Dolphins 14

(4-6, 2-4 away)

Bills 19

(4-6, 2-2 home)

Coverage: NFL

8:20 PM ET, November 15, 2012

Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY 

1 2 3 4 T
MIA 7 0 0 714
BUF 13 6 0 019

Top Performers

Passing: R. Fitzpatrick (BUF) - 168 YDS

Rushing: C. Spiller (BUF) - 22 CAR, 91 YDS

Receiving: S. Johnson (BUF) - 6 REC, 79 YDS

Leodis McKelvin returns punt for TD as Bills' defense stifles Dolphins

Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It took 11 weeks for Mario Williams and the Buffalo Bills' oft-maligned defense to finally flex their collective muscle and show the defense is capable of playing up to its high-priced potential.

Williams had one of three sacks and safety Jairus Byrd had a hand in forcing two of three turnovers in a stifling 19-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.

"I'm just happy everyone saw what the Bills are all about," defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said. "We're not no pushover. We're a whole 'nother team."

For one game, it sure looked that way.

A defense that entered the game ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed and dead last in giving up an average 31.67 points per game, limited the Dolphins to 184 yards and 16 first downs. Just as important, the defense closed it out by forcing turnovers on Miami's final two drives.

Byrd intercepted rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill's pass with a diving catch at Buffalo's 35 with 1:54 left. And Bryan Scott followed a little more than a minute later, jumping in front of Tannehill's pass intended for Davone Bess at midfield.

"Seeing the predicament we're in, it was a must-win," Byrd said. "We dug this hole for ourselves."

And here was the first step in attempting to dig out of it.

The Bills (4-6) snapped a three-game skid and won for only the second time in seven games to stay on the fringe of the AFC playoff hunt. Buffalo also ended several other inglorious skids, by beating a division rival for the first time in nine meetings and snapping an 11-game prime-time drought that dated to 2001.

Leodis McKelvin opened the scoring 90 seconds in by returning a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in a game in which the Bills never trailed.

That made up for an offense that lacked finish. Rian Lindell hit four field goals, including a 42-yarder, as Buffalo failed to score an offensive touchdown despite four trips inside the Miami 20.

Marcus Thigpen scored on a 96-yard kickoff return and Bess scored on a 2-yard touchdown for Miami (4-6), which has lost three straight.

Tannehill's struggles continued. He finished going 14-of-28 for 141 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He was coming off a dreadful outing in which he threw three interceptions in a 37-3 loss to Tennessee last week. The No. 8 pick out of Texas A&M has thrown six TD passes and 11 interceptions.

"It's really frustrating, especially with the success earlier in the year," Tannehill said. "Being in situations where we're going three-and-out or six-and-out, it's frustrating. We have to be able to find a rhythm and get things going early on."

It wasn't all Tannehill's fault, as the Dolphins' usually sturdy defense gave up 120 yards rushing, including 91 to C.J. Spiller, who took over the bulk of the rushing duties in place of Fred Jackson (concussion).

After allowing 307 yards rushing in its first five games, Miami has given up 661 in its past five.

The Dolphins' running game also sputtered.

Reggie Bush finished with 20 yards rushing, which marked a significant drop-off after he had a career-best 203 yards in 30-23 win last December during his previous visit to Orchard Park.

"We didn't make any plays. It was not a good offensive performance," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "We were 0-for-7, I believe, at one point on third down. We had nothing going on."

Miami finished having converted just three of 10 third-down chances.

For Buffalo, it was a long-awaited breakout performance for a high-priced defense that entered the game among the NFL's worst.

Williams was supposed to be the defense's centerpiece after signing a six-year, $100 million contract in March. He's finally starting to play up to the deal, and his sack gave him a team-leading 5 1/2.

"It was definitely a must-win," Williams said. "With the way things turned out earlier in the season, we've got to come out and play like it's the playoffs. And we've got to make plays and we've got to finish. It got close there at the end, but I'm glad we came out with it."

The unit forced three turnovers after failing to produce one its previous three games.

The 184 yards allowed were a season low for Buffalo and the fewest the defense has allowed since limiting Washington to 178 in a 23-0 win Oct. 30, 2011.

The Bills bounced back from a 37-31 loss at New England last weekend. And the defense was questioned after allowing a combined 1,201 yards over a two-game stretch in which the Bills were blown out 52-28 at New England and 45-3 at San Francisco.

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 17-of-27 for 168 yards. Spiller also had three catches for 39 yards, while Stevie Johnson had six catches for 79 yards.

Fitzpatrick gave much of the credit to how well the defense played.

"The defense has been working so hard," Fitzpatrick said. "There's been a lot of criticism on them, but tonight was a dominating performance and something we can build on."

Game notes

Miami had 50 yards and two first downs in the first half. ... Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll had a particularly dreadful outing. He was penalized four times for 56 yards. That included a pair of pass-interference penalties, including a 31-yard penalty against T.J. Graham. ... Thigpen and McKelvin scored 8:05 apart in the first quarter. The last time there was a punt return touchdown by one team and a kickoff return touchdown by the opposing team in the same quarter was December 1999 in a game between Washington and Detroit, according to STATS LLC. Washington's James Thrash had a 95-yard kickoff return, and Detroit's Desmond Howard had a 68-yard punt return in the second quarter. ... Dolphins PK Dan Carpenter had a 50-yard field goal attempt glance wide off the right goal post.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1618
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays5561
Total Yards184281
Yards per play3.34.6
Total Drives1214
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs11

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

bufTD13:49Leodis Mckelvin 79 Yard Punt Return (Rian Lindell Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 79 yds, 0:00
bufFG5:16Rian Lindell 32 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 38 yds, 3:52
miaTD5:07Marcus Thigpen 96 Yard Kickoff Return (Dan Carpenter Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 96 yds, 0:00
bufFG0:43Rian Lindell 34 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 60 yds, 4:15
bufFG9:00Rian Lindell 42 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 64 yds, 3:57
bufFG0:03Rian Lindell 19 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 52 yds, 1:58
miaTD8:48Davone Bess 2 Yard Pass From Ryan Tannehill (Dan Carpenter Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 81 yds, 5:22

Research Notes

Ryan Tannehill threw two interceptions inside the final 2:00 with his team down by one score. Tannehill owns the worst completion percentage (31.3, 5-16) this season among quarterbacks with at least 10 dropbacks in such situations. His two interceptions tie Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins for the most in the league.
Ryan Fitzpatrick played a conservative game Thursday by not attempting a pass 15 or more yards downfield. This was Fitzpatrick's sixth game this season where he attempted five or fewer passes of that distance, tied for second-most in the NFL (Alex Smith - 7). Entering Week 11, 17.6 percent of Fitzpatrick's passes had traveled 15 or more yards downfield (26th among qualified QB's).
The Bills sent four or fewer pass rushers on 93.5 percent (29 of 31) of dropbacks Thursday, their highest percentage in a game this season. All three of the Bills' sacks against the Dolphins and 82.6 percent (19 of 23) of their sacks this season have come when sending standard pressure, the second-highest percentage in the league for a team that has at least 20 sacks.
The Dolphins sent five or more pass rushers on 37 percent of Ryan Fitzpatrick's dropbacks Thursday, and Fitzpatrick was 8-10 against such pressure for 98 yards. Entering the game, Fitzpatrick had a 61.4 completion percentage against added pressure and was averaging 6.1 yards per attempt(third-worst in the league).
Marcus Thigpen's KO return for a TD is the first for the Dolphins since 2009, when Ted Ginn Jr. had 2 in the same game against the Jets -- 100 and 101 yards. Entering tonight, the Dolphins had 3 kickoff return TD over the past 20 seasons, the fewest in the NFL (now tied for fewest with Oilers/Titans and Buccaneers).

ESPN Stats & Information