ORCHARD PARK, NY - Ten thoughts on the Dolphins 29-10 loss to Buffalo:
1. Remember all the good vibes from the Dolphins opening-day win against New England?
All those disappeared Sunday. Add up the concerns that led to this loss: Special-team problems, offensive-line issues, Knowshon Moreno was seriously hurt, the pass rush was missing and quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed an inability to kick-start this offense for more than 10 points.
In other words, if the opening win showed who this team can be on its best day, Sunday showed what it can look like when little goes its way. Give Buffalo credit. The speed of offensive weapons C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins was evident and its great defensive line caused headaches all day.
You can call it a bad matchup for the Dolphins as Buffalo has won four of the last five games. But the Dolphins had an off-season to change some of those. And if Buffalo was just 6-10 last year, it's 2-0 right now and atop the AFC East. Too early to say they're a good team. But they were good enough Sunday to cause the Dolphins fits.
2. The Dolphins special teams had an uncharacteristically awful day: A blocked punt, the Spiller return for a touchdown and a muffed catch by return man Jarvis Landry. Those were the plays that kept the day trending the Bills' way. Even the Dolphins punt team, which led the league last year, watch Brandon Fields punt 33 and 29 yards on Sunday. It started with the punt block by Boobie Dixon, who was left free when Damien Williams missed blocking him. Buffalo got the ball at the Dolphins' 31-yard line and a field goal out of that for a 6-0 lead. After the Dolphins kicked a field goal to start the second half, Spiller returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards to put the Bills in front, 16-3. Then, with the game 26-10, Taylor muffed the punt, giving the Bills the ball at the Dophins 21 with about five minutes left and effectively cementing the game.
3. Player of the day: C.J. Spiller. He had a 102-yard kickoff return after the Dolphins cut it to 9-3. Then, when the Dolphins closed to within 16-10, Spiller ran over the left side and broke upfield for a 49-yard run to set up another touchdown.
4. The interior of the Dolphins line struggled from the start Sunday in a way that tipped the game. Right guard Shelley Smith, who injured early in the third quarter, was beat twice by Buffalo tackle Kyle Williams – once, Williams sacked Ryan Tannehill, the other time Mario Williams ended up getting the sack. These were the kind of issues the Dolphins covered up nicely against New England. It didn't help that Knowshon Moreno was lost on his first carry of the day (more on that below) and the running game left with him. On a third-and-7 call in the second quarter, Bill Lazor elected for a draw play - essentially surrendering to the Bills pass rush.Things got better in the second half. But a lot of damage was done.
5. Knowshon Moreno fell awkwardly on his left elbow in the second quarter, didn't get up and was immediately ruled out of the game and taken into the locker room with a dislocated elbow. The initial thought is he'll be out for four weeks. That's tough one to take because Moreno is a player a lot of hope was built on this year. He ran the ball differently and is a more complete back than Lamar Miller. It was that way since he pl . ayed in presaeason against Dallas. His 24 carries for 132 yards against New England were confirmation. Health always was his issue, as he's played 16, 7 and 8 games the last three years and had arthoscopic knee surgery this summer. Moreno is one of four players the Dolphins simply can't replace either because of their position, talent of replacement. Cameron Wake, Brent Grimes and Brandon Albert are the other three.
6. Where was the Dolphins pass rush that sacked Tom Brady four times in the opener and left his body covered in welts? Nowhere to be seen Sunday. Cameron Wake was double-teamed much of the day with rookie Seantrel Henderson helped by a tight end of chipping back. But the rest of it? It helped Buffalo to have a productive running game. Still, you expected some appearance of a pass rush.
7. Mike Wallace continues to make big plays. It won't be enough to look good on the stat sheet - five catches for 56 yards. But on the Dolphins touchdown drive in the third quarter, Buffalo defensive backs twice held him, resulting in first downs. He then one-handed caught a 7-yard touchdown pass that will go on the highlight reel. He also, again, was open deep and Tannehill missed him.
8. Sammy Watkins will be a tough cover for the Dolphins twice a year for the next decade. His size and speed were the reasons Bills General Manager Doug Whaley boldly traded up in the draft. They were telling on Sunday as Watkins had five catches for 89 yards in the first half and finished with eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. E.J. Manuel looks OK, too. Just OK right now. Imagine if he gets better how much more dangerous Watkins will become.
9. Tannehill's accuracy problems remained an issue for second week. Some are obvious - the missed of Wallace deep and underthrowing the ball and on back-to-back plays missed wide open receivers in the third quarter. But others are subtle inaccuracies - throwing a foot behind Brandon Gibson on the first play of the day that gained 12 yards rather than a foot ahead of him. But, again, in the final minute was an obvous one - an overthrow of an open Rishard Matthews in the end zone.