Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas (31) celebrates his interception as New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) walks back to the sidelines in the final seconds of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Miami defeated New England 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Keys To A Miami Dolphins Victory Over Buffalo

The Miami Dolphins (8-6) will shift their focus towards the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills (5-9) this weekend for their second-to-last game of the regular season. Miami is in dire need of a win in this one to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens (8-6) for the final AFC wild-card spot.

Buffalo was able to come up with the 23-21 victory when these two teams last met during week 7, and will be starting QB Thad Lewis again in place of rookie EJ Manuel due to a sprained knee. Miami made their share of mistakes last time around committing 3 costly turnovers, while also allowing Buffalo to convert on numerous third and long situations.


The big question on everyone’s mind this week has to be if Miami can over-come their division rivals to show that they belong in the playoffs.


Here are some keys to victory for the Miami Dolphins this weekend:


—- QB Ryan Tannehill needs to play lights out for the second straight week.


Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports


Last week, Ryan Tannehill out-dueled Tom Brady, completing 25 of 37 passes for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. I’m not sure what’s more impressive, the fact that Tannehill was turnover-free, or the fact that he was on target with the majority of his throws giving his receivers a chance to make a play on the football.


Tannehill will need to continue his hot play in this one facing one of the league’s best pass defense units, ranking 6th against the pass, while also intercepting 20 passes on the season.


Miami’s second-year QB struggled against Buffalo when they last met, throwing two costly interceptions, while also fumbling away Miami’s last hope. Literally.


If Tannehill and co. can get themselves on page early, and he can prove to show some poise, pocket awareness, and good decision making, the sky is the limit.


—- Shutting down RB’s Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller is a must.


Oct 20, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson celebrates scoring a touchdown agains the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter of a game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports



Miami did a decent job shutting these two down during their week 7 match up, on paper that is. Spiller was dealing with some ankle trouble, therefore he did not see the field much and only rushed for 11 yards on 6 carries. Jackson, on the other hand, hurt his knee early in the first quarter and only received 11 carries, while rushing for 36 yards and a key touchdown.


Please, do not be mistaken, though. These two are quite capable of taking over a game. Both running backs have over 700 yards on the season, and Jackson has 7 touchdowns, while Spiller has 2.


Miami’s run defense has actually been the weak-point of their defense this season, which honestly feels a little weird saying with confidence. Miami’s linebacker make-over has not panned out, and it really, really shows. Dannell Ellerbe couldn’t wrap up a tackling dummy, and Philip Wheeler is about as inconsistent as they come.


Keep an eye on rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins in this one. He’s been seeing an increase in playing time due to Wheeler’s inability to consistently cover absolutely anyone, and he has done well thus far. He has speed and can tackle well, which is something Miami could use in this one.


—- Third down efficiency is a must for the remainder of the season for Miami.


Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA: Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin in the second half of a game against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports


When these two teams last met, Buffalo was 47% on third downs….Miami, was 23% on third downs converting just 3 of 13 attempts. That has to change in this one for Miami to have any chance to leave Buffalo with a win.


Miami’s offense has struggled this season converting 36% of it’s third downs. While we could sit here and bitch about their inability to run the football effectively, or their awful, rather atrocious, offensive coordinator, the truth is that this team has struggled for much of the season when it comes down to execution.


Miami is in the thick of the playoff hunt, and really they control their own destiny with Baltimore and Cincinnati facing each other next week, therefore execution on third downs from here on out is a must.


—- Turn up the intensity on defense.


Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA: Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) reacts after a sack on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) in the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports


Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has baffled me a bit this season with his play calling and his game plan against certain teams, but I have faith in the guy. Coyle needs to turn up the blitz in this one with WR Stevie Johnson and QB EJ Manuel both out.


DE Olivier Vernon has been a pleasant surprise this season, grabbing 11.5 sacks opposite all-pro DE Cameron Wake, who has 8.5 on the season. Coyle has nice depth along the defensive line, along with great athleticism at linebacker, therefore, why not bring the blitz and force Thad Lewis to beat you deep?


Miami may be without CB Brent Grimes AND CB Nolan Carroll in this one, therefore bringing the blitz and forcing Lewis to throw the ball under pressure will only help your young secondary.


—- Pound it inside all game long on offense.


Dec 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (24) and linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports


During their last meeting, Miami gained 120 yards on the ground, Daniel Thomas leading the way with 60 yards on 12 carries. Mike Sherman should make this a statement game for his running game by attacking Buffalo’s 26th ranked rush defense allowing 127.3 yards per game to opposing teams.


Lamar Miller saw a nice work load last week against New England, gaining 61 yards on 15 carries, while Daniel Thomas only received 5 carries for 16 yards after a huge 16 carry-105 yard performance against Pittsburgh.


Can Miami actually find success on the ground and make a statement by showing teams that their running backs must be feared? We shall see.



This will be an interesting game to say the least. Miami has struggled handling Buffalo consistently each year for quite some time, but tends to play well while visiting Buffalo.


I would love to call a blow-out, but I cannot see it this week. Buffalo always plays Miami tough, Thad Lewis or EJ Manuel, they will be tough. But Miami has confidence and momentum on their side right now playing for a playoff spot. Buffalo has nothing to play for except pride and, well, dropping their draft position.


Miami – 24 Buffalo – 20

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Tags: Buffalo Bills Lamar Miller Miami Dolphins Ryan Tannehill Thad Lewis

  • gofins60

    Key to a Miami victory? Score a decent amount of points for a change! Miami struggles to get 27 points in a game, while “inferior” teams seem to have no problem putting up 30-40 points. And, stop letting teams convert on 3rd and long; it’s sickening to see a 22 yard run on 3rd and 21. On the offensive side of that, they better figure out how to run for a yard or two when it’s 3rd and short.

    No matter what happens with this season, I’d replace Sherman and Coyle. Coyle’s playcalling allows teams to easily march down the field late in games. His switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 is one of the reasons for the poor run defense these past two years. When he switched schemes Miami dropped from 3rd against the run to 13th, and when Ireland swapped LBs they dropped to 23rd. The only improvement under Coyle has been the play of the CBs, and that’s mostly due to the talent of Grimes and Patterson (when he’s on the field).

    I’m no longer sure who to blame for the lack of a strong running game. Philbin’s system doesn’t place enough importance on the run, which is why they don’t have a true FB or power RB. How many drives could have been kept alive if someone like Polite was there for a guaranteed 1st down on 3rd and short? Why does Sherman call outside sweeps on 3rd and inches? If it’s because he doesn’t believe that they have the personnel to power their way for a 1st down, then it’s his (and Philbin’s) fault for not placing enough emphasis on the running game. Bottom line is I don’t like Philbin’s system. He may be good with the organizational side of things, but that’s about it. If I were Ross, I’d tell Philbin to replace his coordinators or he’s gone.

  • Patrick Keegan

    Even if we don’t make the playoffs this year , I say this has been a successful season. We’ve been in all games so far and a few more pieces could make us a serious contender. We needed to gel this season with all the new people on this team and we’ve been getting better by the game. As a life long fin fan the last thing I want is another change. Continuity is key! Keep drafting for this system and only good will come of it. I may be in the minority here, but sherman is good for us and coyle is even better. Philbin is a coach who is learning game to game. It feels good to be a Dolphins fan for a change. Also our gm , say what you want, he has opened the salary cap to sign those guys that can make the difference. We are in great shape moving forward.

  • Patrick Keegan

    Vegas has us as a 2 1/2 pt. Favorite. We better not play down to our competition or we will lose this game. If we keep that hunger we should win by at least 10. Im taking the fins