Bills rise like the phoenix, cap Dolphins

With six second left in the first quarter against Miami on Dec. 1, that seemed like a good time for the Bills to call it a season. Tight end Jed Weaver had just scored a one-yard touchdown, which put Miami up 14-3, and the Dolphins had come away with touchdowns on their first two possessions.

The Bills were playing every bit as well as they played the week before in losing to the Jets at the Meadowlands, 31-13, dipping Buffalo below .500 for the first time since Oct. 6 and severely damaging their playoff chances.

Now Miami came storming out of the gate – literally. Ricky Williams' 45-yard touchdown run on his team's first play from scrimmage, made it seem like this was going to be a repeat of the Bills' 38-7 home rout to New England three games earlier.

So for Buffalo, there never seemed to be a better time to pack it up and go home.

Besides, it was cold and windy, and the weather report forecasted snow. Surely no player wanted to dig his expensive car out of a six-foot snowdrift in the stadium parking lot.

But these Bills have more desire than that.

Though shaky on talent at some key positions, they showed impressive desire to soundly beat Miami 38-21. They swept the Dolphins for the first time since 1999 and won the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker if they're fortunate enough to tie for first with Miami in the AFC East after 16 games.

"We had our backs against the wall," said Gregg Williams, "We needed to answer and we did. I'm very proud of how the team responded and battled back through some tough times in the ball game and didn't lose confidence in themselves. They came up with a hard-fought victory today."

It certainly was, despite Ricky Williams rushing for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Usually, those kinds of numbers indicate a blowout win, not a 17-point loss.

But this game was just really, really weird. It was a game that asked its observers to throw out football's accepted truths and take the result for what it was: an uninhibited explosion of big play after big play rivaled in its bigness only by the Big Bang itself.

It was pretty freakin' incredible. So let's "break it down," as Young M.C. once rapped in his famous song, "Bust a Move."

Peerless Price's 73-yard touchdown gave Buffalo the lead for good, 24-21, in the third quarter (see "The Big Play").

On the next drive, Drew Bledsoe threw for a 57-yard score to Eric Moulds, putting Buffalo up 31-21.

That drive was set up by yet another big play – left end Kendrick Office forcing tight end Randy McMichael to fumble, which was recovered by Antoine Winfield.

Of course, we probably wouldn't be talking about those big plays if these big plays hadn't occurred in the first half.

Aaron Schobel sacked Ray Lucas and forced a fumble on a fourth and 4 from the Buffalo 36 late in the second quarter. Chidi Ahanotu recovered and ran it 17 yards to the Miami  31. Four plays later, Bledsoe threw to Price for a 20-yard touchdown, putting Buffalo ahead 17-14 with 11 seconds remaining in the half.

And on the previous Bills drive, Bledsoe ran for the third rushing touchdown of his career, straight up the middle during a third and goal from the two. Down 14-3, that was the play that gave Buffalo some life with three minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the half.

In essence, that marked the beginning of an explosion in which Buffalo outscored Miami 35-7 the remainder of the game.

Yes, the big play returned to the offense; turnovers returned to the defense; and Travis Henry continued to quietly have a spectacular season.

Indeed, Henry capped the game with a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, finishing with 151 yards rushing on 35 carries and a touchdown. He also went above 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

"I have to give credit to my offensive line because they really wanted it bad," said Henry. "They were ready before the game – hyped up. Without them, this would not be possible."

"I think (we had a ton of big plays) because of the running game," said Eric Moulds. "The way Travis ran the ball today, it opened things up for us."

Miami had a couple of big plays too. There was the aforementioned Williams touchdown on Miami's first play, but that was eclipsed by his 55-yard third quarter touchdown run, which momentarily gave Miami the lead back, 21-17.

On that play, Buffalo was in a run-stopping defense with Miami facing a third and one from its 45. Williams took the handoff and busted through the first layer of defense … which unfortunately seemed to be the only layer. Only the cement wall in the back of the end zone succeeded in stopping Williams.

"That's a very good defense to be in," said free safety Pierson Prioleau, defending Jerry Gray's call. "It's designed to stop the run and if everybody does their job, we shouldn't give that up … Some plays are going to be broken. We've got to find a way not to give up the long yardage."

The positive on defense is that the Bills were highly aggressive and forced three turnovers. They also held Miami to 30 yards passing.

But part of that was because of Ricky Williams' success. And that's the major negative: Williams repeatedly ripped off big, long runs, averaging 8.4 yards per carry! He not only had gains of 55 and 45 yards, but also double-digit gains of 17, 14, and 16 yards.

Prioleau knows Buffalo's defense must do better – that his offensive teammates' big plays rescued the defense this game.

"People always say if you take away this and you take away that, the reality of it is that you can't take it away. It is part of the game. Take away (two) 50-yard runs, he still has 100 yards.

"But if you do look at it with an optimistic point of view and you take away those plays, especially in the second half – there was only one in the second half – we're playing fundamentally sound defense … If we can just find a way for the rest of the season to not give up those plays and have our offense continue to play well …"

Prioleau's sentence was muffled by the Bills linebackers whooping it up with Pat Williams a few lockers away. No doubt they were talking about the game, joking around, and feeling good about beating the Dolphins a second time this year.

"You can tell we won," Prioleau remarked, laughing. "You know when we win."

You certainly do. And for one week at least, the team is back in the AFC East race, ready to take on the Patriots for a possible share of first place next week.

It's remarkable what desire can do, especially in the face of bleakness.

 

Big play

Bills' ball, second and 7 from the Buffalo 27, four minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Miami winning 21-17.

Buffalo went with three wide receivers. Peerless Price was slotted right with Eric Moulds wide right and Josh Reed wide left. Buffalo below .500 for the first time since Oct. 6 and severely damaging their playoff chances.

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Now Miami came storming out of the gate – literally. Ricky Williams' 45-yard touchdown run on his team's first play from scrimmage, made it seem like this was going to be a repeat of the Bills' 38-7 home rout to New England three games earlier.

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So for Buffalo, there never seemed to be a better time to pack it up and go home.

\r\n

Besides, it was cold and windy, and the weather report forecasted snow. Surely no player wanted to dig his expensive car out of a six-foot snowdrift in the stadium parking lot.

\r\n

But these Bills have more desire than that.

\r\n

Though shaky on talent at some key positions, they showed impressive desire to soundly beat Miami 38-21. They swept the Dolphins for the first time since 1999 and won the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker if they're fortunate enough to tie for first with Miami in the AFC East after 16 games.

\r\n

\"We had our backs against the wall,\" said Gregg Williams, \"We needed to answer and we did. I'm very proud of how the team responded and battled back through some tough times in the ball game and didn't lose confidence in themselves. They came up with a hard-fought victory today.\"

\r\n

It certainly was, despite Ricky Williams rushing for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Usually, those kinds of numbers indicate a blowout win, not a 17-point loss.

\r\n

But this game was just really, really weird. It was a game that asked its observers to throw out football's accepted truths and take the result for what it was: an uninhibited explosion of big play after big play rivaled in its bigness only by the Big Bang itself.

\r\n

It was pretty freakin' incredible. So let's \"break it down,\" as Young M.C. once rapped in his famous song, \"Bust a Move.\"

\r\n

Peerless Price's 73-yard touchdown gave Buffalo the lead for good, 24-21, in the third quarter (see \"The Big Play\").

\r\n

On the next drive, Drew Bledsoe threw for a 57-yard score to Eric Moulds, putting Buffalo up 31-21.

\r\n

That drive was set up by yet another big play – left end Kendrick Office forcing tight end Randy McMichael to fumble, which was recovered by Antoine Winfield.

\r\n

Of course, we probably wouldn't be talking about those big plays if these big plays hadn't occurred in the first half.

\r\n

Aaron Schobel sacked Ray Lucas and forced a fumble on a fourth and 4 from the Buffalo 36 late in the second quarter. Chidi Ahanotu recovered and ran it 17 yards to the Miami  31. Four plays later, Bledsoe threw to Price for a 20-yard touchdown, putting Buffalo ahead 17-14 with 11 seconds remaining in the half.

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And on the previous Bills drive, Bledsoe ran for the third rushing touchdown of his career, straight up the middle during a third and goal from the two. Down 14-3, that was the play that gave Buffalo some life with three minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the half.

\r\n

In essence, that marked the beginning of an explosion in which Buffalo outscored Miami 35-7 the remainder of the game.

\r\n

Yes, the big play returned to the offense; turnovers returned to the defense; and Travis Henry continued to quietly have a spectacular season.

\r\n

Indeed, Henry capped the game with a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, finishing with 151 yards rushing on 35 carries and a touchdown. He also went above 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

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\"I have to give credit to my offensive line because they really wanted it bad,\" said Henry. \"They were ready before the game – hyped up. Without them, this would not be possible.\"

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\"I think (we had a ton of big plays) because of the running game,\" said Eric Moulds. \"The way Travis ran the ball today, it opened things up for us.\"

\r\n

Miami had a couple of big plays too. There was the aforementioned Williams touchdown on Miami's first play, but that was eclipsed by his 55-yard third quarter touchdown run, which momentarily gave Miami the lead back, 21-17.

\r\n

On that play, Buffalo was in a run-stopping defense with Miami facing a third and one from its 45. Williams took the handoff and busted through the first layer of defense … which unfortunately seemed to be the only layer. Only the cement wall in the back of the end zone succeeded in stopping Williams.

\r\n

\"That's a very good defense to be in,\" said free safety Pierson Prioleau, defending Jerry Gray's call. \"It's designed to stop the run and if everybody does their job, we shouldn't give that up … Some plays are going to be broken. We've got to find a way not to give up the long yardage.\"

\r\n

The positive on defense is that the Bills were highly aggressive and forced three turnovers. They also held Miami to 30 yards passing.

\r\n

But part of that was because of Ricky Williams' success. And that's the major negative: Williams repeatedly ripped off big, long runs, averaging 8.4 yards per carry! He not only had gains of 55 and 45 yards, but also double-digit gains of 17, 14, and 16 yards.

\r\n

Prioleau knows Buffalo's defense must do better – that his offensive teammates' big plays rescued the defense this game.

\r\n

\"People always say if you take away this and you take away that, the reality of it is that you can't take it away. It is part of the game. Take away (two) 50-yard runs, he still has 100 yards.

\r\n

\"But if you do look at it with an optimistic point of view and you take away those plays, especially in the second half – there was only one in the second half – we're playing fundamentally sound defense … If we can just find a way for the rest of the season to not give up those plays and have our offense continue to play well …\"

\r\n

Prioleau's sentence was muffled by the Bills linebackers whooping it up with Pat Williams a few lockers away. No doubt they were talking about the game, joking around, and feeling good about beating the Dolphins a second time this year.

\r\n

\"You can tell we won,\" Prioleau remarked, laughing. \"You know when we win.\"

\r\n

You certainly do. And for one week at least, the team is back in the AFC East race, ready to take on the Patriots for a possible share of first place next week.

\r\n

It's remarkable what desire can do, especially in the face of bleakness.

\r\n

 

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Big play

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Bills' ball, second and 7 from the Buffalo 27, four minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Miami winning 21-17.

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Buffalo went with three wide receivers. Peerless Price was slotted right with Eric Moulds wide right and Josh Reed wide left.