First quarter: Degrees McKelvin
Leodis McKelvin padded his lead as the top punt returner in the NFL this season.
McKelvin took the first punt of the game 79 yards to give the Bills a 7-0 lead just 1:30 into the game. McKelvin entered the game with a 19.5-yard average on 13 punt returns. Cincinnati’s Adam “Pacman” Jones was second with a 17-yard average.
It was the second punt-return TD of the season for McKelvin and the third of his career. He had an 88-yarder for a score against Kansas City. McKelvin entered the game as the Bills’ all-time leader in punt-return average with a career mark of 15.8 on 29 returns. McKelvin is second in Bills history in kickoff return yardage.
Key plays: The Bills recovered a fumble by Brian Hartline at the Miami 47 with 8:48 left in the quarter. It led to a 32-yard field goal by Rian Lindell. Miami scored on a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Marcus Thigpen. Lindell added a 34-yard field goal.
Second-guess: The officials missed a hold by Chris Hairston on Cameron Wake on a third-down conversion by the Bills on a field-goal drive.
Second quarter: In the red
Miami’s defense gets stingy as it gets closer to its own end zone.
The Dolphins entered the game ranked seventh in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on just 42 percent of trips by opponents inside the 20-yard line. Miami was good in the red zone in the first half.
The Bills made four trips inside the Miami 20 in the first half and came away with four field goals. The result was a 19-7 lead after 30 minutes of play.
The Buffalo offense has been pretty good in the red zone this season. Buffalo ranked 13th in the league, with a TD rate of 53.6 percent on trips inside the 20.
The Bills had a chance to blow the game open at the end of the half when they drove 52 yards over the final 1:58 to the Miami 1. With 6 seconds left and no timeouts remaining, the Bills tried one more pass into the end zone. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a quick slant to the left for tight end Scott Chandler. But Miami cornerback Reshad Jones got a good jam at the line and forced an incompletion.
Key plays: Rian Lindell booted field goals of 42 and 19 yards.
Third quarter: Wrap session
Defenses dominated the third quarter. The Bills managed just 48 yards of offense. The Dolphins managed just 25 yards.
There was only one scoring chance in the period. Miami reached the Buffalo 32-yard line late in the quarter before its march stalled. Dan Carpenter came on to attempt a 50-yard field goal but he missed to the right. Good defensive plays to stall the drive were made by Marcell Dareus, who put a big hit on the quarterback on first down, and Spencer Johnson, who stuffed a running play on second down. Carpenter is 8 of 18 in his career from 50 yards and out.
Key plays: With his defense playing well, Bills coach Chan Gailey opted to punt on a third-and-7 play from the Miami 36. The Bills pinned Miami down at its 12 but couldn’t ultimately gain a field-position edge.
Flip field: Dolphins punter Brandon Fields booted a 56-yard punt toward the right sideline and out of bounds midway through the quarter after the Bills had stopped Miami at their own 20. Instead of getting a field-position edge, the Bills had to start the next drive on their own 24.
Fourth quarter: Bess man
The Miami Dolphins have received great value from undrafted receiver Davone Bess, who caught a 2-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter.
He averaged 65 receptions in his first four seasons and is tied for seventh in the league in third-down receptions this season. Coming out of the University of Hawaii in 2008, he was passed over in the draft because he lacked great speed. He can catch. He had 108 receptions as a senior.
Only one other undrafted receiver since 2008 has more catches. That’s New England’s Wes Welker. Bess ranks 14th in catches among undrafted receivers in NFL history. Former Denver star Rod Smith leads that list with 849 catches, and Welker is second with 716.
Game savers: Jairus Byrd’s diving interception with 1:54 left at the Buffalo 35 and another by Bryan Scott in the final minute stopped Miami’s last-chance drives.
Clutch punt: Bills punter Shawn Powell booted a 52-yarder to the Miami 1 with 4:42 left.
Finishers: The Bills have been outscored, 103-35, in the fourth quarter.