Opening with a sack three plays into a 15-10 season-opening win over Bills on Sunday, the linebacker finished his debut with a team-leading eight tackles in helping limit Buffalo to a mere 166 yards.
"I'm not surprised," said Dansby, the former Arizona star who became the Dolphins' top offseason free-agent addition after signing a five-year $43 million contract. "We expected to come here and win like this. It didn't have to be pretty."
Lack of style points aside, the defense -- under new coordinator Mike Nolan and starting two rookies -- was stout and effective in a game Miami never trailed.
Except for allowing the Bills' hurry-up attack to cut the lead to 13-10 on Roscoe Parrish's 31-yard touchdown catch with 5:13 left, the Dolphins kept Buffalo thoroughly at bay. The Bills had had nine first downs, endured six three-and-outs, and managed just 72 yards offense and five first downs on their first nine possessions.
Ronnie Brown scored on a 1-yard plunge and Dan Carpenter made field goals of 43 and 32 yards as Miami snapped a five-game skid at Buffalo (not including a 16-3 win in 2008 at Toronto) and opened the season with a win for the first time since 2005.
And starting fast was the message instilled by coach Tony Sparano, who had a clock erected in the Dolphins' locker room counting down the hours, minutes and seconds leading up to Sunday's game as a reminder of how important it was for his team to be focused after opening last season 0-3.
"The clock started like 120 days ago, and finally getting in here and accomplishing that mission, I think that's the best feeling," said linebacker Cameron Wake, who added a sack and three tackles.
The clock meanwhile remains stuck on Groundhog Day for the Bills, whose offense had a familiar popgun appearance to it in Chan Gailey's debut as coach.
"Frustrating is a good word to use," quarterback Trent Edwards said. "We just shot ourselves in the foot."
Penalties, missed blocking assignments, the lack of a running attack and a limited deep-threat attack all hurt an offense that was booed off the field two possessions in when Edwards checked down to hit Lee Evans over the middle for a 2-yard gain on third-and-12.
Things didn't get any better in the second half when, trailing 10-3, the Bills squandered numerous chances to get back in the game. The first two drives -- both starting in Miami territory -- ended with three-and-outs. Then the Bills went backward on their third series, courtesy of two holding penalties.
|It wasn't pretty, but the Dolphins did enough in all three phases of the game to walk away with a victory. QB Chad Henne didn't turn the ball over and the defense throttled Buffalo's passing game.|
|After showing signs of life in the preseason, the passing game reverted back to its 2009 form and was pretty much non-existent. Prior to a 19-yard completion at the end of the first half, the Bills had only two net passing yards through the first two quarters. The second half wasn't much better.|
|By Mark Ludwiczak|
"If fingers need to be pointed, they need to be pointed back at me," Gailey said. "We didn't play well enough to win, and that's my responsibility."
The only time the Bills showed any rhythm came when they switched to the hurry-up mode with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter. Edwards marched the Bills 85 yards on 10 plays, capping the drive by hitting Parrish for the touchdown on fourth-and-11.
It proved too little too late.
Backed up to their own 1 on their next possession, the Bills gave up a safety in a bid to get better field position. The gamble didn't work. They got the ball back at their own 20 with 36 seconds left, but the game ended after Edwards' 9-yard completion to David Nelson.
The Bills showed none of the offensive spark they displayed through the preseason.
Edwards finished 18 of 34 for 139 yards, and was nearly intercepted three times. Rookie first-round pick C.J. Spiller had 6 yards on seven carries after scoring three TDs in the preseason.
Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall had an effective debut since being acquired in an offseason trade with Denver. He finished with team-leading eight catches for 53 yards. Chad Henne went 21 for 34 for 182 yards passing.
Marshall directed the credit to Miami's defense.
"Our defense holding them to 166 total yards is amazing," Marshall said. "We feed off each other."
The Dolphins spent the offseason retooling an aging unit that finished 22nd in the league last year, when it allowed 379 yards per game -- Miami's worst season since 1989. Rookie second-round pick linebacker Koa Misi finished with a sack and four tackles.
"It feels great to be 1-0. It's a good first step," Sparano said. "It validates some of the things we've been talked about. The guys in that locker room believed in it."
- Bills LB Paul Posluszny did not return after hurting his right knee on the first play of the second half. Gailey said the player will have tests to determine the severity of the injury.
- Dolphins rookie first-round draft pick DE Jared Odrick did not return after leaving the field in the third quarter with a foot injury.
- Bills PK Rian Lindell hit a 51-yard field goal, but was short on an NFL record-tying 63-yard attempt at the end of the second quarter.