As if Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed weren’t enough, the Buffalo Bills added a new scoring weapon Monday night--their defense.
Three turnovers, including a fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Cornelius Bennett, produced 17 points as the Bills beat the Miami Dolphins, 41-27.
Buffalo improved to 10-1, best in the AFC and four games ahead of the second-place New York Jets in the East Division.
“We’re one step further along the road to where we want to be,” said linebacker Darryl Talley, who intercepted a pass and forced a fumble.
Miami fell to 5-6 with its 10th loss to Buffalo in the past 11 meetings.
The Bills mounted scoring drives of 83, 65, 72 and 89 yards. Thomas rushed for 135 yards in 23 carries and scored twice. Kelly threw for three touchdowns, including two to Reed.
“Both teams moved the ball,” Buffalo Coach Marv Levy said. “We came up with several turnovers, and that was the difference. You’ll win when you do that.”
The 41 points were the most scored by Buffalo against Miami in a regular-season game since their first meeting in 1966, won by the Bills, 58-24. The Bills beat the Dolphins, 44-34, in the playoffs last January.
Buffalo is accustomed to such production from its offense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Big plays by the Bills’ defense, ranked 26th, haven’t been as frequent.
The first and biggest turnover came when a blitzing Bennett beat tackle Mark Dennis to the outside, knocked the ball from Dan Marino’s cocked right hand, fell on the fumble at the six, stood up and dashed into the end zone. That gave Buffalo the lead for good, at 17-10, midway in the second quarter.
“It was a huge play,” Levy said. “It really turned the momentum.”
Marino suffered another costly turnover on the next play when his underthrown pass was intercepted by Kirby Jackson and returned 12 yards to the Miami 24. Seven plays later, Scott Norwood kicked a 21-yard field goal.
Miami rookie Aaron Craver coughed up the second-half kickoff, and Buffalo’s Hal Garner recovered at the 27. Kelly capitalized by connecting with Reed on a five-yard touchdown pass.
“You can’t give a team like Buffalo field position,” Marino said.
The Dolphins finished with five turnovers, Buffalo none. With such figures, Miami Coach Don Shula said: “There’s just no way you’re going to win a game against a team with that kind of talent.”
Kelly and Reed also connected from 23 yards for the Bills’ final touchdown after a fumble recovery by Miami was reversed by the officials. Kelly completed 20 of 28 passes for 185 yards and now has 25 touchdown passes.
“I told the guys we had to keep going,” Kelly said, “because I knew even with a 21-point lead, when you’re playing against a guy like Marino, he can still catch you.”
Thomas scored on a 10-yard pass from Kelly and a one-yard run. He topped the 100 mark in rushing for the seventh time this season and passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the third consecutive season.