The Buffalo Bills struggled to get pressure on Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill for three quarters on Sunday. That is the same issue that plagued the Bills for three quarters against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.
When the Bills finally started bringing pressure, it translated to two sacks of Tannehill and a fumble that lead to the game winning field goal. Mario Williams, sometimes considered overrated, had two sacks in the fourth quarter and that forced fumble.
However timely Williams’ sacks were, there is still a larger issue at hand with the defense. Two games in a row, there was no sign of a pass rush. When defensive coordinator Mike Pettine dials up pressure late in games, the Bills’ defense comes through. No points in the fourth quarter in two straight games that led to comebacks. So where was that playcalling earlier in games?
Playcalling as a whole has been an issue for the Bills at points. They had a 14-0 lead and let it completely dissolve by the time the third quarter was over. One disturbing trend was pass selection on third downs. A number of times the pass went to a receiver short of the first down line. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson capitalized on one such pass, making a great individual play to pick up the first after shaking two Dolphin defenders.
Yet it occurred time after time on Sunday afternoon. Not a way to extend drives. Six times drives ended on third down passes that did not gain first down yardage. Is this an issue of players not running routes deep enough? Is it an issue of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett not calling plays that have routes going past the sticks? Or is it an issue due to the offensive line not being able to protect the quarterback long enough?
With the Bills giving up nine sacks between the last two games, the argument can be made that the offensive line could be the root cause. If the coaching staff feels like the line isn’t protecting the quarterback adequately on third downs, then the coaching staff needs to concentrate on drawing up plays to make third downs more manageable.
Overall, Sunday was not a pretty game outside of the first quarter and the game-winning field goal. However, two players turned in clutch performances that changed the outcome of the game. Running back Fred Jackson suffered a knee injury early in the game, but returned after a few plays and scored the touchdown that put the Bills up 14-0. On the last drive of the game, he picked up a crucial first down on a third down run that helped run the clock down even further before the game winning field goal.
The other player? Mario Williams. In the fourth quarter, he picked up two sacks and had the game-changing forced fumble. Sometimes considered overrated and streaky, he certainly picked the best time to go on a hot streak.
So to recap, the Bills won a game where they were outplayed for a good portion of the game, especially when the offense was on the field. Both sides of the ball made some plays but need to be more consistent. Another effort like this game will not fly in New Orleans against the Saints next Sunday.