MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. – If you glance over Week 7 box score and see 253 rushing yards, the obvious assumption would be that is was just another day at the office for Buffalo and the league’s top rushing offense. Sadly, you’d be mistaken.
Led by second-year running back Jay Ajayi, it was the Dolphins that owned that statistic, while the Bills managed an abysmal 67 yards on the ground in a 28-25 loss.
Of that 253 yards, Ajayi accounted for 214, as he ran through Buffalo’s defense like a freight train. He also joined some elite company by becoming just the fourth back in NFL history to record back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances. The others; oh just OJ Simpson, Earl Campbell and another Dolphin Ricky Williams.
Afterward Rex Ryan simply had no answer. “(Ajayi) ran hard,” Ryan said. “Had the numbers to our advantage, the kid made some good runs, ran through some tackles. Great job up front by them. We tried everything, believe me.”
Meanwhile the Bills top back LeSean McCoy, who suffered a hamstring injury at practice on Wednesday, could muster only 11 yards rushing on all of eight carries and didn’t finish the game due to some discomfort in that left leg. Like Shady’s status for Sunday, the decision to play the 28-year-old back was questionable at best.
“Well, I don’t know that he wasn’t 100 percent,” Bills head coach Rex Ryan said of the decision. “That’s what I was told and that’s why we played him.
“We never play a guy that our doctors and our trainers don’t clear, so he’s cleared to play and we thought he was fine. He left the game with some soreness in the hamstring and that’s why he never returned.”
Prior to Sunday, Ryan and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn emphasized monitoring McCoy’s injury with caution, taking into account the fact that a hamstring ailment kept him out of several games last season. Losing a crucial division contest hurts, but putting the most vital piece of their offense at risk of further injury could wind up being more detrimental.
McCoy claimed to have felt great during warmups, echoing the words of his head coach that he wouldn’t have played if he didn’t.
Even with McCoy supposedly at 100 percent, the Bills run game resembled that of a high school JV team. Mike Gillislee – a very dependable backup running back – got five touches and running backs not named McCoy earned seven combined. The other seven of their 22 total rushes went to Tyrod Taylor, who also threw the ball 28 times, completing 14 for 228 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown to Marquise Goodwin. One of his carries went for a 10-yard score as well.
Perhaps it was a reluctancey to overuse McCoy – he was said to be on a snap count. Or fear over what there offense would look like without him. Whatever the reason, an offense that had rushed for 312 yards a week ago; and well over 100 in the three weeks prior to that, lost it’s identity on Sunday against the 31st ranked run defense in the NFL.
“It was just one of those games,” Ryan said. “Like I said, we got out physical-ed on both sides of the ball, which is rare for us, but it happened.”
As they’ve done most of the season, Buffalo’s defense bent, but didn’t break on the Dolphins first possession of the game, shutting down a 15 play, 64 yard drive in the red zone to force a Dolphins FG.
After the team’s exchanged punts on alternating drives, Buffalo would answer with a field goal of their own. The defense would stop the next Dolphins series after four plays and Lerentee McCrae altered the punt attempted to help set the Bills up at the Miami 40. Seven plays later they were on the board again, this time for six on a 10-yard run by the man they call T-Mobile. Miami would follow that up with another field goal and Buffalo held a four-point lead at the half, 10-6. Ajayi had already piled up 99 yards.
The third quarter started with four consecutive punts, before Taylor connected with Marquise Goodwin on a 67-yard touchdown pass at the 5:51 mark. The Bills were very much in control up 17-6.
Naturally, that’s where things started to unravel.
On their next possession, the Dolphins wouldn’t even face a third down as they moved the ball 75 yards on 10 plays for their first TD of the game. After Ajayi punched it in from four yards out, Ryan Tannehill would hit Jarvis Landry for the two-point conversion and the Bills lead was down to three.
About midway through the fourth quarter they’d steal the lead with an absolutely heart-wrenching drive. Facing third-and-seven at the Bills 46, Tannehill found Landry over the middle of the field for an 18-yard gain and the drive continued. It would end three plays later with a Damien Williams touchdown run.
3:56 remained. Plenty of time for Taylor to earn that signature win.
Not quite. The Bills would promptly go three-and-out and punt the ball back to the Dolphins. A 66-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Still would put it out of reach, despite a garbage time touchdown from Reggie Bush with 14 seconds left.
Some heroics from Taylor would have been special, but this loss isn’t on him. Playing with limited weapons at his disposal already and losing several more throughout, he did what he could.
The Dolphins dominated time of possession 37:02 to 22:58, they were able to score on two of their four trips to the red zone, and they outgained the Bills 454 to 267.
Adding insult to injury, Miami was also the less disciplined team on Sunday, accumulating 13 penalties for 116 yards. The Bills have been that team numerous times, but usually lose.
One of those penalties was an absolutely reckless block from Landry in the second quarter that nearly decapitated Bills safety Aaron Williams. Williams was running to his right with his eyes in the backfield as Landry came flying in from the left side of the formation, launched his body into Williams’s head, which whipped back as he fell to the turf. The 26-year-old with a history of serious head and neck injuries laid motionless on the turf for some time. He’d leave the game and never return, however he did fly home with the Bills after some precautionary tests at a local hospital.
His Bills teammates weren’t shared their feelings on the hit afterwards.
“Yeah, I didn’t see it,” Bills center Eric Wood said. “I heard about it. I thought that was garbage. Who knows if he’s had prior neck issues. We’ll see if he gets fined more for that than the guys dancing, that’s all I have to say.”
“I actually wanted to do something after that play, but that’s football,” cornerback Stephon Gilmore said of the hit. “I don’t want to say it was a dirty hit, but the receiver had a crack play. That’s his job to go and crack the safety so they can get the edge, it was a good play on his end. I just wish he wouldn’t hit him so hard, especially because it’s Aaron and it’s his neck.”
So the Bills lost more than the game on Sunday. And suddenly a season that was revived after that embarrassing 0-2 start, is an uphill climb again. The Patriots and Seahawks are up next.
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