ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — This shouldn’t come as a news bulletin, except perhaps to those who spent much of the summer and early September — after Buffalo’s season-opening prime-time dud against the New York Jets — suggesting the Bills’ window to contend was closing.
There are more big tests ahead with the Chiefs, Eagles and Cowboys on Buffalo’s schedule. And there will be more obstacles — including losing starting cornerback Tre’Davious White to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon — still to overcome.
But the Bills answered questions about how good they were when they thumped previously unbeaten AFC East rival Miami 48-20 on Sunday for their third straight win.
What began as a potential shootout, with each team scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions, turned into a blowout. The Bills put away the unraveling Dolphins (3-1) by the end of the third quarter, reminding everyone — and especially Miami — that the path to a division title still runs through Buffalo.
Josh Allen led the offense to 48 points on eight of its first nine drives. Perhaps more impressive was Buffalo’s defensive performance a week after Miami scored 70 points against Denver.
After surrendering 142 yards and nine first downs on Miami’s first two possessions, Buffalo clamped down, allowing just 251 yards and 11 first downs on the Dolphins’ final nine drives, the last three ending with fourth-down stops.
The Bills forced two turnovers and had four sacks against a team that had surrendered just one sack in its first three outings.
Evidently, Bills coach Sean McDermott had good reason to be in an unusually upbeat mood last week while fielding questions about the challenges of facing the Dolphins’ offense, which he characterized as almost revolutionary.
Turns out, McDermott, who has doubled up his workload by taking over the defensive play-calling duties this year, had an effective scheme up his sleeve to counter Miami.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier elected in February to take the year off from coaching. Led by McDermott, a defense that often counted on a bend-but-don’t-break approach has become more aggressive.
McDermott’s scheme doesn’t rely so much on blitzing as it does simulating pressure to keep opponents guessing about who’s rushing the quarterback and who’s dropping into coverage. The Bills have 16 sacks, including nine in a Week 3 win at Washington.
And yet, one of the defense’s most effective games was a no-sack outing against Las Vegas in which Jimmy Garoppolo threw two interceptions and couldn’t get the ball out in rhythm.
White’s absence will hurt, because the seventh-year player was finally showing signs of playing at the All-Pro level he had demonstrated before a torn right knee ligament in November 2021 forced him to miss an entire calendar year.
If there is a bright side, the Bills spent much of last season accustomed to playing without White.
There is also good news on the horizon with edge rusher Von Miller set to resume practicing this week. The NFL’s active leader in sacks has been sidelined by a torn right knee ligament since last Thanksgiving.
Offensive efficiency. Since throwing three interceptions and one TD pass and getting sacked five times for 19 yards in the opener, Allen in his last three outings has thrown eight touchdown passes and one interception, scored two TDs rushing and has been sacked four times for 17 yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
A secondary receiving threat. While the Allen-to-Stefon Diggs connection is humming, with the receiver leading Buffalo with 31 catches for 399 yards and four TDs, the next players on the list are rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid with 15 catches and receiver Gabe Davis (220 yards). Diggs has more than 40% of Buffalo’s receiving yards.
RG O’Cyrus Torrence. The rookie second-round pick out of Florida has drawn praise for how quickly he’s adapted, solidifying what was feared to be a weak spot on the line entering training camp.
DT Poona Ford has been a healthy inactive in each of the past two games, and could be a candidate to be cut with the Bills needing to shore up their cornerback depth following White’s injury.
Aside from White, CB Christian Benford hurt his shoulder but was required to go back in to fill in after White was hurt. S Jordan Poyer (knee) did not play.
13 — The number of times Allen has topped 200 yards passing in the first half. Six of those have come against Miami, including playoffs. Allen completed 14 of 17 attempts for 201 yards and three TDs by halftime on Sunday.
The Bills leave for London on Thursday in advance of Sunday’s “home” game against Jacksonville at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Bills are 0-1 in London, losing 34-31 to the Jaguars in 2015.