Bills beat Dolphins with special teams

Bills free safety Jairus Byrd looks for extra yardage after picking up a fumble by Dolphins wide...

Bills free safety Jairus Byrd looks for extra yardage after picking up a fumble by Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., Nov. 15, 2012. (DOUG BENZ/Reuters)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:45 AM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Who needs an offensive touchdown? Not the Buffalo Bills.

Not when the Miami Dolphins’ offence was even worse than theirs.

And not when the Bills have Leodis McKelvin returning punts.

Before Thursday night’s game was two minutes old, McKelvin brought back his second punt of the season for a touchdown, this one for 79 yards – and Rian Lindell later booted four first-half field goals, as the Bills beat AFC East rival Miami 19-14 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

McKelvin does not lack for confidence. Asked afterward what people should expect when he returns kicks, he said:

“The crowd better get up and stand up, for real. Give me three or four touches, and it’s liable that one of them’s going back. That’s just the confidence (I have) in me, and confidence in the guys that are blocking for me. I feel if I have a couple chances at it, there’ll be a gamebreaker in there.”

McKelvin became the first NFLer this season to return two kicks of any kind for a score. His first was an 88-yarder in Week 2 against Kansas City.

McKelvin also raised his league-leading punt-return average from 19.5 yards to 21.9, after taking back three on Thursday for 98 yards.

The Bills desperately needed this victory.

It was their first regular-season win at home at night since Sept. 3, 2000 – when they edged Tennessee 16-13.

It was their first win against a division opponent since beating New England 14 months ago.

And it was their first win in a month, after three losses and a bye.

Buffalo improved to 4-6 on the season to keep its faint playoff hopes alive. Miami fell to 4-6, its third lacklustre loss in a row.

In the first half the Bills moved quite well between the 10s, but bogged down four times in the red zone and had to settle for field goals.

The Bills led 19-7 at the half, and again after three quarters, then held on after Miami scored the game’s only offensive touchdown with 8:42 remaining – a two-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to Davone Bess.

Two late interceptions – a spectacular diving effort by safety Jairus Byrd with 1:54 left, and one with 41 seconds left by linebacker Bryan Scott – sealed the win for Buffalo.

“That was awesome,” said McKelvin, who also started at cornerback for the Bills. “That’s what we want to do as a defence – get off the field on third down … and finish the game.”

The Bills offence completely unravelled in the second half, finishing with just 281 total yards – even if that dwarfed Miami’s 184 total.

Yeah, there was just 465 yards of total offence in the game, both sides.

“Missing the third downs is killer,” Bills head coach Chan Gailey said of his moribund offence, which now hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in two of the past three games.

The Bills did get off to a roaring start in all phases and dominated the first half.

Their much-maligned defence set the tone for the first half when it forced Miami to punt after three plays, and McKelvin returned Brandon Fields’ first punt 79 yards for Buffalo’s only touchdown.

On Miami’s third possession, rookie Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore forced a fumble by Dolphins wideout Hartline at the 50-yard line – the furthest Miami penetration of the first half.

Byrd recovered, and eight plays later Lindell kicked a 32-yard field goal to put the Bills up 10-0, with 5:07 left in the first quarter.

Miami’s Marcus Thigpen raced back the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown; alas, Buffalo’s special teams weren’t always special.

Buffalo answered with another good drive that again bogged down in the red zone, a first-half trend. Lindell booted his second field goal from 34 yards out, and the opening quarter ended with the Bills up 13-7.

In the second quarter, the Bills added two more Lindell field goals – 42 and 19 yards – to lead 19-7 at the half. All three aspects of the Bills team, then, were feeding off each other, McKelvin said.

“When I scored that touchdown, the defence came out hot, and the offence moved the ball.”

The 19-7 score stood until Miami’s late touchdown.

Miami’s offence in the first half absolutely stunk, just as it had four days earlier in a 37-3 loss to Tennessee. Behind rookie quarterback Tannehill’s 6-of-11 passing for just 44 yards, the Dolphins before halftime picked up just two first downs – one on a penalty – and 50 total yards.

Buffalo went up and down the field for 204 yards, behind C.J. Spiller’s 60 yards rushing and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 9-of-17 passing for 126 yards.

Buffalo’s defence held Reggie Bush and the Miami running game to just 60 yards on the night, after getting gashed on the ground in most games since late September.

“We played the same fronts, and the same defence that we’ve been playing all year,” Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “Tonight might have been the night that it clicked on for guys. Playing fast, getting off blocks, linebackers coming downhill – doing all the combination of things that you have to do well to play run defence.

“We just played a lot faster.”

$100-million defensive end Mario Williams had a sack and helped harass Tannehill. He left the game briefly in the second quarter, and had his left ankle taped up before the start of the third quarter.

“It was nothing major,” he told QMI Agency. “I just got hit by one of my teammates. It’s fine.”

As for the defence’s stingy performance on the ground, Mario Williams said, “As long as we play fundamental football – gap-sound football – that will be the result.”

And it’s about time.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/


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