How did the Bills win this game? Who had the largest impact? Here are my thoughts.
The script for this Sunday’s road game against the Miami Dolphins seemed to read much like countless Bills games road games we have all seen throughout this extended playoff drought. There were plenty of reasons why the Bills should not, and were not expected to win. The Bills came into the game starting a former practice squad quarterback, two hobbled running backs, and their best cornerback still sporting a full forearm club. The Bills were able to build an early lead, only to let it slip away, but instead of folding as in the past, some of the team’s most important players found a way to dictate the outcome of the game. As was mentioned in the Post-Game recap, both Fred Jackson and Mario Williams were perhaps the two most important players in this game, and here’s why.
Mario Williams: The player with the largest contract for a defensive player in NFL history surely has plenty of local critics, but today was a day in which he showed just why the Bills signed him to it. Although he did not force pressure throughout the entire game on what has been a terrible Miami offensive line; when it mattered most, there was Mario. With Miami driving to increase their lead and under ten minutes to go Mario burst through the line to sack Ryan Tannehill, and force a long third down. Kiko Alonso was then able to sniff out an underneath pass and end the Miami drive, keeping the Bills alive. After the offense went nowhere on three plays, Miami got the ball back with a chance to ice the game. The Bills needed someone to make a play, and guess who answered the bell. Mario Williams broke through the line, stripped the ball from Tannehill, and Kyle Williams was able to fall on it. While his 4.5 sack performance earlier in the season was wonderful statistically, this was without a doubt Mario’s biggest game as a Bill. Hat’s off to Mr. Williams for answering the call today and justifying his status on this team.
Fred Jackson: Again, this is a game where the statistics do not do justice to the impact that a player had on a game. Always heralded as the heart and soul of the Bills roster, this game can be held as the perfect example of just what Fred Jackson means to the team. On the Bills first offensive drive of the game Jackson left with what appeared to be a severe knee injury after a nice 21-yard catch and run. After evaluation, the hobbled Jackson was able to return for the next drive, and do what he promised earlier in the week by getting into the end-zone when the Bills called his number. By the fourth quarter Jackson only totaled 10 carries amounting for 26 yards, but once again, when it mattered most, the Bills offensive captain was able to find a way. Faced with a third and four from the Miami 28, and time yet to kill, Jackson took a handoff up the middle, and somehow powered his way into the second level for ten yards, his longest of the day. This allowed the Bills to take additional time off the clock, and set up Dan Carpenter for his game-winning field goal. It may have only been a simple ten yard run, but it is emblematic of his desire to carry this team on his back.
This isn’t to say that the game could have been won without some other noteworthy contributions.
Stephon Gilmore: While some continue to question playing the cornerback while he is still severely limited by the wrap protecting his injured wrist, Gilmore nonetheless came up with another key play for the Bills. He was the cornerback that batted down the Hail-Mary attempt by Tannehill that would have won the game for the Dolphins.
Dan Carpenter: Wow. 3 for 3 against his former team, and 15 for 16 on the season. All Hail the Pirate! His kicking has kept the Bills in every game this season.