By Mark Gaughan
NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
FIRST QUARTER: Sack masters
The record for sacks by the Buffalo Bills in a season was 49, set in 1995. Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982. The unofficial record was 50, set in 1964, based on a review of play-by-play sheets from that season.
The Bills surpassed both marks by getting two sacks in the first quarter, pushing their season total to 52. Da’Norris Searcy and Kyle Williams got the sacks. Williams was giving fits to Miami rookie guard Sam Brenner, who wound up getting replaced in the second quarter.
Miami, meanwhile, simultaneously set a negative record for sacks. The two takedowns pushed their season total to 53, tying the mark of 53 set in 1969.
Key plays: Buffalo got a 45-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter to take a 3-0 lead with 6:42 left in the quarter. … Brian Moorman shanked his first punt. It traveled just 13 yards before going out of bounds at the Buffalo 49. It didn’t cost the Bills points because Miami went three plays and out.
Nice catch: Thad Lewis misfired on his first three throws but hit Robert Woods on his fourth for a 57-yard pass down the left sideline. It was a good leaping grab.
SECOND QUARTER: Jackson milestone
Thurman Thomas. O.J. Simpson. Fred Jackson. That sounds about right in the ranking of Bills running backs.
With 48 yards rushing in the first half, Jackson became the third Bills back to cross 5,000 yards for his Buffalo career. He stands behind the Bills’ two Hall-of-Famers, moving into the No. 3 rushing spot in Bills history in the second quarter.
Jackson scored on a 9-yard run to give the Bills a 10-0 lead with 13:18 left in the first half. The drive went 57 yards in nine plays.
Key plays: The key gains on the Bills’ touchdown drive were passes by Thad Lewis of 24 yards to Lee Smith and 17 yards to Scott Chandler. … Miami punter Brandon Fields got a fortunate bounce on a 67-yard punt to flip the field after the Bills forced a punt from the Miami 19.
Second guess: Miami called 21 passes and nine runs in the first half. Why the imbalance? Pass protection is the biggest weakness on the Miami offense, and pass rush is the best strength of the Bills’ defense. Furthermore, the Dolphins have a good defense and were facing a backup quarterback. It’s not like Miami had to worry about the Bills’ offense putting up 30 points.
THIRD QUARTER: Ball hogging
Protecting a 10-0 lead, the Bills needed some ball control in the third quarter. They got it, holding the ball for 11:07.
The Bills ran the last 6:17 of the quarter off the clock in what turned out to be a 19-play, 92-yard drive that ended with a field goal early in the fourth quarter. The run game was the difference, gashing Miami for 54 yards in the quarter.
Buffalo entered the game ranked third worst in the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball only 27:54 a game.
“I’m just proud of the conditioning of our team,” coach Doug Marrone said. “I thought our guys were able to go out there and just bang, bang, bang, bang and go down that field. I thought that’s a credit to the weight coaches and the players.”
Zebra report: Robert Woods was thrown out of the game for throwing a punch at a Miami defensive back after both were involved in aggressive blocking on a run play. It was a good call. The officials had trouble spotting the ball later in the quarter when the Bills ran for 4 yards to their own 10. The Bills were called for a penalty, Miami declined, but the officials spotted the ball at the 8.
FOURTH QUARTER: Carpenter on target
Dan Carpenter continued his outstanding season for the Bills, booting three field goals in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Carpenter’s kicks came from 21 yards with 12:01 left, 22 yards with 6:43 left and 26 yards with 2:26 left.
Carpenter’s four field goals in the game improved his season total to 31 for 34. He’s just two FGs shy of Steve Christie’s single-season team record of 33, set in 1998. His percentage (91.2) ranks second in team history, behind Rian Lindell’s 92.0 percent in 2006.
Quotable: “I thought offensively we did a good job,” coach Doug Marrone said. “We had almost 400 yards of offense against a team that is stout up front, against a team that has played extremely well these last couple weeks.”
Key plays: With the Bills up, 13-0, Chris Hogan made a good tackle on a kickoff return to pin Miami back at its own 12. Then Kyle Williams sacked Ryan Tannehill for a 4-yard loss on first down. … Jim Leonhard intercepted a Matt Moore pass with 10:31 left. … Leodis McKelvin got his first interception of the season, off Moore, with 1:45 left.