|Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus had a lot to do with Ryan Tannehill's long night in Buffalo. (US Presswire)|
It took more than two months but the Bills' defense finally showed up. In March, the team dropped $100 million on defensive end Mario Williams, and he's battled injuries and inconsistency for most of the 2012 season. On Thursday night against the Dolphins in an important AFC East matchup, Williams and the rest of the D came to play.
Early in the game, the defensive line brought Miami's offense to a grinding halt (at one point, running back Reggie Bush had seven carries for zero yards), and in the fourth quarter the secondary cemented the win by intercepting quarterback Ryan Tannehill twice on the Dolphins' final two drives.
It was a refreshing change for a unit that has been on the business end of a beatdown several times this season. Buffalo opened the season by letting a punchless Jets team hang 48 on them. In subsequent games, they gave up 52 points to the Pats (Week 4), 45 points to the 49ers (Week 5), 35 points to the Titans (Week 7), and 37 in the Pats rematch (Week 9).
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On Thursday, the Bills' D allowed just seven offensive points and the Dolphins didn't get on the board until midway through the fourth quarter. Miami got the ball twice more with each drive ending with the aformentioned Tannehill picks.
We've long had a theory about this Bills' outfit: On paper, they're a legitimate playoff team. In practice, they're the 2010 Detroit Lions or Houston Texans -- everybody's dark horse candidate that in actuality is at least a year away from reaching their potential. Complicating matters: Buffalo seems to shrink in the big moments. That was painfully obvious in the four blowout losses. But on Thursday night on national television, the Bills didn't wilt down the stretch. Finally.
"It was definitely a must-win," Williams told NFL Network after the game. "The way things turned out earlier in the season, we had to come out and play every game like it's the playoffs, and we got to make plays and we got to finish. You know, it got close there at the end but I'm glad we came out with it.
"We just want to be aggressive and keep moving," Williams said when asked by the front four played so well after struggling at times this season. "I think the biggest thing for us in the past is that we were a little stagnant. We just wanted to come out here and turn it up and just get after it."
The Bills were more than a little stagnant; according to Football Outsiders, Buffalo's defense ranked 31st in league.
So is this the turning point in the Bills' season? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Buffalo beat a fading Miami team. It's a start but they're still 4-6. The Patriots aren't losing the division, which means that the Bills will need to win five of their final six games to get in the postseason conversation.
That's a tall order for a team that has been outscored by 75 points in the fourth quarter this season. Of course, that doesn't mean the Bills are packing it in.
"It's been pretty tough but everybody gets bad cards dealt your way," Williams said. "You gotta play them."
One down, six to go.
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