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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills at Dolphins | Week 2

Levi Wallace (39) celebrates an interception. Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, September 19, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert
Levi Wallace (39) celebrates an interception. Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, September 19, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

1. Hot start helps

In a complete reversal from Buffalo's sputtering start on offense in Week 1, the Bills offense looked like it was shot out of a cannon to begin the game. On just the second play from scrimmage, Devin Singletary found a big hole inside and darted quickly into the secondary where he outran Miami's defensive backs for a 47-yard touchdown. It was the second-longest scoring play of his career to stake the Bills to an early 7-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game.

After a three-and-out by Miami's offense, Buffalo then quickly put another touchdown on the board as Josh Allen capped a seven-play 52-yard drive by extending the play on a 3rd-and-goal from the six-yard line to put the Bills up 14-0 just two and a half minutes into the game.

It looked like Buffalo might be staging an early rout, but their offense would sputter as they had trouble taking care of the football with a lost fumble, an interception and a missed field goal.

Fortunately, the second half began much the same way for Buffalo's offense as they scored on their opening possession in the third quarter. Josh Allen went 5-7 for 56 yards on the 60-yard scoring drive finding Dawson Knox for an eight-yard touchdown pass to balloon the Bills lead to 21-0.

"We know we needed to get six there," said Allen. "We had a couple of plays early on in that first quarter that helped us get a couple scores. We wanted to put something together that was long, sustaining. Putting us up 21-0 coming right out of the third quarter. I think that's huge for a team to have that sense of like, 'OK, we still can play aggressive here and we don't have to worry about any consequences. We don't have to be afraid. Let's just go and pin our ears back and play hard.' And that's what our guys did."

Two possessions later, Buffalo's offense pounded out yards with seven runs on an 11-play scoring drive to put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter before a fifth and final touchdown was scored midway through the final frame.

"I thought there was good communication leading into halftime by our offensive staff and came out and got into a better rhythm in the second half there. Brian did a really good job with that and Josh seemed to find his rhythm as well. I didn't think we were really into a rhythm in the first half, even though we scored 14. So, it was good to see that in the second half."

2. Pass rush provides a pounding

The solid play of Buffalo's defense in Week 1 was overshadowed by the team's loss to the Steelers. But their consistent play was not only successfully carried into Week 2 it was upgraded.

The Bills pass rush was relentless from the beginning of the game as defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was aggressive with blitz calls on early downs as Taron Johnson and Micah Hyde posted sacks on two of the first three plays from scrimmage.

Buffalo's performance at the line of scrimmage was one of their most dominant in a while. The defensive front consistently rocked the Dolphins offensive line back on their heels and their pass rush knifed into the backfield with regularity. They not only logged six sacks, but 11 quarterback hits.

"Yeah, it looked like when given the opportunity, they were affecting the quarterback early, and I liked that," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Just in terms of what they were doing I thought Leslie called an aggressive game and did a nice job letting those guys go too with a four-man rush once a while. I always say the rush and the coverage have to work together and I thought the back end was doing their part also."

Five different Bills players logged sacks in the game with Rousseau notching the first pair of his career to pace the group.

"We knew we had to come out and start fast and that's what we did," Rousseau said. "Momentum in football is a huge part of the game and when your unit's coming up big you just feed off each other. A.J. (Epenesa) makes a play, Jerry (Hughes) makes a play, and it makes you more excited and now you want to go get one. It's really a snowball effect."

"He was active," said McDermott of their top draft choice. "Sometimes they come in bunches right, like turnovers, but again it's got to work together, the coverage has to help the rush, they have to work together. I thought we did that and then I thought we did a good job of just rolling fresh bodies in there also when we can get them in some passing situations. So, anytime you can get to a quarterback like they did that's a good sign." 

Most notable about the pass rush was how it knocked Miami starting QB Tua Tagovailoa out of the game. A.J. Epenesa came off the left end on a 4th-and-2 and blasted Tagovailoa as he released the pass. Epenesa made sure not to drop his body weight on the Dolphins QB as they both went to the ground, but Tagovailoa was very slow to get up. A short time later he was carted to the locker room with a rib injury and replaced by Jacoby Brissett in the lineup after attempting just four passes in the game.

That play on Tagovailoa was one of four fourth-down stops by Buffalo's defense as they forced a turnover on downs on each and every decision to go for it.

After Epenesa delivered the hit that forced Tagovailoa's incompletion, Dane Jackson stuffed Miami RB Malcolm Brown a yard short on a 4th-and-2 at the Bills 16-yard line and Taron Johnson forced an incompletion on a hard hit on a 4th-and-2 pass to Preston Williams. The last failed fourth down conversion was due to a dropped pass by Miami.

Brissett was under seemingly endless pressure as well as Buffalo's blitzes and defensive linemen consistently won battles, hurried throws and harassed him in the pocket. Matt Milano was an equally disruptive force on blitzes as he often flushed Brissett from the pocket into other pressure or into unproductive plays. He had a sack and a fumble recovery at the Bills five-yard line for a valuable takeaway in the red zone.

The back seven of Buffalo's defense was just as effective. Micah Hyde had a third down stop on the Dolphins first possession of the second half to force a punt and Levi Wallace had an interception.

"We wanted to go out there with some energy," said Hyde. "We were focused all week. It was just great preparation. Went out there and just had a blast. We emphasized having fun, and winning's fun. Our defense played well. Just great execution by us."

3. Run game makes welcome appearance

After Buffalo's pass to run ratio in Week 1 was 2:1 with 51 pass attempts to 25 rushing attempts, the Bills offense found some reliable balance in Week 2. The offensive line blocked well for most of the game as they cleared lanes for Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and Josh Allen to exploit in the lopsided victory.

Singletary took the first carry of the game right up the gut and went seemingly untouched for a 47-yard score.

"It's a great feeling because we care about our running backs just as much as we care about our receivers and for any time that a running back can run without getting touched or even just getting in the end zone, we also take very personal," said Dion Dawkins. "So, hats off to Motor and those running backs. We're going to try to continue to get them in the end zone more and more and more times without getting touched."

The Bills leaned on their run game for balance in their offense as they reduced their usage of empty backfield sets to keep the Dolphins defense honest as to what was coming with heavier use of 11 personnel. It proved helpful especially when Buffalo's passing game couldn't get into a consistent rhythm through the first two quarters.

"Hats off to our guys up front and our running backs for establishing the run early," said Josh Allen. "That helps us out so much. Our guys made some plays. To feel the way we feel, knowing we could have played better, winning 35 to zero, I think that's a good problem to have."

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that the offensive line was able to execute some of their run calls that were last minute changes to the game plan.

"We changed stuff (Saturday) in our run game, put in new plays and our guys rolled with it and figured out a way to go out there and apply it," said Allen. "Being an O-lineman is not easy by any means. There are so many different bullets flying at you. They get the blame sometimes when they really shouldn't."

Singletary averaged better than six yards a carry for the second straight week, Allen was effective on some designed run calls, but Moss brought a welcome dose of power running to the equation.

The second-year back capped the ground attack with a couple of exclamation points on a pair of impressive physical second-effort touchdown runs in the fourth quarter that served as redemption for a fumble earlier in the game.

"Just make them count," said Moss of his two touchdown runs in the red zone. "We know as running backs that if you don't make them count down there, the chance of you getting another one is very slim. There's a chance that it might go in the air. So I just wanted to make sure that when I did get it I made sure that I had crossed that white line so that we couldn't go in the air and I didn't have to block anyone."

The last time the Bills had at least 30 carries in a game was Week 16 last season in their 38-9 win at New England.

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