The Buffalo Bills’ run defense put on a show for a national audience Thursday night.
The Bills held the Miami Dolphins’ rushing attack to 60 yards on 24 carries, an average of just 2.5 per run, in a 19-14 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Buffalo’s rush defense entered the game a beleaguered bunch, allowing an NFL high 163.7 yards per game and 5.5 yards per rush.
They shaved 103.7 yards off that total, holding the Dolphins to just 15 yards on 14 carries through the first three quarters.
“I wouldn’t say a sigh or relief, I would say it’s what we’ve been expecting out of ourselves since the first day we all came together back at St. John Fisher,” said middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who finished with six tackles. “Just coming off to the sideline looking at all the pictures and everything, I truly believe all 11 guys that were out there trusted each other 100 percent. Everybody was fundamentally sound, technique sound, and we played very aggressive. You saw guys hitting.”
The Bills limited Reggie Bush to 0 yards on his first seven carries. He finished with 10 carries for 20 yards.
“You saw it on film. Defenses were playing sound defenses, but he’s a back just like C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, where he can jump out of holes and take it for 80, but everybody was so technique sound,” Sheppard said. “All 11 guys were tied in one string today.”
The Bills held the Dolphins to just two first downs rushing.
“We’ve always talked about consistency. We came out in the first half and we played really well in the first half defensively,” said Bryan Scott, who finished with three tackles and sealed the win with a fourth-quarter interception. “We came back at halftime and said, ‘anybody can do it for 30 minutes.’ Let’s continue to be consistent, continue to stay in your gaps and make plays and guys did that the whole game. If anything, it just builds a lot of confidence because guys can now see what we’re capable of doing if we played consistently.”
The Dolphins ran five times for negative yardage, totaling 12 yards lost, including when Bush was dropped for a 5-yard loss on a first down run in the first quarter by defensive end Mario Williams.
“It’s big whenever you can make a team one-dimensional. We took the run away from them and completely shut them down on first down,” Scott said. “It wasn’t really until the second half that they started converting third down, so it’s just big. When you can do that and let your linemen get after the quarterback, you see what the results can be.”
The 60 yards against was the run defense’s best performance since holding Cleveland to 33 yards in the rain in Week Three. The Dolphins’ 2.5-yard average per rush matches the low of the season against the Browns.
“It feels so great to finally go out there and put it all together,” defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said. “That’s the defense we know we are. It’s just a great feeling to go out there and do it in front of the fans who support us year in and year out.
“It was a short week, so we had a lot of film to study. We just made sure we were crisp on everything.”
The run defense was a shared effort, as well.
No player had more than the six tackles of Sheppard and safety George Wilson. Weak-side linebacker Nick Barnett had five stops.
“A couple of those tackles and plays I was making, it was pretty much easy being a linebacker. I just had to come through and make the hit,” Sheppard said. “Because when I’ve got D-linemen like Kyle [Williams] and Marcell … and then the two guys outside of me, Nigel Bradham and Nick Barnett, spilling the fullback the way they were doing [Thursday], that’s what coach [Dave] Wannstedt has been preaching since training camp.”