It was an exhilarating, entertaining victory Thursday night, the Bills 19-14 win over the Dolphins. And it's a pleasant chore to review the game and write about some of the highlights for the Bills this week. Here are some leftover observations from the Bills Radio Broadcast booth:
- Leodis McKelvin set the tone for the game with his electric 79-yard punt return touchdown 1:30 into the game. From that moment on, Ralph Wilson Stadium was buzzing, with most fans staying on their feet the rest of the way.
McKelvin made a great run for his second return touchdown of the season. But the entire punt return team made tremendous blocks. The Bills star of the game, safety Jairus Byrd, started it out with a great block on Miami's Jimmy Wilson. And Byrd had to pick himself up off the turf to do it.
Special teams standout Chris White got his block on one of the Dolphins top special teams performer, linebacker Jason Trusnik. And new acquisition Mana Silva did his job, getting Miami's other top cover man, Austin Spitler. The Bills Ruvell Martin was able to squeeze his man, Jonathan Amaya, to the sidelines, leaving it up to Buffalo's Corey McIntyre to de-cleat the punter, Brandon Fields.
It doesn't take much of a crease for McKelvin to break a long one these days, and he didn't get one here, maybe only a two-foot wide hole to shoot through. But he did, and he was gone.
How much longer before McKelvin is mentioned alongside Chicago's Devin Hester as the most dangerous return men in the league?
- The Bills offense made good use of their screen pass game, and had great success with their variety of screens. Ryan Fitzpatrick says the team called about 8-9 screen plays during the game, and managed to complete passes on five of them.
By my count, the five completed screen pass plays produced a total of 49-yards, giving them an average of 10-yards per play. That's great production. And NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock took notice on the national TV broadcast.
"I really believe Chan Gailey's got one of the best screen games in the NFL," Mayock told the national audience. "Gailey is the master of the screen game."
Head Coach Chan Gailey told us Friday why the screen pass plays such an important role in Buffalo's offensive package.
"They are really important because we do run the football, we do throw it and that is the sort of in between play, "Gailey said. "It is a pass, but it is the way of getting the ball in the hands of somebody you think can go make a play for you. So we try to devise as many different ways as we can to get the ball in the hands of play makers."
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick says the screens are one of the most effective ways to get C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson involved in the offense.
"I think the main reason is just getting them touches in space. " Fitzpatrick says.
"The handoffs are good and all the spreading people out, giving them one-on-one matchups in the running game versus safeties—but being able to get them in space where they can set up blocks and maybe getting some of those secondary guys down the field covering the pass--that is why it is a big part."
- Speaking of Spiller, Thursday's game provided more evidence of how complete a running back he has become, in his third year in the league. He's great in the screen game, dynamic carrying the ball, and he's also become a reliable and willing blocker.
In the first quarter, Spiller made a great read to pick up defensive end Cameron Wake coming around the corner on a pass play. Several times, he was able to handle blitzing Dolphin linebackers in pass protection. Spiller's willingness to jump into pass protection with both feet is part of his emergence this year as a very good every down back in the NFL.
Dolphins safety Reshad Jones was outstanding all night long. He made several early tackles, and ended the game with 14 tackles, one forced fumble, and one pass defensed. Jones was Miami's 5th round draft pick three years ago, and he and cornerback Sean Smith look like they're ready to be the anchors of the Dolphins secondary for years to come.
- The fact is, however, Jones was only the second-best safety on the field Thursday night. Buffalo's Jairus Byrd had the interception of the season for the Bills and maybe
in the NFL in the fourth quarter. He came from center field to the sideline, to cover a pass that looked like it was severely overthrown, and managed to grab the pass on his fingertips, while he was inbounds, and maintain possession through the catch. And it just happened to occur with two minutes to play in a one score game. Byrd also had a fumble recovery in the game, and several strong tackles in the run game. He's been playing at a Pro Bowl level for several weeks, and if the Bills defense can maintain the performance they put on Thursday night, Byrd will get some consideration for the Pro Bowl.