Five Keys To The Bills Game

Posted Dec 21, 2013

Finsiders analyst John Congemi breaks down what the Dolphins must do in order to defeat the Bills on Sunday.

This week's game against the Buffalo Bills provides another challenge for the Miami Dolphins to keep the momentum going and a victory keeps their playoff hopes alive. Winning in December is always more difficult because the stakes get higher with every win, and this team needs to make it four in a row! Here are some of the keys to defeating the Bills this Sunday in Buffalo.

1) Fast Start - This is something that head coach Joe Philbin would welcome with open arms on the road against an AFC East rival. The Bills aren't fighting for a playoff spot, but still will come out swinging early in the game, and I would expect them to take chances in all three phases of the game. If Miami can get double-digit points on the board in the first quarter and control the tempo, it will go along way in securing their fourth win in a row!

2) Tackle In Space - Anytime your facing a running backs like CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson and returners such as Marquise Goodwin and Leodis McKelvin, you must limit the yards they can create after first contact. Cold weather games always present a problem of wrapping up and keeping your feet underneath you when bringing down a ball carrier, receiver, or return specialist in the open field. The Dolphins have improved in the tackling department over the last month and it will be important on Sunday to get off the field on third down chances and not allow quarterback Thad Lewis to extend plays or shed an arm tackle to gain a first down. If The Dolphins defense can keep the Bills conversion rate around their season average of 34 percent (29th in the NFL) that will limit the Bills offensive plays and get the football back to Tannehill and company.

3) Win Field Position - Wind seems to always be a factor late in the year when teams face the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It is paramount that the Dolphins make sound choices in the return game and limit the amount of times the offense starts inside their own 20-yard line. I just have a feeling that it's time for return specialist Marcus Thigpen to have a direct impact on where the offense sets up shop. Punter Brandon Fields always plays a major role in pinning opposing offenses in a hole and flipping the field position in Miami's favor. His net average this season is 42.4 yards per kick and has had 27 punts land inside the opponents’ twenty-yard line!

4) Protect Tannehill - The number one priority of this offensive line is to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. As of late, the Dolphins have been able to run the football and that directly impacts the way teams pressure the pocket in the passing game. This team still leads the league in sacks allowed at 51, but the amount of pressure and hits on quarterback Ryan Tannehill have gone down. A good mix of the running game and play-action passing might slow down the Bills front seven just enough for the hot hand of Tannehill to continue dealing the football with accuracy. Buffalo leads the league in sacks with 49 and their front four affected the outcome late in the game the first time these two teams met. If the Dolphins can win up front, the road to victory becomes much easier.

5) No Carpenter Heroics - This title might be a little misleading so let me clarify. Even though the Dolphins have won multiple games late in the fourth quarter, this game shouldn't come down to the right leg of former Dolphin kicker Dan Carpenter. It did the last time these teams met in October with Carpenter and the Bills getting points late in the game at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins are simply a better football team now then they were earlier in the season and they should be able to take care of business without any late-game heroics.
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