What we learned from Bills vs. Dolphins

The Buffalo Bills had a chance to show the football world that things were changing for the team from Western New York. Instead, the team decided to fall down flat on national television.

With a chance to show the country that these were new times for an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs since Bill Clinton was still in office, the Buffalo Bills went out on national television and completely laid an egg against the Miami Dolphins.

Then again, maybe saying the team laid an egg is giving them too much credit. They likely would’ve screwed that process up too.

From the coaching to the offensive execution to the questionable calls by the officials, which will be saved for another piece, the game on Thursday night was a mess throughout. However, it wasn’t all bad for the Bills, though it may appear that way after falling further out of playoff contention...again.

Before bringing you down with all the bad things we learned even more about with this team, let’s start off with something good. This defense is good. Really good.

Though some fans wouldn’t want to believe it after watching Ryan Tannehill throw for 240 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well as Lamar Miller picking up 86 on the ground, the Buffalo defense came to play on Thursday night.

Mario Williams continued to be the stud pass rusher that the Bills needed by completely punishing the Miami offensive line all night long. The team seemed so focused on stopping Jerry Hughes and Marcell Dareus that it basically left Williams by himself with the right tackle, and he made the Dolphins pay.

The defense put the offense in perfect position numerous times, but, as per usual, no one on that side of the ball seemed to like the idea of getting into the endzone. It’s almost as if the team is allergic to scoring touchdowns.

Everyone drank the Kyle Orton kool aid, including myself, when he came in for E.J. Manuel after the week four loss to Houston, but it seems that pitcher is all but dried up as the team heads to week 12 of the season. He's making errant throws, taking too much time to make decisions on the field and just can't seem to lead this team down the field at all. Aside from the opening drive against Kansas City, which feels like eons ago, the Bills offense has continuously failed to score a touchdown. Even the Oakland Raiders can reach the endzone every now and then.

Looking specifically at the game plan, or lack thereof, on Thursday, it’s clear that the Bills really didn’t have a clue when it comes to how to call plays when inside the redzone. Hell, even outside of the redzone, offensive coordinator Nate Hackett didn’t seem to know what he was doing. Pitch to the outside on third and one? Really?

Hackett’s play calling is eerily reminiscent of that of a 12-year old playing Madden for the first time. You know, the kid who just picks the “Ask Madden” no matter the situation thinking that it will always work? Newsflash, it doesn't always work.

But as bad as Hackett’s decision making in terms of play calling was, head coach Doug Marrone’s decisions all night were just mind boggling. This man’s desire to never take a risk during a game is worthy of a column all on its own, but to save time it’ll be included right here.

With two opportunities over the last two games to make a gutsy call on fourth and goal inside the opponent’s four yard line, Marrone conceded to a field goal attempt likely due to the fact that Dan Carpenter is his fantasy kicker. Sure, a failed conversation last night results in no points, but with the Dolphins pinned at their endzone and the defense as good as it is, it’s a chance that a coach should take more often than not.

What’s worse than that, however, was Marrone’s decision to once again punt from inside opposing territory. But this was no ordinary decision to punt on the Miami side of the field. Oh no. This was a decision to punt on a fourth and six, in Miami territory, down 19-9 and with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

It truly was a genius decision that saw the Bills not get the ball back until there was only 4:37 left in the game, and there was virtually no chance of any sort of comeback.

New Bills owner Terry Pegula was in attendance for this game, and hopefully he saw enough to warrant some (major) changes to the coaching staff come the offseason. Marrone is a coach with no risk-taking attributes and his coordinator Hackett, well, just can’t hack it. Hilarious, I know (Don’t judge).

But with all the negativity this article has, which is certainly justified, let’s end this with one last positive from Thursday night’s game. Chris Hogan is good. With seven catches for 74 yards against his former team, Thursday’s game was clearly a coming out party for the former lacrosse player and it showed that he has the talent to be an NFL receiver. Hopefully, for his sake, he can continue to improve and be a mainstay for this offense for the next few years.  

Oh and hey, at least Mike Williams played. 


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