1 – Murphy and Tolbert pick up slack
It’s nearly impossible to make up for the absence of LeSean McCoy, but Buffalo’s backup running backs were productive on Sunday. The duo of Marcus Murphy and Mike Tolbert delivered on the ground in wake of McCoy’s injury.
McCoy’s ankle got rolled up on during his first carry of the second half. He was carted off the field and didn’t return to the game. Some may say the Bills depth at RB is slim, but Murphy and Tolbert trumped that thought.
“I loved what we saw on Sunday, which is true of our entire team. You see 63 guys prepare all season long. I think that was on display against the Dolphins when Murphy stepped up and Mike Tolbert did as well,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “Our coaches do a great job of preparing not only our guys who are starters, but those who have to come in after that.”
For Tolbert, he’s backed up McCoy for the majority of the season. In the regular season, he recorded 66 carries for 247 yards. In Sunday’s game, he notched seven carries for 39 yards. That was his best performance since Week Three.
For Murphy, his first action with the Bills came in Week 17’s must-win game. He was extremely serviceable, averaging just under six yards per carry. He had seven carries for 41 yards, making him Buffalo’s leading rusher in the game.
“He certainly has a great burst, good acceleration, and good ball skills. Things you look for in a back,” said offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. “When the opportunity arose, when 39 [Travaris Cadet] went down, let’s elevate him and see what he can do.”
“Really he’s earned the right,” said McDermott. “He’s done it all the way from the time he came in the building. From his approach to practice, his opportunities in practice with the scout team, whether it was on offensive side or special teams, he was prepared and he executed. I was happy to see it and real proud of him.”
2 - Defense prevails in playoff-making victory
Buffalo’s defense halted Miami’s offense for the majority of Sunday’s game. The Bills ‘D’ bent at times, but most importantly they didn’t break.
Buffalo’s top-five performers from Sunday were all on the defensive side of the ball, according to Pro Football Focus. Those players were: Jerry Hughes (94.8), E.J. Gaines (92.0), Kyle Williams (85.0), Ramon Humber (82.4), and Micah Hyde (82.1).
Hughes, who was the team’s top-rated player, was inches away from a couple of sacks on the Dolphins quarterbacks. He finished the game with two tackles and one tackle for a loss. PFF credited Hughes for his disruption in the passing game.
While he didn’t record a sack, Hughes was a major force disrupting the Dolphins passing game. All of his pass-rushing snaps came from the right side, creating seven pressures which lead to a pass-rush productivity of 15.9 from that side as he routinely beat the Dolphins backup left tackle Zach Sterup.
Sunday’s 22-16 victory over Miami completed the season sweep over Buffalo’s division rival. In both wins, the defense held Miami to just 16 points.
“I think Sunday was a good indicator, in some ways, of who we are as a defense. You look at the yards, but you look at the points allowed, at the end of the day that’s the big deal,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “Our goal is to hold teams under 17 or less. When you can do that, you know you have a high percent chance of winning. We’ve been able to get that done.”
3 - Former Bills took to Twitter following postseason berth
Many people were impacted by Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought. Coaches, fans, or players, you name it. For some former Bills players, they played during the darkest times, making Sunday an extremely meaningful day.
Many iconic Bills players from the past took to Twitter to express their excitement. Drew Bledsoe, Fred Jackson, Brian Moorman, and Takeo Spikes to name a few. None of those beloved players played postseason football for Buffalo, but they poured their heart into the organization.
For Moorman, who punted for the team from 2001-2013, he was actively keeping tabs on the Bengals and Ravens game.
14 seconds until we party like it’s 1999! #billsmafia #playoffs #GoBills!
Spikes, who was a Bill from 2003-2006, quote tweeted an NFL.com article about Buffalo clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 1999.
Nobody circles the wagon like the @buffalobills. #PlayoffBound
The former players who posted on social media were well into the double digits. The ending to Buffalo’s drought is a weight off of many shoulders, even Bills alumni.
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