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Week 2: Dolphins at Bills
@ Gametime 1pm EST
Last week I gave the edge to the Bills on ST's but didn't think it would be enough for the Bills to win the game. I was right and wrong all in the same sentence. Two pivotal plays, a blocked punt and a kickoff return for a TD changed the outcome of the game. It just shows you that football is a team sport. Miami had just pulled to within 1 score when Spiller took the kickof and ran it back. It was more than enough to bury the Dolphins who were struggling on offense.
This week, the Chiefs look better on paper than the Bills. If Miami's defense had trouble stopping EJ Manuel and their small ball offense, then KC's offense will give the defense fits. The reason is simple: KC has perfected small ball. Alex Smith can run, just like EJ. He is accurate underneath, just like EJ. He throws to backs, TEs and lots of short patterns...just like Buffalo. Contrary to the popular belief, the Miami Defense played okay against the Bills. They essentially gave up 1 TD...which was questionable as it appeared the WR lost control before breaking the plane of the goal line. They held Buffalo to a series of FGs that kept Miami in the game until the 4th quarter. Buffalo neutralized the pass rush by running a lot of short quick patterns. Miami's soft zone defense accommodated that well. I think the Dolphins were so afraid of EJ running the ball that they stayed in the zone defenses. As much as I hate to see it, I think I will this weekend...again. Simply due to the fact that Smith can run, and will run, when given the opportunity and man defense invites the QB to run the ball. Defenders have their backs to the line of scrimmage and not focused on the QB. Miami's defense held the Buffalo running game in check until the 4th quarter when they allowed a 50yd run by Spiller. So I expect KC won't be running a lot on Miami. They've been given a blueprint on how to beat Miami by the Bills. Whether KC has the personnel, is a another story. They certainly have a solid running game, not as good as Buffalos but close. Their passing game is slightly better. So don't expect a sack fest this weekend. KC will be working on getting the ball out quick with the occasional play deep that will call for max protection on the OL. It is frustratingly simple, but effective at neutralizing Miami's pass rush.
On Defense, KC may not have the horses. While their secondary is good, they just don't have the same DL Buffalo has to generate the kind of pass rush the Bills did. We have to hope that with more time to throw, RT will make better decisions with the ball. KC has trouble stopping the run on defense so if Lazor pulls out last weeks 70-30 pass to run game plan, he might wind up with the same bad results. Miami needs to use Williams more in the running game. Miller had his opportunities last week. One one play off tackle, he had a clear lane to the outside with no defender within 5 yards...he didn't see it... instead he turned it inside into the pile and gained 3 yds. It was just another in the long line of big plays left on the field last week. Moreno's only carry went for 9 yards last week. Shelley Smith struggles in pass protection but seems very capable in the run block department. Miami needs to play to that stength.
Both teams are again close on paper. Again this means ST's and turnovers will play a large role in determining who wins. Miami has to quit leaving so many opportunities on the field. It seemed like last week if it was RT missing the guy completely, it was the WR or RB dropping the ball or missing the hole. They have to play with some attitude and swagger. They've been missing that this year except when Moreno lit a fire in week one. In any case, I expect this to be another nail biter.
About the only player who stood out to me that deserves to be in this category is Jelani Jenkins. Jenkins had 14 tackles and seems to be growing into the role of a starting linebacker.
Get ready for a long list.
Let's start out with the offense, because anytime you only put up 10 points, there is plenty of blame to go around on offense.
I am disappointed in Bill Lazor's playcalling today. He was absolutely too pass happy when the running game was effective. Lamar Miller averaged 4.2 yards per carry and Damien Williams averaged 3.8 yards per carry. These are not stellar numbers, but they are effective enough that you continue running the ball. Instead, the Dolphins seemed to call way too many pass plays. The pass:run ratio today was 21:53. That is simply unacceptable.
The offensive line was a disappointment too, though I am not surprised that the Bills were able to get to Tannehill. I noted last week that while Tannehill was only sacked once by the Patriots, he was pressured on more than 30% of his dropbacks. It will be interesting to see how many times he was pressured in this game. We already know he was sacked 4 times.
Shelley Smith gets a special spot in my Ring of Dishonor this week. He was soundly beating several times by his man and this led to at least two sacks. Smith left the game with an injury, but it was a poor performance for him in pass protection.
Samson Satele and Ryan Tannehill have to get on the same page with the snap. Having Tannehill clap for Satele to snap the ball is almost as bad as having your snap count be GO or GO GO.
Charles Clay's face is on a milk carton, unless you're looking for drops. Actually, put Charles Clay and Brian Hartline on the same carton. They have both gone missing. As a pass catcher, throw Lamar Miller into the mix. I will be interested to see how many drops the Dolphins receivers had this week.
I know Ryan Tannehill is going to get a ton of criticism. He is the starting QB and people look to him for leadership. It falls on his shoulders to lift his teammates up. Tannehill missed a few throws today, including a deep throw to Wallace and an intermediate pass to Gibson, both that could have gone for touchdowns. But I am not going to get too down on him for missing a few throws. Every quarterback misses a few throws. My problem with Tannehill in this game is that I felt as if the pressure, the game, the moment was too much for him. That he couldn't rise up to the moment as a leader. Ryan Tannehill is the starting QB, the field general, and at some point he has to take the bulls by the horns and make this HIS team. I didn't see that today.
Special teams were trash. Allowing a 102 yard kick off return for a touchdown, allowing a blocked punt, a bad punt and muffing a punt on a return. Just unacceptable. To be honest, with all the things that went wrong today, I think special teams is solely responsible for 13 of the Bills 29 points and the biggest reason we lost today.
The Dolphins front four got virtually no pressure on E.J. Manuel. After harassing Tom Brady last week, they could barely get pressure on the Bills QB. Of special note is Cameron Wake getting neutralized by former Hurricane Seantrle Henderson, a 7th round rookie who was disappointing in college.
Will Davis. STOP FALLING!
Knowshon Moreno's injury hurt. He is expected to be out for 4 weeks with a dislocated elbow and that is huge. He was a spark plug on offense and we could have used him today. Granted the Dolphins should have continued running the ball when he went out and they didn't, but his enthusiasm is infectious and was sorely missed by a team that put together a lackluster effort on the field.
Officiating hurt in this game as well as the officials missed a fumble by Sammy Watkins that should have been a touchback but was instead called a touchdown. Each score is supposed to be automatically reviewed, but there didn't seem to be one or if there was it was completed in record time.
The Dolphins can't seem to win in Buffalo. It is a tough matchup for the Dolphins as the Bills strengths align with the Dolphins weaknesses. Those weaknesses, specifically the offensive line in pass protection, get exploited by this Bills team.
It's back to the drawing board for the Dolphins as this was a bad, sobering loss. Next up are the Kansas City Chiefs, a team with a strong defense but some injury issues and questions at quarterback. Can the Dolphins rebound?