Bills can't control Porter

Miami's trash-talking linebacker had a key sack in the fourth quarter...

In the mid-90s it was Bryan Cox. Waving his middle fingers at fans and spitting in their direction, Bryan Cox was Public Enemy No. 1 to Bills fans. That No. 51 jersey and extended neck roll on his shoulder pads triggered a cathartic response of hatred. The rivalry became more than Jim Kelly vs. Dan Marino. Miami Dolphins' linebacker made Bills fans sincerely gag at the site of teal, orange and white, and the rivalry intensified.

Now there's a new Mouth from the South: Joey Porter. The Dolphins' disrupting defensive force was all over the place in Toronto Sunday. Porter had two sacks and triggered Miami's rush defense beyond statistics. His presence lingered all game. Porter routinely closed off wide runs, forcing Marshawn Lynch to the interior, where a school of Dolphins awaited.

One week after getting fined $7,500 by the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct against New England, Porter upped his NFL-leading sack total to 16.5.

Early in the fourth quarter, Buffalo faced a key 3rd-and-9 at its own 13-yard line --- realistically the team's final shot to win. The Bills lined up in a shotgun formation, but the extra space didn't help. Porter flew by left tackle Kirk Chambers, Marshawn Lynch started to slide over to help but turned inside to run a route instead, and Losman was wrestled down at 2-yard line.

Miami's Porter unbuttoned the right side of his chin strap and performed his patented kick in the end zone. He made a game-changing play when it mattered most. The Bills surrendered a short field goal on the ensuing possession, icing an ugly loss.

Porter's impact wasn't a surprise. Before the game, quarterback J.P. Losman said the offense had a set plan of attack against Porter, refusing to spill the beans on any details. No plan would have worked. Like Shaquille O'Neal in his prime, Porter affects a play even when he's not the one making it. The Bills needed to account for the Miami linebacker all game. Porter was the point man in Miami's complete shutdown of Buffalo's offense.

On the right edge, Porter routinely sped into the backfield and forced action to the inside. Consequently, Lynch averaged only 2.4 yards per carry. Facing its most inferior quarterback of the season, Miami was able to crowd its two inside linebackers near the line of scrimmage and clutter Lynch from there. ILB's Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele combined for 10 tackles in the 16-3 win.

Don't think for a second though that Buffalo's rushing woes were not all Miami-inflicted. Yet again, the Bills' offensive line was shoved around with ease. And yet again, the coaching staff grossly underused its best offensive weapon. Backup running back Fred Jackson did not receive one touch all day.

"It was pretty frustrating knowing the guys were out there struggling, you wanted to get out and help them and you weren't getting the opportunities," Jackson said afterward, citing the fact that the Bills only had 18 offensive plays in the first half.

Still, Jackson is the antithesis of the Bills offense. He's explosive. Keeping him on the sideline at all as the offense's funk worsened into a gory R-rated display is ludicrous. Joey Porter and the Dolphins defense faced little of the misdirection type of plays Jackson flourishes in. Instead, each possession duplicated the last: predictable Lynch runs, Losman mistakes and punts. Brush, rinse and repeat.

"Any time you play with a group of guys that we have, you want to get out there and help them," said Jackson, clearly taking the high road on an issue he could be fuming over. "If anything, I wanted to help. I may not have been able to, but I wanted to help. Just to have an opportunity would have been good."

This was one opportunity the Bills should have never missed, especially with Porter on the other side of the ball.

thdunne@gmail.com


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