The Miami Dolphins ran through the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, doing just about anything they wanted - especially when it came to the running game. Miami ran for 6.2 yards per attempt on Sunday, against the top rushing defense in the league, while holding the top rushing offense in the league to just a 3.0 yards per attempt average, or 67 total yards. It was a solid performance on both sides of the ball for the Dolphins, and it sends them into the bye week with two straight wins, and an extra week to prepare for the year’s first meeting with the New York Jets.
Each week, win or loss, we take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the latest game for the Dolphins. Some weeks, finding the good as been tough, but this week it was pretty simple.
- Jay Ajayi - You have to start with the Dolphins’ feature back, and that is exactly what he is at this point, as he eclipses the 200-yard rushing mark for the second straight week. He averaged 7.6 yards per attempt this week, and was still putting up those type of gaudy numbers before his 53-yard run late in the game. Another 214 yards now has Ajayi with the sixth most rushing yards in the league at this point, and he leads the league with a 6.4 yards per carry average - over a yard longer than the second highest average, LeSean McCoy’s 5.3 yards per attempt. Ajayi has become a monster over the last couple of weeks, and now he just needs to make sure he carries that through the bye week.
- Offensive line - Some people call the Miami starting five offensive linemen “unicorns” because it took so long to see them actually come together and it is a rare thing over the past two seasons for them to play an entire game together. They are not unicorns, however, but rather grizzly bears, coming through to dominate defensive front sevens. The Bills were deliberately assigning players to Mike Pouncey and Laremy Tunsil on Sunday, just to make sure they could not get into the second level and continue leading the way for Ajayi. When was the last time you heard of a team scheming for how to stop a center and a guard? Exactly. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill took one sack on the day, a strange play where the team appeared to be in max protect, with both Tannehill and Pouncey pointing out the blitz, and still four players met at Tannehill as he finished his drop. Other than that, however, the offensive line was good enough in pass protection - and in part because Tannehill started feeling the pressure and moving - to keep their quarterback upright for most of the game. If Miami can keep the five starters healthy and playing together, they appear to be the offensive line everyone expected them to be back in the offseason.
- Ryan Tannehill - He got lucky a couple of times, but the same drops that kill an offensive drive can effect the defense when cornerbacks let interceptions go right through their hands. That happened on Sunday, when Tannehill threw a ball toward Jarvis Landry, but into double coverage and somehow, it fell incomplete. He also had a pass to Kenny Stills that probably could have been placed out in front of him a little better, but overall, Tannehill had a solid day. He was 15-for-25 for 204 yards, an 8.2 yards per attempt average, which keeps him in the top half-dozen quarterbacks in the league in that stat for the year (8.11, 6th in the NFL). He is ahead of “deep” throwers like Ben Roethlisberger (7.46 yards per attempt), Andrew Luck (7.51), and Drew Brees (7.70). Tannehill put up a 99.4 passer rating on Sunday, or a 72.8 QBR, and, while the late 66-yard touchdown catch and run from Stills helped his stats - it also did prove to be the difference in the game - he played well and started to show a little more ability to move in and out of the pocket (having an offensive line that is giving him a pocket helps as well).
- The former Bills - Kiko Alonso recorded six tackles on Sunday to led the team as he faced off against the team that drafted him, then traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles. Mario Williams, who was unceremoniously shunned out of Buffalo after last season recorded two tackles, both for a loss, with one quarterback hit. His destruction of the Mike Gillislee direct snap run, a tackle for a 10-yard loss, was beautiful, then he came back two plays later and crushed Tyrod Taylor just as the Buffalo quarterback attempted a pass, a pass that fell incomplete. Alonso has been a solid middle linebacker for the Dolphins this year, and is getting more and more comfortable in his role, starting to make some plays. Williams has been up-and-down, but if he can continue to make plays - even if it is just flushing a quarterback out of the pocket and into another player’s arms, the defense will be much improved.
- Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake - Along with Williams, Wake and Suh were disruptive to the Bills offensive line all game long. Taylor was under pressure on half of his pass attempts (literally) and Suh and Wake were a huge part of that. Wake tallied 1.5 sacks while Suh had one of his own. The Dolphins defensive line has figured out how to generate pressure, so the rest of the year should be fun to watch as a Dolphins fan. Pro Football Focus also pointed out that the Bills running backs averaged 1.4 inches of rushing before initial contact. Yes, that says inches. That is more than just Suh and Wake, but they were a big part of it.
- Jarvis Landry’s hit on Aaron Williams - There was nothing pretty about the hit Landry placed on Williams, a hit that was up near Williams’ head and appeared to blindside the Bills’ safety. Landry apologized to Williams on the field and told the media he would take back the hit if he could, but it was still a bad moment. Landry is not a dirty player - and people who say he plays with emotions that get out of control were just throwing things out there in the moment because Landry did not appear out of control, he just made a poor decision - and this did appear to be an accident. Hopefully Williams, who had to have neck surgery last year, will be able to recover from this quickly.
- Indiscipline - Penalties happen, but 13 penalties for 116 yards is unacceptable. Indiscipline may be the only way to explain it. There were unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, unnecessary roughness penalties, holding penalties, and just about everything else it seemed. Landry will get the brunt of the focus, given his hit on Williams (unnecessary roughness) and his taunting penalty (unsportsmanlike) for spinning the ball on the Bills sideline, but the team as a whole is committing way too many penalties. They are giving up free yardage and first downs and that has to stop.