Learning to Finish?

After failing miserably all season late in games, Buffalo filleted the Fins. Next up, New York...

The Bills' fourth-quarter explosion in Sunday's 31-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins was so out of character, fans and media are still in disbelief.

Buffalo had lost five games this season in which they led or were tied in the final quarter. But against the Dolphins, the Bills snapped a 14-14 tie by erupting for 17 points in a span of 2:15 with less than four minutes to play.

"I think it just builds some confidence on some of the things that we're capable of doing and putting it on the field," veteran wide receiver Lee Evans said. "I think if anything from that game we finished -- which is most important and built some confidence. I think that's something that we can build off of going forward."

The Bills (4-7) will try to build off that win when they face the New York Jets (5-6) Thursday in a prime-time game in Toronto. The game is the second in a series of five regular-season games the Bills agreed to play in Toronto through 2012. Buffalo lost 16-3 to Miami last year.

The ability to put games away in the fourth quarter is the mark of a mature team that has learned how to win. Nobody is accusing the Bills of being that kind of team after one glorious afternoon. But it was a much-needed boost for a franchise thrown into yet another state of turmoil with the firing of coach Dick Jauron two weeks ago.

Interim coach Perry Fewell has had an immediate impact, instilling an air of accountability and toughness as he vies to land Buffalo's permanent coaching position.

"I just think the players had an attitude," he said of Sunday's wild finish. "We've been talking about finishing. We've been practicing to finish offensively, defensively and special-teams wise and that's what we did. We were very fortunate that the guys rose up to the challenge."

It began with a punt to the Dolphins' 2-yard line by Brian Moorman, which led to the defense forcing Miami to punt, which set up a 56-yard field goal by Rian Lindell. Then the floodgates opened. The defense intercepted Miami quarterback Chad Henne twice and the offense turned those turnovers into touchdowns, including a 51-yard TD strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Terrell Owens for the deciding blow. The defense capped off the day with yet another interception as the clock ran out.

The Bills made no apologies for scoring on Miami when the opportunities were there despite a big lead.

"They just whooped us all over the field down in Miami," safety George Wilson said of the Dolphins' 38-10 win over Buffalo in October. "We watched the tape. That was our motivation going in. It was a rivalry game, a division game, and we were definitely pumped. We felt electricity in the air."

It's difficult to say what the Bills will be feeling in Toronto. Last season's game there presented a stale atmosphere with just as many fans cheering for Miami as Buffalo and many that didn't care who won.

The Bills aren't occupying their time worrying about the makeup of the crowd, though. With change in the air and nothing to lose, they seem to have a renewed sense of winning for Fewell and for themselves.

"I guess there's a renewed optimism," Fitzpatrick said. "I don't know what it is but we certainly, the last few weeks especially ... we've been playing hard all year, but some bounces have gone our way, we've caught some breaks, but really I think there's a renewed optimism. But also just the energy in the locker room and the enthusiasm, I think that's helped as well."

The Jets certainly won't be taking Buffalo lightly.

Despite dominating the Bills on the stat sheet, including 318 yards rushing to 142, the Jets fell 16-13 to Buffalo in overtime in this season's first matchup thanks to 14 penalties and six interceptions, five by rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. That started New York on a nosedive that saw it lose six out of seven games.

Miraculously, the Jets are still in the playoff hunt after beating Carolina 17-6 and watching New England (7-4) stay close to the pack in the AFC East with a blowout loss at New Orleans on Monday night. Miami is also 5-6 after losing to the Bills.

"The last time we played these guys, it was a sloppy game, six interceptions and all that stuff," coach Rex Ryan said of Buffalo. "We had some bad timing on penalties. But you've got to give them credit. They found a way to win. And that's what we have to do this week. That's our challenge. These guys are playing hard, playing well. They stuck it to Miami pretty good. We're going to get their best shot, but trust me, they're going to get our best shot.

"I think it's going to be great," Ryan said of playing in Toronto. "I'm glad we're doing it. But we just want a win. I don't care if it's in Toronto, Buffalo, right here ... it makes no difference. We've got to do whatever it takes to get a win."

Even Fewell was asked a playoff question on Tuesday following the Patriots loss.

"We have a lot to play for," he said. "New England got beat last night. We beat Miami. ... We have the Jets coming up. You never know. I think if we take care of our business, we'll see where the chips fall."

SERIES HISTORY: 98th meeting, the Bills lead 53-44 after winning 16-13 in overtime on Oct. 18 at the Meadowlands. The Bills can earn their second series sweep this decade with a win. Their last sweep was in 2007. The Jets swept in 2002 and 2008.


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