Bills Hope To Avoid Letdown
Lee Evans (Getty Images)
Lee Evans (Getty Images)

Posted Nov 8, 2007


The AFC East Division has the honor of housing the NFL's only unbeaten team, the New England Patriots at 9-0. It also humbly has one of the league's two winless clubs, the Miami Dolphins at 0-8. And smack in the middle are the resurgent Bills (4-4), winners of four of their last five games and three in a row for the first time since 2004.

As the Patriots flirt with matching the '72 Dolphins with a perfect season, the '07 Dolphins are trying to avert going 0-16. The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 0-14 and there have been plenty of one-win teams. Along the way, one would think Miami wins one game at least.

But zero and 16?

"It's possible," Bills wide receiver Lee Evans said. "It's possible but they have a lot of talent over there and they've been hit with some things and some personnel changes. But it's not likely. They're a good football team and I'm sure they'll find a way to win one, just hopefully not against us."

Avoiding a major letdown against a desperate Miami team on the road is Buffalo's focus this Sunday.

Losing would take the luster off of the team's Nov. 18 rematch against the Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a game that has been moved to Sunday night prime-time TV given the potential of the Bills to upset New England's apple cart.

Buffalo began the year 0-3, had 14 players injured at one point, and is still juggling its starting quarterback between J.P. Losman and rookie Trent Edwards, depending on who is healthy and who is hot. So to even think they'd be handling questions about "overlooking" an opponent seems out of place.

But Wednesday, that's exactly what players were dealing with, a sign of how far they've come in a short time.

"No, I don't (worry about it)," said coach Dick Jauron when asked if he was worried that his team could overlook Miami.

"We're struggling to win a game and every week is a new game. We're very familiar with Miami. They've lost four games by a field goal, they're capable of beating anybody and certainly capable of beating us. We have a lot of respect for their athletes; we have a good healthy rivalry, so there's no chance of that happening."

Players are marching right in step with their coach.

"There's no temptation at all to look past Miami," strong safety Donte Whitner said. "We're 4-4 and we fought to get into the position that we're in right now so we're going to take it one game at a time."

If anything, Whitner said, Miami's imperfect record has put a healthy dose of fear into the Bills.

"Yes we do have a fear of going down there and we know that they'll be hungry," he said. "If some guys are looking forward to next week we can't do that. We have to look forward to playing the Miami Dolphins in Miami on Sunday."

Miami under rookie coach Cam Cameron has suffered tons of injuries, including losing running back Ronnie Brown (knee) for the season, and star receiver Chris Chambers was traded to San Diego. The Dolphins still sport decent numbers on offense, but their defense ranks 31st in points allowed at 30.5 per game.

Miami is also the seventh-most penalized team in the league in terms of yardage, is 32nd in third-down defense, and a minus-eight in turnover ratio.
"I've got to do a better job of making sure we eliminate mistakes, not turning the ball over, all the key things that determine whether you win or lose," Cameron said.

Miami will get a lift with the return of injured defenders Zach Thomas and Vonnie Holliday and it had a bye week to rest up and prepare.

"You look at them on film, they run around, they do a lot of things well, they put points up on the board offensively and defensively they do a lot of things to try and put pressure on you," said Evans, who has six touchdowns against Miami in six career starts. "We know it will be a tremendous challenge for us. They're a play away from having a different record, a whole different story to their season, so to just look at the record is very misleading."

Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor, forging on with four sacks and three forced fumbles, said pride and professionalism are reasons enough for him to want to beat Buffalo.

"No. 1, that is what our job is if you want to look at it that way. I love the game," he said. "I have a passion for the game and enjoy doing it. Win, lose or draw, I still love the game so you can use that for motivation. Everyone has to find different things at this point. Being realistic, there are certain things that teams want to achieve that probably aren't within our reach this year at this point. But there are plenty of things to play for. We play for one another, play for the obligation we have to Mr. (Wayne) Huizenga and to the Dolphins, the fans, and the guys that have played this game before us, the guys that we see on the field before the game, the O.J. McDuffies and the (Dan) Marinos, the list goes on and on. Do it for those guys and try to get this thing turned around."

Yes, the Bills are very wary of Miami.

SERIES HISTORY: 83rd meeting, Dolphins lead 49-32-1 but the Bills have won five of the last six meetings. Miami is 8-4 in its last 12 games at home against Buffalo, but the Bills won there last season 16-6 and coupled with a 21-0 home win, swept the series for the second time in three seasons. On Jan. 19, 1993, Bills defeated the Dolphins 29-10 in the AFC Championship Game at Joe Robbie Stadium to advance to their third consecutive Super Bowl. QB Jim Kelly returned to the lineup from a knee injury to give Buffalo a lift and Steve Christie kicked five field goals to tie an NFL playoff record.

NOTES:

--The Bills' ability to control the football in recent weeks has translated into wins. Their 35:42 of possession time against Cincinnati was the fifth consecutive game they won the time-of-possession battle, their longest such streak since six games in 1998 when they finished 10-6 and made the playoffs under coach Wade Phillips.

--With Roscoe Parrish bothered by a thigh contusion against the Bengals, Jim Leonhard came in to field punts. Each finished with two returns for a 9.0 average but on a windy day, just catching the ball and saving field position was one of the unsung hero aspects of the day, coach Dick Jauron pointed out. "Roscoe and Jimmy just did a tremendous job fielding the ball in that wind and it was big in terms of field position," he said. "They caught a number of balls on the run; they weren't real easy catches. We only averaged nine yards a return but I thought the field position aspect of it was huge in that game."

--Rookie RB Marshawn Lynch, who has risen to fifth in the NFL in rushing with 689 yards, is making a lot of fans out of his teammates who like his hard running style. Lynch had his first 100-yard game last week against the Bengals. "We love having him back there," OG Derrick Dockery said. "As offensive linemen, you take pride in getting your running backs over 100 yards. Our goal is to get him to 1,000 and over. He's headed there and we just have to go out there every day and every week and play hard."

--Bills SS Donte Whitner is looking forward to facing, and maybe hitting, Miami rookie WR Ted Ginn Jr., his former teammate at Ohio State and the Dolphins' No. pick. Ginn has seven catches for 141 yards and one TD and ranks fourth in the NFL in kickoff return yardage. "I do talk to him and (this year) has been tough for him," Whitner said. "He held out of camp for a little while. He had a foot injury going into camp during their entire offseason. Then he has to go down there and deal with the fans booing him and high expectations and not playing immediately. Then on special teams he hasn't been able to break one and he hasn't really done too much on offense. So I still talk to him and tell him to keep his head up. I also told him to make sure he doesn't have a good game this week."

--The Bills hadn't played on Monday night in 13 seasons. Now they'll be featured in prime time for the second time in six games. Under the NFL's flexible-scheduling plan, Buffalo's Nov. 18 game against New England was moved from 1 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. The powers that be pushed for the move after the electrifying atmosphere Bills fans provided for Buffalo's game against the Dallas Cowboys. "It's great not just for our team, but our community. Buffalo deserves to be in the light a little bit," LB Coy Wire said. "I think it's great for us, because we play hard football and Western New York is great. That's what football is all about. Our whole community and this atmosphere are special. I think it's great that we're getting some national attention. Keep rolling and who knows where it could stop."

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Number of Bills defensive starters that were drafted in the fourth round or lower or signed as undrafted free agents (Terrence McGee, Kyle Williams, Keith Ellison, John DiGiorgio, George Wilson, Jabari Greer). Only Pittsburgh has more such players with eight.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The kid's a beast. You make sure you keep blocking until you hear that whistle, because Marshawn isn't going to stop moving those legs until the play is dead. I'm surprised he hasn't broken a long one sooner." -- WR Josh Reed, commenting on rookie RB Marshawn Lynch, who busted a 56-yard TD run last week against the Bengals.



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