The Buffalo Bills held a dance party in the Miami Dolphins’ backfield Sunday.
Who had the best sack celebration? The award went to Buffalo’s Kyle Williams, who did an impersonation of the semi-famous strut of professional wrestling superstar Ric Flair after taking down Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the fourth quarter.
Williams had been joking around with his teammates this week about what he might do if he got two sacks in the game to reach 10 for the season.
“I said, ‘I’ll do Ric Flair’s Nature Boy dance,’ and they bet I wouldn’t,” Williams said. “I did it; a little tribute to the Nature Boy. We all laughed about it.”
“I didn’t think he had as much rhythm as he did,” said a smiling Marcell Dareus. “But he pulled it together. I’d give him a 10 out of 10.”
Yuk, yuk. It was laughs all around the Buffalo locker room after the Bills embarrassed the Dolphins, 19-0, on a cold, wet day at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
NFL coaches like to say the game is all about matchups.
Boy, did the Bills exploit a mismatch in the 100th meeting with their AFC East rivals.
The strongest unit on the Bills’ team is the defensive line. Buffalo entered the game with a league-high 49 sacks. The Dolphins’ weakest unit is their offensive line. Miami entered the game with a league-high 51 sacks allowed.
The former dismantled the latter. That advantage trumped every other factor in the game, including the fact the Bills were starting backup quarterback Thad Lewis and Miami had all the motivation on its side, sitting in the driver’s seat for a wild-card playoff berth.
The loss dealt a blow to the playoff hopes of the Dolphins (8-7). The Bills improved to 6-9.
Buffalo sacked Tannehill seven times to push its season total to a team-record 56. The Bills held Miami to 103 total yards, the lowest by a Bills opponent in nine years and the fifth lowest ever against Buffalo. Miami managed just six first downs and 14 rushing yards, both second lowest ever allowed by a Bills defense.
“They clearly outplayed us at the line of scrimmage,” said Miami coach Joe Philbin. “That’s where football starts, and they played well. Give credit to them.”
Miami center Mike Pouncey is the only Dolphins lineman who could be considered a quality starter.
Miami left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who took over when Jonathan Martin walked out during the team’s bullying scandal, looks washed up at age 34. Veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo has flopped in his first year in Miami, allowing 11 sacks by unofficial count. Right guard John Jerry lacks mobility. Left guard Sam Brenner, subbing for suspended star Richie Incognito, was making just his fourth career start.
The unit was ripe for the Bills’ onslaught.
“We have a good combination of players and scheme,” said Kyle Williams. “We have players who can win and put pressure on in one-on-one situations. Then we’ve got blitz packages that can cater to taking advantage of what an offense doesn’t do well. We have a good mix.”
Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine unleashed his attack on Tannehill right from the start.
On the third play from scrimmage, safety Da’Norris Searcy joined three defensive linemen in a four-man rush and sacked Tannehill for a 7-yard loss.
“It was a play designed for me to blitz coming off Kyle,” Searcy said. “Kyle did a good job with his stunt and I came free. It was just me and the running back, and I had to make a move on the back. Tannehill almost got away from me but I reached out and grabbed him. It was good to get it started.”
That was one of nine plays on which defensive backs rushed the quarterback, by unofficial count.
The Bills have had defensive backs join the rush on 17 percent of pass plays this season, according to News figures. Under last year’s conservative scheme, the Bills rushed defensive backs on only about 6 percent of pass plays.
“We were getting them in favorable third downs, so it kind of opens up the playbook on what we can run,” Searcy said.
The star of the defensive back rush attack all season has been 5-foot-7 rookie Nickell Robey, because his position covering the slot receiver puts him closer to the quarterback, in better position to rush.
Most of the year, Robey’s rushes have helped other Bills get advantageous one-on-one matchups. In this game, Robey had two sacks of Tannehill. On the first, late in the second quarter, he timed his rush across the line of scrimmage perfectly and produced a 7-yard loss.
On the second, late in the game, he sacked Tannehill for another 7-yard loss. The Dolphins actually kept seven men in to block on that play but still couldn’t hold off the five-man Bills blitz.
“He’s a small guy, you can’t really see him,” said Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin. “If you can’t see him, there’s not time to block him; he’s going to get there.”
Robey actually knocked over 6-foot-6 Mario Williams on one of his rushes.
“He’s a loose cannon, tackling me and everything,” Mario Williams joked. “He doesn’t just want to tackle the opposing team, he’ll tackle his own team. He definitely was flying around.”
Mario Williams had one sack, a bull-rush against McKinney, to push his season total to 13. Hughes’ sack, also against McKinney, gave him 10 for the year.
Kyle Williams whipped Brenner with an inside move for his first sack. Brenner was benched in the second quarter in favor of Nate Garner. He got his second on a twist, rushing around left tackle while Mario Williams cut to the inside.
The Bills are the first NFL team since 2000 to have three players with 10 or more sacks.
“With the front we have, I feel like every week we have a chance,” said Searcy. “Whether we bring pressure or not, those guys are capable of taking over a game just by themselves.”
Miami, which yielded 11 sacks in losing two games to the Bills, will testify to that.