GRADING THE BILLS
Running game: A-
C.J. Spiller was brilliant yet again. He ran 22 times for 138 yards, a 6.3 average. Most came on one big chunk, a career-long 62-yard run in the second quarter. But as colleague Mark Gaughan noted in the press box right then, the Bills needed him to score. They ended up kicking a field goal. Spiller agreed. He said those are runs he must take the distance. Other Bills combined for 16 yards.
Passing game: F+
The Bills struggled mightily in every facet of the passing game. Injuries didn’t help, losing tight end Scott Chandler (knee) in the first quarter and H-back Dorin Dickerson (ankle) in the fourth. Ryan Fitzpatrick was scattershot, got sacked twice, threw an interception and lost a fumble. Stevie Johnson fumbled his first catch and dropped some passes. Dickerson fumbled after a catch.
Run defense: F
The Bills were flummoxed by the read-option yet again. The Dolphins installed more creative plays since losing at Ralph Wilson Stadium five weeks ago. In that game, Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush rushed for only 53 yards. With Thomas on injured reserve for the rematch, Bush and rookie Lamar Miller totaled 138 yards and a touchdown. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill rushed for 44 yards.
Pass defense: C
The Bills didn’t generate much heat on Tannehill outside of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who notched both of their sacks and two of their three quarterback hits. Mario Williams had two tackles and a deflected pass. Kyle Williams had one tackle. The Bills did have five pass breakups, a decent number. Only one of them, however, was made by a defensive back.
Special teams: C-
Defensive tackle Alex Carrington blocked his fourth kick of the season, denying a 46-yard Nate Kaeding attempt on the opening drive. The return game struggled, with Brad Smith’s hesitation leading to a 12-yard kickoff return. The Bills’ coverage units were mediocre. Rookie punter Shawn Powell had a 23-yard punt to Miami’s 38-yard line early in second quarter.
The Bills didn’t produce on offense and failed to stop the Dolphins when it mattered. The Bills came out flat and played with no sense of urgency when down by 21 points with a full quarter to play. Their hurry-up offense didn’t look too eager. The Bills were minus-4 in turnovers and committed 11 penalties for 93 yards. The Dolphins didn’t have any penalties until there were less than five minutes to play.
GRADING THE DOLPHINS
Running game: A
The Dolphins essentially did whatever they wanted in the run game and averaged more yards per carry (5.2) than they did per pass (4.4). Bush ran 19 times for 65 yards and a touchdown, and he had the lowest average. Miller had the best day of his career with 10 carries for 73 yards. Tannehill took a read-option play up the right sideline for 31 yards and would have scored with better wheels.
Passing game: B
Tannehill was efficient in compiling a 93.8 passer rating despite being without slot receiver Davone Bess, one of the NFL’s top third-down targets. Tannehill completed 13 of his 25 throws for only 130 yards, but he made them count. He connected with Bush for a pair of touchdown passes. More than half of Tannehill’s completions were for first downs. He committed no turnovers.
Run defense: C-
The Dolphins went into Sunday with the NFL’s No. 8 rushing defense and were without linebacker Koa Misi. Spiller had a robust stat line, but aside from his 62-yard run, the Dolphins remained in control. Remove that one big gain, and the Bills averaged 3.4 yards a carry. Of the Bills’ 10 longest plays, only two of them were runs. The Bills had just six rushing first downs.
Pass defense: B+
In their previous seven games, the Dolphins forced one turnover — an interception of Tom Brady, no less. They hit the jackpot against the Bills. They forced three fumbles in the passing game, two after receptions and one while Fitzpatrick tried to throw. They also intercepted Fitzpatrick and knocked him around. The Dolphins did all this despite finishing the game without their starting cornerbacks.
Special teams: C
Not much to see here. Aside from Kaeding’s blocked kick, the Dolphins’ special-teams units were decent but without much impact. Punter Brandon Fields had a strong game in helping keep the Bills tethered to their own end zone, dropping kicks at the 10- and 8-yard lines. Unlike the first game in Week 11, return man Marcus Thigpen was contained. He averaged 25 yards on kickoffs and 13 yards on punts.
The Dolphins looked like a totally different team than the one that got walloped in Orchard Park. Rookie head coach Joe Philbin installed some new wrinkles to give the offense a jolt. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle deftly managed a wounded unit that was down an important linebacker and two cornerbacks.