ReFo: Bills @ Dolphins, Week 16

Steve Palazzolo breaks down the good, bad and ugly of this clash of AFC East also-rans.

| 5 years ago

Steve Palazzolo breaks down the good, bad and ugly of this clash of AFC East also-rans.

ReFo: Bills @ Dolphins, Week 16

With little at stake in this AFC East matchup, the Miami Dolphins avoided a three-way tie for last in the division by defeating the Buffalo Bills 24-10. Buffalo maintained sole position at the bottom, falling to 5-10 on the year, with a Top 10 draft pick in sight.

For Miami, they’re alone in second place as the AFC East teams have again failed to knock the New England Patriots off their yearly perch atop the division. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill showing enough promise in his rookie season, combined with some nice pieces on both sides of the ball, the arrow is pointing up for Miami. They’ll look to get to .500 when they head to New England next week, and their 2012 season has to be deemed a successful step in the right direction regardless of their final record.

Let’s take a look at the performances that shaped this AFC East battle.

Buffalo – Three Performances of Note

Defensive Line Disappoints

It’s a rare game that sees defensive tackle Kyle Williams grade in the red, but that’s what happened Sunday as he notched a -5.6 grade, his worst since we started in 2008. Usually one of the best interior pass rushers in the league, Williams was shut out on his 26 pass rush attempts, while getting pushed around in the running game. His -3.5 run grade was his second-worst of the season as the Dolphins’ interior offensive line surprisingly had their way with him. Even worse than Williams was defensive end Kyle Moore. He was completely moved out of the hole by left tackle Jonathan Martin at the 7:12 mark of the first quarter, and that was a familiar site as he was consistently sealed on the edge allowing Miami running backs to get to the outside throughout the game. He graded at -6.8 for the game and -4.6 against the run.

Stevie Drops the Ball

It was not a good day for wide receiver Stevie Johnson who put the ball on the ground with 7:23 to go in the first, then followed it up with three dropped passes and a delay of game penalty. The fumble came after a slant route that netted a first down, but cornerback Sean Smith knocked the ball loose for a Dolphins recovery. The first two drops proved costly as Johnson ran a nifty double-move out route but was unable to haul in the wide open throw at the 00:44 mark of the first. It got even worse in the second quarter, but this drop may not have been completely on Johnson. He made an apparent catch with a reach for the end zone, but the referees determined that he was unable to keep control of the ball throughout the reception. For the day, he picked up 44 yards on his four catches, but the three drops, fumble, and penalty put his overall grade at -3.8.

Season High 68 Snaps for Spiller

All season long, Bills fans have been begging head coach Chan Gailey to find a way to give the ball to running back C.J. Spiller, but it might be too little too late as it took until last week before Spiller was on the field for at least 80% of the team’s snaps. His 68 snaps on Sunday are a season high as he picked up 138 yards on the ground to go with 35 through the air. As has been the case throughout 2012, Spiller made defenders miss and forced eight missed tackles on the day. He remains atop our Elusive Rating for running backs, and it’s not even close. His 108.7 mark dwarfs second place Adrian Peterson’s 69.6 mark, and his 63 missed tackles forced are tied for the league lead despite his limited touches. There’s only one week left, so redemption has gone by the wayside, but Spiller needs the ball in his hands for the betterment of both the Buffalo Bills and highlight shows everywhere.

Miami – Three Performances of Note

Dominance Up Front

There is green all along the Dolphins’ offensive line as the big guys up front controlled the trench battle against Buffalo’s defense. They were a huge factor in Miami’s running game picking up 182 yards on 35 carries (5.2 yards/carry). Left guard Richie Incognito led the way with a +3.7 grade that consisted of a perfect day in pass protection and a strong game opening holes for the Miami running attack. Offensive tackles Jonathan Martin and Nate Garner had identical +2.6 grades run blocking, but they each gave up four pressures on 35 pass drop-backs. Finally, we can’t mention the offensive line without bringing tight end Anthony Fasano and his +2.6 run block grade into the conversation. He controlled the edge all day as Miami averaged just under 8.0 yards/carry on runs off left or right end.

Tannehill Shines

Even without the flashy statistics, Tannehill has shown the makings of becoming the long-term option for the Dolphins. He’s cool under pressure and Miami is now making use of his athleticism as quarterback designed runs are becoming more prevalent in the offense. Sunday is a good example of performance not showing up in the stats as Tannehill’s 13 for 25, 130-yard performance tells very little of the story. Of his 12 incompletions, two were dropped, two were batted, two were thrown away and he was hit once during his motion. With those attempts eliminated, we get an Accuracy Percentage of 80%. However, beyond the stats, Tannehill’s full skill set was on display in this game. He fired a strike on a seam route to WR Rishard Matthews, before showing his touch on a wheel route to RB Reggie Bush for a touchdown. On the ground, Tannehill picked up 44 yards on six carries, many of which came off the read option play. He graded at +1.8 overall in another encouraging game for Dolphins fans.

Trouble Complementing Wake

In a season-long issue, the Dolphins have been unable to give any help to pass rushing phenom Cameron Wake. Such was the case Sunday as Wake graded at +2.2 as a pass rusher compared to -5.5 for the rest of the team. Fellow defensive end Jared Odrick should really be classified as more of a 3-4 defensive end as he doesn’t possess the pass rushing prowess of a true 4-3 defensive end. He picked up one hurry on his 36 pass rush attempts (-1.9 rush). Defensive tackle Randy Starks is the only other defensive lineman grading positively as a pass rusher, but he was shut out of the action in this game as he was unable to affect the quarterback on his 20 rushes.

As Miami continues to build a roster capable of competing in the AFC East, a complementary pass rusher for Wake must be near the top of the priority list.

Game Notes

— Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick graded at +2.7 against the blitz, but only -2.5 against a four-man rush.

— Each Dolphins starting defensive lineman dropped into coverage at least once as they used some creative zone blitz packages throughout the game

–Of C.J. Spiller’s 138 yards on the ground, 128 came after contact.

PFF Game Ball

With green grades all along the offensive line, it’d be easy to give the game ball to the entire front five, but LG Richie Incognito gets the nod for his perfect day in pass protection and stellar run blocking.


| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Ivan Cairns

    No mention of safety Reshad Jones & his solid performance? he was a takeaway machine last Sunday.

    • Jason

      Yeah, Reshad has been quietly dominate the entire year and finally had a media friendly breakout game, and not a mention, odd.