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Buffalo lost its grip on an early 14-point lead come the second half of their Week 7 showdown with the Dolphins in Miami. But Mario Williams did not lose his edge come the latter stages of the fourth quarter. Trailing by one late (21-20) Williams delivered sacks on back-to-back drives, the second of which forced a fumble that was recovered by Kyle Williams at the Miami 34 with 2:48 remaining. Buffalo's offense ran the football to kill most of the remaining time on the clock before Dan Carpenter put the winning field goal through the uprights from 31 yards away for a 23-21 victory over Miami.
"Obviously I know the Dolphins they like to bring it on field goal blocks and I just wanted to make sure everything timing-wise was consistent on what we've done," said Carpenter whose kick beat his former team. "We're pretty quick in Buffalo. There wasn't much thought process, just kick it through those yellow things out there."
The win ended Buffalo's eight-game road losing streak against division opponents that stretched back to the 2010 season. Their last road win against a division opponent was on the same field in a 17-14 win over Miami on Dec. 19, 2010. The victory lifted the Bills record to 3-4 on the season and dropped Miami to 3-3.
The division victory however, was not at the top of the priority list. Instead it was a byproduct of what head coach Doug Marrone is still trying to achieve with his team.
"We're just really concentrating on ourselves and trying to find ways to get better as a team and try to get ourselves on a little bit of a roll," said Marrone.
Williams two fourth-quarter sacks lifted the pass rusher's total to 10 on the season giving him the fourth double-digit sack season of his career.
"Obviously we needed to get the ball back," said Williams of his sack that forced the turnover late. "We had to have possession so when I came through I realized I had a shot on him and it was like, there's the ball, so I just went for the ball got it out and Kyle (Williams) got on it."
"That's Mario," said Fred Jackson. "Anytime you've got a guy like Mario you expect him to make plays like that. I remember talking to him on the sideline and I said, 'This is your moment go make something happen for us.' They called a pass and with a guy like that you've got to be wary of where he is and he beat his guy and was able to get a sack fumble and it gave us an opportunity to win the football game."
Buffalo's defense also delivered two other takeaways in addition to Williams' sack fumble, as Aaron Williams and Nickell Robey posted interceptions. Robey returned his for a 19-yard touchdown on the first series from scrimmage.
"I think he tried to run like a pivot route, go in and push out," said Robey. "I read it and Tannehill threw it. I jumped it immediately, I saw it and believed it and I jumped it."
"It was (cover) two man," said Aaron Williams of the play call on his interception. "I didn't want him to see me so I stayed low and then at the last minute I saw the back side receiver come back and Tannehill had eyes all over him and I was able to get it. It was great communication between me and Byrd."
Fred Jackson was a dependable force on offense with 85 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. Stevie Johnson chipped in six catches for 61 yards while Thad Lewis was 21-32 for 202 yards and an interception.
An early 14-point lead for the Bills had shrunk to three by halftime. Buffalo had the first possession of the second half, but went three-and-out and quickly punted.
Miami responded with their longest drive of the game. Mixing a short passing game with the run, the Dolphins converted three third downs on the 11-play drive including the four-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Brandon Gibson to give Miami their first lead of the game (21-17) midway through the third quarter.
Buffalo would pull to within a point after a 15-play drive stalled at the Miami two-yard line forcing the Bills to take a chip shot 20-yard field goal to make it a one-point game (21-20) early in the fourth quarter.
The Bills defense would stand tall with Miami driving into Buffalo territory. After a short reception by Brandon Gibson on first down, the Dolphins had a 2nd-and-8 at the Bills 43. Mario used an inside rip move and drilled Tannehill into the ground for a sack and a five-yard loss. Kiko Alonso followed on the next play with a tackle for loss on Daniel Thomas for a loss of two to force a punt with just under six minutes remaining.
Unfortunately from the shadow of their own goal posts, Buffalo's offense could not string enough positive plays together to move the chains and had to punt after three plays.
"We struggled on early downs we really did," said Marrone. "They did a nice job. We just couldn't really execute. If you go back and look at first and second down it was a struggle. We had some big third downs, the early screens helped us and we made some plays, but we really weren't in sync like we should be."
However, the game could not have gotten off to a better start for Buffalo. On the fourth play from tscrimmage, Nickell Robey stepped in front of a Ryan Tannehill pass intended for Brandon Gibson and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown (7-0).
"He's been really close and he's been getting closer and closer," said Marrone. "He has very good instincts. There was another play in the game he was close too. That's why he was able to come in, you're talking about a guy that was a college free agent and earned his way on the team and earned a spot in the nickel and is playing well."
After Buffalo's defense sent Miami three-and-out on the next two possessions, Thad Lewis made use of his tight ends with an 18-yard completion to Lee Smith and a six-yard pass to Scott Chandler. That along with an 11-yard run by C.J. Spiller and a couple of short carries by Tashard Choice set up a first-and-goal from the three-yard line. Fred Jackson took it in off right tackle on the next carry for a 14-0 Buffalo lead with 5:52 left in the first quarter.
As Jackson saw it, while Thad Lewis did not excel in his return to his native south Florida, he did persevere.
"That's just him. He's a guy that we have a lot of faith in. He has a lot of faith in himself. He wants to win football games so he's going to do whatever he can," Jackson said. "He's going to fight through whatever adversity is thrown at him. So it's our job as his teammates to help him whenever we get that opportunity we've got to make a play for him. He made plays for us today, whether it was running the ball and keeping plays alive with his feet. We know what he brings to the table as a player and hopefully he can continue to play well and make plays for us."
Before the first quarter closed Miami threatened, but facing a 3rd-and-5 at the Buffalo 17, Tannehill threw a lofted pass that fell short of intended receiver Brian Hartline. Aaron Williams made a leaping interception at the goal line for Buffalo's second takeaway.
Miami finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter. Lamar Miller ripped off a 30-yard run right up the middle on 1st-and-10 to set the Dolphins up deep in Buffalo territory at the Bills 32. Five plays later Tannehill found Charles Clay streaking across the front of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown catch to pull Miami to within a touchdown (14-7).
Buffalo then dodged a bullet when Thad Lewis' arm was struck as he threw on a 2nd-and-8 at his own 19. His pass was picked off by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons at the Buffalo 31. Fortunately the Bills' defense held forcing a 51-yard field goal attempt that rookie Caleb Sturgis pushed wide right.
The Bills then put together a field goal drive of their own. Dan Carpenter put a 39-yard attempt between the uprights to cap an eight-play 38-yard drive and put Buffalo up by 10 (17-7) with 3:14 left in the half.
Unfortunately with possession again at their own 23, Buffalo went with three straight passes, gained only eight yards and gave Miami another possession after using just 22 seconds of game clock.
The Dolphins got the ball back at their own 25 with 1:25 left in the half. A 46-yard hookup between Tannehill and Mike Wallace down the right sideline on 2nd-and-10 set Miami up at the Bills 29. Just three plays later Tannehill found Brandon Gibson in a mismatch with Kiko Alonso. The receiver eluded Alonso and went 13 yards for a touchdown with 21 seconds left in the half to make it a three-point game (17-14).
"That's one of the things as a team we need to work on," said Aaron Willams. "When we're up we've got to close the door on them. We can't let them come back. But we got the win and I'm happy for it."
The Bills are back on the road again next week when Buffalo travels to New Orleans to take on the NFC South leading Saints next Sunday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.