Super Mario Helps Bills Rally To Win in Miami, 23-21

Buffalo’s defensive line, led by Mario Williams, couldn’t bring Ryan Tannehill down all game, that is until it mattered most.

With the Bills down 21-20 Williams sacked Tannehill to help end a drive that was in Bills territory with less than seven minutes left. On the Dolphins’ next possession, Williams strip-sacked Tannehill, with defensive tackle Kyle Williams falling on it with 2:41 left on Miami’s 34 yard line, making Mario Williams’ 10th sack of the season his most important of the season to date.

Ryan Tannehill MIA 350x350
Ryan Tannehill

After a tough 10 yard run by Fred Jackson gave the Bills a first down, former Dolphin kicker Dan Carpenter hit a 31 yard field goal with 33 seconds left. A 44 yard kick return by Marcus Thigpen could have been much more had it not been for Carpenter cutting off his angle to the edge, but it gave Miami the ball at their own 46 yard line with 23 seconds left.

But like they had for much of the game, Buffalo’s defense stepped up, pressuring Tannehill enough for him to miss a wide-open Brian Harline for a potential game-winning touchdown, and knocking down Tannehill’s hail mary attempt to win 23-21.  Coach Doug Marrone was tremendously pleased with the result, but still sees some room for improvement.

“At the end of the day we found a way to win on the road,” said Marrone. “Guys have been toughing it out. We were able to pick each other up at times today but we’re still not where we need to be consistently.”

The Bills defense forced three turnovers on the day, two were picks of Tannehill in the first quarter, including a pick-six by undrafted rookie  Nickell Robey a little over 90 seconds into the game, and the other by Aaron Williams in the endzone when the Dolphins had gotten into the redzone. Marrone wasn’t surprised that Robey was able to make the play.

“He’s been getting closer and closer,” said Marrone. “I’m out there while you guys are saying great play and I’m saying ‘Shoot. It’s about time.’ Because he’s really close.”

Buffalo was able to get a 14-0 lead when they went 44 yards in six plays on their second possession, ending with a 3 yard touchdown run by Fred Jackson with 5:47 left in the first quarter. Miami cut the lead in half with a 62 yard drive that included a 30 yard run by Lamar Miller, and ended with a Tannehill 7 yard touchdown pass to tight end Charles Clay.

Buffalo extended its lead to 10 with a 39 yard field goal from Carpenter with a little over 3 minutes left in the first half. After each team had an ineffective offensive drive, Tannehill lead the Dolphins from their own 25 into the end zone in just five plays, with a 46 yard completion to Mike Wallace and two completions to Brandon Gibson, including a 13 yard touchdown to put Miami within 3 at halftime, and gave Gibson his first score as a Dolphin.

After Buffalo went 3 and out, Miami’s offense began the second half the same way ended it the first: A drive that ended with a Tannehill touchdown pass, his third of the game, to Gibson from 4 yards out.  After Miami’s offensive line had allowed 24 sacks in their first five games, the second-most in the league, the Dolphins’ ability to keep pressure off of Tannehill (19 of 37 for 192 yards) helped him immensely  through the first three quarters to put Miami ahead 21-17.

Bills Stevie Johnson 350 DZ
Stevie Johnson
Photo: Derek Zeller

After that score, the Bills answered with a seven and a half minute drive that showed Thaddeus Lewis’ toughness, as he took a shot to the head from rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins that knocked his helmet off as he threw a 17-yard strike to Steve Johnson on 3rd down and 11, with the Jenkins’ hit resulting in a 15 yard penalty. Johnson had 6 catches for 61 yards in his return to the field, including another third-down conversion on the drive, which ended on Miami’s 2 yard line, with Carpenter converting a 20 yard field goal to make it 21-20.

Lewis, a native of Opa-Locka in Miami-Dade County who said during the week that he grew up watching the Dolphins as a kid, returned to Florida to capture his first victory as a starting quarterback in the NFL in his third career start, completing 21 of 32 passes for 202 yards and an interception.

“It was awesome,” said Lewis. “I’ve never won here, even in college (Sun Life Stadium). I had an opportunity to help this team win and we came together as a team and got a team victory and it feels sweet. Last time we had a bitter taste in our mouth, last week we were so close but this time we got over the hump. That’s what it’s all about, winning.”

Fred Jackson, who rushed for 36 yards and caught 4 passes from Lewis for 49 yards, returned from an early injury and twist of his knee to provide much-needed toughness, according to Lewis.

“That’s the toughness of this team, relentless effort, relentless pursuit of excellence,” said Lewis. “Our guys want to win, our guys want to play and you’ve got guys out there playing hurt. I got my helmet knocked off and it didn’t mean anything. Those are the things that you want to do to win. You have to lead like Fred and go out there and keep playing.”

The Bills remain in last in the AFC East at 3-4, and will go on the road again to New Orleans to play the Saints. The Dolphins will try to end their three-game losing streak against the Patriots in Foxborough next Sunday.

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