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Carucci Take2: Bills’ defense steals show in get-well victory against Dolphins

Buffalo’s defense put together a complete performance. The Bills forced three turnovers and stopped Miami on all four of its fourth-down conversion attempts.

Here are my five takeaways from the Buffalo Bills’ 35-0 get-well victory against the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium:

1. This game was all about the Bills’ defense.

Yes, the Bills’ offense produced five touchdowns, but Buffalo’s D put together a complete performance from start to finish.

You begin with the shutout, the Bills’ first road shutout win since 2016 against New England and the largest against Miami since 1966.

After starting Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left the game in the first quarter with a rib injury suffered from a hit by A.J. Epenesa, the Bills continued to manhandle Miami’s offense. Multiple players were involved. The Bills forced the Dolphins out of their run game early, and they didn’t allow backup QB Jacoby Brissett to get any traction. Brissett threw for 169 yards and had an interception.

With two sacks, Greg Rousseau became the first Bills rookie with a multi-sack performance since Ed Oliver in 2019. Epenesa also did an exceptional job applying pressure. Additionally, Matt Milano made plays all over the field. He was credited with five tackles and had one of the Bills’ six sacks.

The Bills forced three turnovers and stopped the Dolphins on all four of their fourth-down conversion attempts.

2. It took more than a half, but the Bills’ passing game finally began to resemble the big-play unit that ranked second in the NFL in points and yards last season.

Through the first two quarters, it pretty much picked up where it left off in the 23-16 season-opening loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Finally, on the first drive of the second half, it started to click. The momentum picked up from there, as Josh Allen found his groove and connected with his targets. By the second half, he seemed far more comfortable and in control than he was throughout the Pittsburgh game, and the offense began operating with more of a rhythm.

3. Brian Daboll’s play-calling was noticeably more balanced than it was in the opener.

That had plenty to do with the team’s better overall production from Week 1 because it allowed the offensive line to build some confidence while giving Allen a chance to settle into his game.

Unlike the Pittsburgh game, Daboll made greater use of the run, with the Bills generating 143 yards on 30 carries. Allen threw 33 times, completing 16 for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with an interception. He got his favorite target, Stefon Diggs, more involved than a week ago, with eight targets that resulted in four catches for 60 yards and a score.

It’s also worth noting that the only time the Bills went for it on fourth-and-1, Daboll had Allen plunge straight ahead rather than throw backwards.

4. There were undertones of potential panic before this game.

A Buffalo loss would not have meant the end of the world, or the season, but it would have put the Bills in an 0-2 hole in the AFC and made them 0-1 in the division. Those kind of numbers have a way of rearing their ugly head when it comes to the tiebreaking formulas that determine home-field advantage in the playoffs.

As they’ve done repeatedly under Sean McDermott, the Bills again made a resounding statement about their ability to bounce back after a rough outing.

5. Whenever the Bills need a little boost of confidence, they can always count on a game against the Dolphins to provide it.

This was their sixth consecutive victory against Miami. In the two games they won versus the Dolphins in 2020, the Bills averaged 43.5 points per game.