By Sunday night, both the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills were 1-3 teams headed in opposite directions.
Even after losing starting quarterback Chad Pennington for the season, the stock arrow for the Dolphins is pointing up. Second-year QB Chad Henne showed well in his first NFL start.
Henne avoided the crucial turnovers that usually haunt young quarterbacks and helped the Dolphins convert 9 of 17 third-down opportunities in a 38-10 win at Land Shark Stadium. Once again, Miami dominated in time of possession, reeling off 24 more offensive plays than the Bills.
Coach Tony Sparano said the entire team needed to play better around Henne, and that is exactly what happened. The defense hit and harassed Trent Edwards until he threw his first two picks, which led to 14 easy points for Miami. From there, the Dolphins used the Wildcat to explode for more than 200 yards rushing for the second time in three weeks.
The Dolphins’ third-ranked run defense kept Bills running backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson in check while yielding only 46 yards on the ground. Before Sunday’s game with Buffalo, the Dolphins had posted just five sacks and one forced turnover in their first three games. But against the Bills they went on a tear with six sacks and three interceptions of Edwards.
The Bills’ offensive line was simply overmatched, even without Joey Porter in the game for Miami. Right tackle Kirk Chambers was beaten repeatedly while Edwards struggled to consistently connect with his receivers.
The intended game plan certainly had Terrell Owens in mind. The Bills’ very first offensive play was a pass specifically designed to get T.O. the ball. In fact, the Bills threw to Owens seven times, completing three of them for 60 yards.
No way the Dolphins looked like a 1-3 team, but the Bills appeared to be just that. A leaky offensive line never allowed the running or passing game to take off. The Bills secondary played without three of its four starters, so it was easy to see why Dolphins coaches would allow Henne to come out throwing into every area of the Buffalo defense.
Needless to say, Buffalo’s stock could be trading down after being outplayed by a young quarterback and his group of neophyte receivers. It’s might be time for the Bills to circle the wagons.