Bills-Dolphins Game Review

The Buffalo Bills logged an impressive 29-10 win at the home opener this past weekend, and improved to 2-0 on the season. Highlighted by an efficient offense, a stout defense, and huge plays by the special teams, this truly was a team win from start to finish. Below are the unit-by-unit notes along with a few players who stood out in their performances at the Ralph.

 

OFFENSE

The offense as a whole was efficient but struggled mightily in the red zone where they reached the end zone just one out of their six trips to the area (granted two of those trips were late in the game with a lead and the team was content running the ball). Manuel finished his day with an efficient performance: 16 for 26 (61.5 %, 7.77 avg), 1 TD, 0 INT. Spiller and Jackson combined for 89 yards on 24 carries with a subpar 3.70 avg but the running game mostly succeeded between the 20’s and struggled mightily in the red zone. Rookie WR Sammy Watkins had a breakout performance with 8 catches for 117 yards and 1 TD.

Quaterback:

EJ Manuel had an inconsistent day, despite the relatively positive stat sheet. I would like to see a little more aggressiveness instead of check-downs from Manuel. One such example was on the 1st drive, 2nd & 7 play, he checked-down to Fred Jackson instead of taking a shot at open Robert Woods in the middle of the field. However, on the same drive, he looked off the safety and found a wide open Watkins to the deep left of the field.

On the very next paly, the deep ball to Watkins was on the money, but a great play by Jonathan Grimes saved the Dolphins. Lack of deep ball accuracy was one of Manuel’s criticisms entering his second year and if that throw is any indication, we should expect an improvement in the area. Unlike last year, Manuel released the ball when Watkins was even with the defender and the location was perfect – it would either have resulted in a long catch and TD for Watkins or an incomplete pass.

In the red zone, Manuel regressed back to his old self, hurrying throws and very afraid of making any bad decisions. He missed a wide-open Watkins over the middle in the second quarter that would’ve resulted in a touchdown. The good thing is that the Bills were able to score on all but one of their red zone possessions (missed field goal). The bad, however, is that they only scored one offensive touchdown all game.

 

Offensive Line:

As a unit, they performed admirably against the Dolphins vaunted defensive line that sacked Tom Brady four times and caused two fumbles against the Patriots last week. The offensive line kept a clean sheet with zero sacks allowed and EJ Manuel usually had a clean pocket to work with on his drop backs. Asides from a few miscues, they also did a solid job run-blocking.

Who stood out

The offensive game plan seemed to help out Sentreal Henderson by getting a tight end or a running back over to his side to try and contain Cameron Wake, but Henderson also held his own on several occasions, including the touchdown throw to Sammy Watkins. By and far, the biggest concern for the Bills offense this week was how they would contain Cameron Wake and Henderson, aided by some help from his tight ends/running backs, performed admirably by shutting Wake out the entire game.

Who needs work

Chris Williams/Eric Pears: The Bills new guard duo failed to get much push in the run game on Sunday. Pears had a nice block that sprung CJ Spiller on his long run but otherwise he struggled in phone-booth situations. Williams fared well against the inside rush on pass plays but rarely pushed his defender backwards on run plays.

 

Running Backs/Tight Ends

Who stood out

CJ Spiller had his best game of the young season. He showed more willingness to press the hole instead of bouncing everything outside, though he still needs some work. He had an impressive 45 yard run late in the third quarter with a cut that that very few running backs can make. Spiller’s biggest issues are consistency and his stubbornness for bouncing everything outside looking for the big play. At least for one game, he looked far better.

Who needs work

Tight Ends as a group were mostly non-existent in this game. Chandler had a great tip-toe catch on the sideline for a medium gain early in the game but failed to create separation otherwise. Chris Gragg had a nice catch and run in the second half but his route-running still needs a lot of work.

 

Wide Receivers

Who stood out

Sammy Watkins had his coming out party as he caught eight passes for 117 yards and 1 TD. He was visibly in pain for most of the game due to his ribs but he rarely sat out multiple plays and displayed crisp route running, plus speed, and great hands that we heard about all throughout training camp. Watkins was EJ Manuel’s favorite target on Sunday and now he will need to show that he can adjust to defenses rolling extra coverage to his side going forward.

Who needs work

Mike Williams/Robert Woods: Neither Woods or Williams had much of an impact in this game, although it wasn’t entirely their fault as EJ Manuel seemed locked onto Sammy Watkins for much of the game. Williams had an easy drop on a slant pattern in the second half as well.

 

DEFENSE

Coming into this game, the talk all week was how the Bills defense would match up against Miami’s running game, spearheaded by Knoshown Moreno. Last week against the Patriots, the Dolphins racked up an impressive 193 yards rushing for 5.51 yards a carry. The Bills held them to 69 yards rushing (not counting scrambles by Tannehill) for 4.05 yards a carry. The Dolphins passing game was also held in check as Tannehill racked much of the passing yardage later in the game when the Dolphins were down. He finished the day with 31 of 49 for 241 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

Not counting the Dolphins drive just prior to halftime, they punted on all six of their possessions in the first half and converted just two of their six possessions into scoring drives in the second half. The Bills defensive line logged four sacks and numerous pressures on Ryan Tannehill throughout the day. The Dolphins offensive line, which performed impressively the previous week against the Patriots, were not able to contain the Bills front four.

 

Defensive Line:

Who stood out

Kyle Williams flashed well throughout the game. Early in the game, he threw aside the guard and forced Tannehill to move up causing a Mario Williams sack. He caused several disruptions in the backfield in the running game and was constantly pressuring Tannehill, sacking him once on Sunday.

Who needs work

Marcell Dareus was rarely causing disruptions. His lone contribution was a tipped pass causing a 3rd down incompletion and a tackle for loss in the run game with some help from his teammates. He missed a tackle in the backfield that would’ve resulted in lost yardage. He didn’t seem to have an impact on this game while he was on the field and later left in the second half due to cramps and never returned.

 

Line Backers:

Who stood out

Nigel Bradham – Rookie Preston Brown played 100% of the defensive snaps and generally held his own by being in the right place at the right time and making no major mental or physical errors. However, the best linebacker on the field was Nigel Bradham – he made a couple of mistakes but he also made several big plays and hits. Bradham has plus speed and athleticism for a player with his size and he showed it on Sunday by covering well and sprinting to the ball on every play.

Who needs work

Brandon Spikes only logged 15 plays but got pushed aside a few times in the run game. With the Dolphins coming out in 3+ wide receiver sets most of the game, Spikes and his subpar pass coverage didn’t make it onto the field much. The Bills trust Bradham and Brown in those situations right now.

 

Defensive Backs:

Who stood out

Corey Graham – For the second week in a row, he was Buffalo’s best defensive back, and arguably their best defender. Graham made several clutch pass breakups, usually covering Mike Wallace. He is seldom out of position and his timing has been impeccable so far. Both Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy had a few nice plays, including a key fourth down stop on a read-option by Searcy, but Graham was targeted much more often and played well throughout the game.

Who needs work

Nickell Robey stood out against the Dolphins last year in both games but he struggled against them this past Sunday. He was a step or two slow on several occasions and Tannehill made him pay for it on several occasions, including a 4th down conversion in the third quarter. Fellow corner Stephon Gilmore had an up-and-down day but Robey was, by far, the worst defensive back for the Bills on Sunday.

 

Special Teams:

CJ Spiller had a 102 yard kickoff return for a touchdown where he was barely touched and Anthony Dixon had a blocked punt. The special teams unit also recovered a muffed punt by the Dolphins late in the game and the coverage units fared well throughout the day. With the offense struggling in the red zone, and a stout defense, the Bills will need consistent performance from their special teams unit this year. Dan Carpenter was mostly on point in this game, but he did miss a relatively easy field goal late in the game that would’ve iced it earlier than the Bills eventually did.