deficit and win for the first time in a month, 31-14 over division rival Miami.
"I just think the players had an attitude," said interim head coach Perry Fewell following his first NFL victory as a head coach. "We've been talking about finishing. We've been practicing to finish, offensively, defensively and special teams-wise. And that's what we did (Sunday). We were very fortunate that guys rose up to the challenge."
Rian Lindell redeemed himself after a missed 44-yard attempt in the first half with a career long 56-yarder to break a 14-14 tie with 3:35 left to play.
"I felt good," said Lindell. "I made a couple of those throughout the year just because it's the place where we practice. I hit that about as good as I could hit it."
"It was right there on the cusp of his range," said Fewell. "He had missed one earlier and I told him earlier, 'We're going to need you again.' It was a gut (feeling). I had confidence in him and I said, 'Hey Bobby (April), let's go kick that thing and he said, 'Yeah let's go get it.'"
After the Buffalo defense forced a three-and-out on Miami's next possession, the Bills went for the kill, as Fitzpatrick called an audible after seeing one-on-one coverage, throwing a bomb down the right sideline on 1st-and-10 for a 51-yard touchdown to Terrell Owens to put the Bills up by 10 with just 2:23 remaining (24-14).
"We preached all week long that we wanted to be aggressive and take the shots when we can get them," said Fitzpatrick. "And that was just one of those plays where we had the chance to get the ball outside in one of our playmaker's hands and he obviously was very excited about it."
"You tip your hat to Ryan (Fitzpatrick) in that situation because he assessed the defense and they were kind of moving around a little bit and we felt like we had some opportunities that slipped earlier in the game and he missed a few," said Owens. "So we wanted to be aggressive and it was his call, and it was up to us to make that play."
Fitzpatrick finished 17-26 passing for 246 yards, one touchdown passing and rushing and an interception. Owens had five catches for 96 yards and the game-clinching touchdown, his second in as many weeks.
The Bills defense was stout in the fourth quarter forcing a pair of three-and-outs and ending the Dolphins' last three possessions with interceptions.
"It was great," said Donte Whitner, who finished with a team leading 10 tackles and an interception. "If you can get to that fourth quarter and stay strong then we can win football games. We did it (Sunday)."
"It's nice to get off the field on defense when it counts," said Chris Kelsay. "Last week we didn't and it's kind of been a bitter taste in our mouth ever since. It was a true team win."
Fred Jackson would cap the final Bills scoring drive with his second touchdown of the day with just over a minute left for the game's final points, finishing with 116 total yards from scrimmage.
"We were able to get a running game started early and any time you do that they're going to bring a safety down in the box and whenever a team does that we're going to take advantage of having Lee and T.O. outside and we were able to do so," said Jackson. "So it was good to get that running game started early."
Buffalo had been outscored 109-40 in the fourth quarter this season and 54-0 in their last three outings. But the Bills offense was efficient in moving the football for a second straight week as Ryan Fitzpatrick orchestrated four touchdown drives including one that he capped with a 31-yard touchdown run.
"I think the biggest thing was we finally finished in the fourth quarter," said Fitzpatrick. "That's been one of our downfalls all year. We've played hard and hung on until the fourth quarter and then we've let it slip away. So hopefully we can use that as a turning point, the way that we played and finished in the fourth quarter."
The Bills looked to be in trouble right from the start of the second half as Miami appeared to seize control of a tie game with a clock churning 16-play drive. The Dolphins imposed their will on the Bills defensive front plowing for 83 yards before Ricky Williams took a direct snap in for a one-yard touchdown run to take a 14-7 lead.
But Buffalo's offense had an equally successful time consuming possession of their own. The Bills put together a 13-play, penalty-free drive as Fred Jackson was responsible for 39 of the 75 yards including the last three on a three-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 14 with 13:49 left in the game.
"That was huge, that second drive, that was a seven minute drive that the offense came out and established," said Fewell. "That was huge in the ball game because they were wearing us down. They were checking the ball down. They were running the football effectively. It was huge in the ball game for our offense to come out and establish that tempo."
The Dolphins got on the scoreboard first. A missed field goal attempt by Buffalo led to a drive start for Miami at their own 34. With a good mix of run and pass Miami marched 66 yards before Chad Henne hit Brian Hartline, who beat man coverage, for a four-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Bills were able to deliver a quick response. After a screen pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Fred Jackson converted a 2nd-and-4 from their own 21, a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Jason Taylor moved the ball into Miami territory at the Dolphins 47.
Two plays after Fitzpatrick connected with tight end Jonathan Stupar for a 17-yard gain, he scrambled out to his right on a 2nd-and-11 from the Miami 31 and found a whole lot of running room. Buffalo's quarterback ran down the right sideline untouched for a 31-yard touchdown run to tie the score with five minutes left in the second quarter (7-7).
"I didn't think I was going to score," said Fitzpatrick. "I thought one guy was going to catch me, but I was huffing and puffing out there for sure. I haven't run that far in a long time. That was a pass play and just with the coverage the way I got flushed we really had the perfect route on because it moved everybody to the other side of the field and there was an opening for me to take off."
Buffalo's defense was surrendering yardage early as Ricky Williams racked up 32 yards on five carries on Miami's opening drive, but on first-and-goal at the Bills three-yard line, offensive coordinator Dan Henning inexplicably called a halfback option pass. Ricky Williams throw intended for tight end Joey Haynos was picked off in the end zone by Chris Draft to keep the game scoreless midway through the first quarter.
Unfortunately the Bills were unable to get points off the turnover. The offense put together an 11-play 54-yard drive, but after it stalled at the Miami 26, Rian Lindell missed a 44-yard field goal attempt to the right keeping the game scoreless late in the first.
But Buffalo's big fourth quarter made up for it. With the win the Bills improved to 4-7 on the season and have a quick turnaround this week as they host another AFC East opponent in the Jets Thursday night at the Rogers Centre in Toronto for an 8:20 kickoff.