The Buffalo Bills found themselves down to just three healthy receivers by the time Sunday’s 19-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins was finished.
With No. 1 option Stevie Johnson inactive for the game while he grieves the death of his mother, the Bills’ ranks were further thinned after a knee injury to Marquise Goodwin in the first quarter ended his day.
Things got even hairier in the third quarter when rookie Robert Woods was ejected for throwing a punch at Dolphins safety Reshad Jones.
Without Johnson, Goodwin and Woods, the Bills finished the game with T.J. Graham, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley.
“I thought they were outstanding,” Marrone said. “What helps us is that even though Marcus Easley and Chris Hogan may not be playing a lot at the receiver position, usually they’re heavily involved in special teams so they’re always in the game. … To go in there and play receiver is a much easier transition than if they were just sitting there waiting for one of those guys to get hurt or something like that.”
“We take preparation very seriously because we know we’re only one or two plays away,” Easley said. “That was obvious today. Special teams, it’s one of the things that gets you going.”
Graham and Hogan combined for four catches for 35 yards – not eye-popping numbers by any means – but significant in the sense that three of the four receptions produced first downs. It was also an improvement in production from the team’s secondary receivers. Graham and Goodwin each entered the game without having a single reception the last three weeks.
The passing game led by backup quarterback Thad Lewis produced just enough balance to accompany a dynamic rushing attack. Lewis finished 15 of 25 for 193 yards and one interception, while the Bills rushed 51 times for 203 yards as a team.
“We’ve got high confidence in our room,” Graham said. “It’s a good sign that we’re pretty deep. … The teams that are really good have a lot of depth and can play well even when they lose a few guys. It shows today we’re on the right path.”
Woods was Buffalo’s leading receiver with three catches for 70 yards before his ejection. The bulk of that came on a career-long 57-yard catch from Lewis in the first quarter that helped set up a 45-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter for the game’s first points.
On the play in which he was ejected, Jones took Woods to the ground as the Bills’ receiver was blocking on a run play. Woods responded with a clear uppercut that resulted in his ejection.
“I missed it,” coach Doug Marrone said of the play. “That’s what the officials told me. If that happens, they’re in charge, and we’re all in charge of the integrity of the game.”
Goodwin, meanwhile, was hurt at the end of a reverse run in the first quarter when he was tackled out of bounds by Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi.
“He’s had this injury before where it kind of goes and comes,” Marrone said. “I don’t know the extent of it; obviously it’s worse than it has been in the other games. We’ll know more after the doctors talk to him.”