Bills visit Dolphins with both teams coming off losses
MIAMI (AP) — Joe Philbin would rather throw long on fourth-and-1 than publicly criticize one of his players.
So when the Miami Dolphins’ cautious coach conceded rookie guard Jamil Douglas played better in Week 1 than Week 2, Philbin hastened to add, “But I’m really pleased with the progress he’s making.”
That kind of progress bodes badly for the Dolphins. And Douglas wasn’t the only one to take a step backward in last week’s loss to lowly Jacksonville, making Miami eager to rebound Sunday against AFC East rival Buffalo.
Like the Dolphins, the Bills are 1-1 and coming off a demoralizing loss. They gave up a franchise record 466 yards passing against Tom Brady and lost at home to the New England Patriots, 40-32.
Buffalo is eager to avoid an 0-2 start in the division as it hits the road for the first time. The Dolphins want to win their home opener in a stadium undergoing renovations that will cost more than $425 million.
Here are things to know about the 99th regular-season matchup between the teams:
KEY MATCHUP: The Dolphins’ offensive line is a mess, as usual, and now faces the daunting task of blocking the Bills’ stout front four.
Douglas whiffed on at least a couple of blocks last week, and play has also been spotty by the other guard, Dallas Thomas. The situation is also worrisome at left tackle, where Branden Albert is dealing with a strained right hamstring to go with his surgically reconstructed left knee.
With holes hard to find, Miami’s running backs have totaled 72 yards rushing in two games.
“We have to be more physical and drive,” right tackle Ja’Wuan James said. “We’re not always going to get the number of people we want in the box. It’s our job to move those people out of there.”
Pass blocking hasn’t been much better, and as a result, Miami has totaled 37 points this season. Don’t blame Ryan Tannehill, whose passer rating is 101.7.
“We’ve got to score more points; 18.5 points per week is tough to win with in this league,” Philbin said.
The Dolphins traditionally have trouble blocking the Bills. In four games over the past two years, Buffalo has sacked Tannehill 18 times.
HUMBLED BILLS: Buffalo’s front four is touted as one of the best in the NFL, but Brady neutralized it last week with quick passes. The Patriots had 11 drives that ended in Bills territory, and Buffalo forced just one punt.
The Bills hope a change in opposition will solve their problems.
“Everybody isn’t Brady,” defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said.
BULLYING REVISITED: Bills guard Richie Incognito, at the center of the Dolphins’ 2013 bullying scandal, will have extra motivation when he plays his former team for the first time since the episode.
“This one just has a little more meaning,” Incognito said. “There are obviously bigger things at play here.”
Incognito was suspended by Philbin midway through the 2013 season, and out of the league last year. Philbin said he has no regrets about how he handled the Incognito situation, but added he’s glad his former player found another team.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Philbin said. “He’s playing well, and I wish him well. I’m glad to see he’s on a ballclub.”
QB MATCHUP: The Bills’ Tyrod Taylor goes into his first career road start ranked fourth in the NFL in completion percentage (75.5), yards per attempt (8.9) and yards rushing by a quarterback (84). But the Patriots kept him in the pocket, sacked him eight times and came away with three interceptions.
Taylor said he’s not worried about proving himself as a pocket passer.
“I just have to play winning football,” he said, “whether that’s in the pocket or outside the pocket.”
Tannehill has been excellent despite shaky protection and the lack of a ground game. He’s the first Miami quarterback with at least three scoring passes and no interceptions through the first two games of a season.
FLAG ON THE PLAY: Both teams have been dogged by penalties. The Dolphins were called for 13 penalties last week, their highest total since 2005, while the Bills have been flagged a league-high 25 times for 253 yards.
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