After a three-quarter struggle, the Bills offense finally woke up in the fourth quarter putting together a 10-play drive capped by a Marshawn Lynch three-yard run and two-point conversion. That combined with a Chris Kelsay third-quarter safety pulled the Bills, who trailed the entire game, even at 10.
Lynch then got two key first downs on Buffalo's final drive which culminated in a 34-yard field goal by Rian Lindell with 46 seconds remaining to lift the Bills to a 13-10 come from behind win.
It wasn't the most soundly executed game, but the Bills were happy to take it.
"I can't say there's any such thing as an ugly win," said head coach Dick Jauron. "It just feels so good to win that football game. It wasn't our best game that's for certain, but they stuck to it and played hard and when they had to have plays they made them."
He didn't put up the eye-popping stats that he did a week ago when he ran for 153 yards and a touchdown and threw the game-winning TD pass to Robert Royal, but Lynch was never depended upon more than he was Sunday.
Lynch was in essence the team's offense particularly in crunch time getting a pair of key first downs, after a Roscoe Parrish punt return of 40 yards set the offense up 1st-and-10 at midfield. The rookie tailback converted a 3rd-and-8 with a 10-yard reception and then converted a 3rd-and-2 with a hard fought three-yard run essentially setting up the game-winning field goal..
"He just gets better all the time and he's awfully good," said Jauron of Lynch. "He's very talented. He's a tremendously competitive guy. Obviously he's got unique gifts, but he uses them. He doesn't shirk in practice and definitely does not shirk on game day. Anything you ask him to do he'll try to do it. Really I couldn't say much more about him."
The third down conversion allowed the Bills to run another three running plays forcing Miami to use all three of their timeouts before Lindell put the game winner through the uprights. Lynch suffered an ankle injury on his last third down conversion, but Dick Jauron was hopeful that it wasn't serious. Anthony Thomas pounded away at the line for the final three carries before Lindell's three-pointer.
Buffalo's defense, which gave up yards but not points, got the necessary stop on fourth down after a squib kick gave the Dolphins possession at their own 45-yard line with under a minute to play.
"We didn't want to kick it to (Ted Ginn)," said Jauron. "We had seen enough of him. We weren't trying to kick it shallow, we were trying to kick it through. It was disappointing, but that was the thinking. We didn't want to kick it to him."
"It was frustrating to take the field when they're almost at midfield," said Kelsay. "You hate that as a defense with a three-point lead and you hate to think about overtime. But the cover guys played well and we got decent pressure and we got four-and-out and it's our ballgame."
Aaron Schobel got pressure on Lemon on 3rd-and-6 at the Miami 49 to force an errant incomplete pass and Jabari Greer closed it out breaking up a pass intended for Marty Booker to force a turnover on downs.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's crew held their fifth opponent to 15 points or less this season.
Lynch, meanwhile, finished with 19 carries for 61 yards and three receptions for 24 yards along with his score and two point conversion.
What put Buffalo in a 10-0 hole was an unproductive first half by the Bills offense that only continued in the second half as a punchless passing game struggled mightily through three quarters. J.P. Losman followed up a solid performance against Cincinnati with an inconsistent one against Miami.
Losman was 4-11 for just 62 yards in the first half with an underthrown pass that was intercepted in the end zone, and admitted that the Dolphins had some different looks for them coming off their bye week.
"They did a good job scheming us having two weeks to prepare," said Losman. "Coming out in the second half we just had to get the ball out of the hand quicker and make some plays. Put it in Lee's hands on some short things and in the back's hands on short things. They were pretty much two deep the whole time and taking away the deep stuff and anything over 10 yards."
Losman had a better second half going 8-12 passing including a couple of important completions to Lynch and a clutch pass in the flat to Michael Gaines on the game-winning drive. He finished the day 12-23 for 157 yards and an interception for a passer rating of 55.9.
"Early in the game I was telling to keep playing and shake it off and keep playing he really responded," said Lee Evans. "It was kind of chess match with what we wanted to do and the coverage they played. In that second half he really responded and played a lot better and like he needed to to help us win that football game."
Losman's biggest play was likely his 4th-and-1 sneak at the Dolphins 24-yard line to keep their tying touchdown drive going. After trying to get the first down on a 3rd-and-2 sneak, Losman got a second chance on fourth down and ran off left tackle Jason Peters as the line crashed down inside and got just enough for the first down.
The first half for the Bills offense however, was a forgettable one. Buffalo went three-and-out on their first four possessions gaining a total of 18 yards. Time of possession on those drives was just 4:33.
By the half the Buffalo defense had been on the field for over 20 minutes. All the futility on offense in the first half gave the Dolphins a time of possession advantage of better than two-to-one as Miami held the ball for 20:48 to Buffalo's 9:12.
"We were pushing it at halftime, but ultimately we kept points off the board and that's the most important thing," said Angelo Crowell.
Come the second half the Bills defense, which gave up yards, but just three points in the first half was tiring. Evidence came early in the third quarter as the Dolphins put together an 18-play 80-yard drive that chewed up 9:45 seconds in the third quarter and resulted in a five-yard touchdown run by Cleon Lemon and a 10-0 advantage.
But Kelsay and his defensive teammates kept the faith.
"We knew that our offense was going to come around and put together a drive," said Kelsay. "We felt we needed one or two and we felt pretty confident with the way we were playing that we would win."
Sure enough the two 10-play drives that led to Buffalo's touchdown and go ahead field goal gave the defense enough of a break to get the stops at the end as they held the ball for almost nine and a half minutes in the final frame (9:24).
"Early in the season when it was a grind we weren't able to do that late in the game," said Evans. "Now it says a lot more about this football team to put points on the board when it counted. It was a big team win because all three phases needed to step up to come up with the win."
With the victory the Bills improved to 5-4 and have now won four straight.
They host undefeated New England on Sunday night.