ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Sean McDermott had little time savoring a blowout win in his 100th game as the Buffalo Bills head coach.
Dominating as his defense performed in forcing five turnovers and getting nine sacks in a 37-3 victory at Washington on Sunday, McDermott was already focused on Buffalo’s next opponent: the Miami Dolphins.
“On to Game 101. Honestly, Week 4,” said McDermott, after improving to 64-36. “I think I just saw Miami put up 70-plus points. So, long week ahead.”
McDermott can be excused for suggesting Miami’s output was 70-plus, because the challenge ahead can’t be overstated even by someone who is acutely familiar with the Dolphins, and has a 11-2 record against Buffalo’s AFC East rival.
With the New York Jets (1-2) struggling minus Aaron Rodgers, and the offensively challenged Patriots limping to a 1-2 start, the Dolphins-Bills outing on Sunday represents an enticing early season division showdown.
The Dolphins (3-0) enter Monday leading the NFL in points scored, total yards, yards rushing and passing.
The Bills (2-1) are second in scoring despite a season-opening dud of a 22-16 loss at the Jets.
The difference might come down to defense, where the Bills appear to have an edge.
Through three outings, Buffalo has allowed just two touchdowns, 41 first downs and allowed an average of 253 yards per outing, with opponents converting just 9 of 29 of third-down opportunities.
The pass rush has been effective even with Von Miller sidelined for at least one more game while recovering from a torn right knee ligament.
Their veteran secondary is healthy after Tre’Davious White and Micah Hyde missed most of last season with injuries. And linebackers Matt Milano and Terrel Bernard have combined for four interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“You all need to start talking about this Bills defense because we’re coming,” tackle Tim Settle said on Sunday. “We don’t need a banner about it. We’re just going to keep on coming week in and week out.”
Let’s tap the brakes a little.
It’s one thing to overwhelm the likes of Sam Howell, with Buffalo improving to 19-2 against quarterbacks with 16 or fewer career starts since 2019.
It’s another containing a Tua Tagovailoa-led Dolphins offense that features receiver Tyreek Hill and the running back tandem of Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane, which combined for 375 yards from scrimmage (285 of them rushing) and seven TDs against Denver.
In Tagovailoa’s previous start against Buffalo, the Dolphins had 405 yards in a 32-29 loss decided on Tyler Bass hitting a 25-yard field goal as time expired. It was an outing in which the Bills got a boost from the elements, with snow falling in the fourth quarter.
The weather won’t play a factor Sunday, with the early forecast calling for sun and a high of 77 degrees.
If not for Josh Allen committing four turnovers in the loss to the Jets, the Bills would be 3-0. And Allen has responded to criticism of being over-aggressive by playing mostly within his limitations over the past two outings.
The defense made Allen’s job easy against Washington, with A.J. Epenesa returning an interception for a touchdown in an outing the offense scored two touchdowns and settled for field goals on four trips inside the Commanders 20.
Against Miami, field goals just may not cut it.
Buffalo’s red zone defense. Washington’s two drives inside the Buffalo 20 ended on downs and Howell throwing an interception. On seven drives into the red zone, the Bills have limited opponents to scoring two touchdowns and two field goals, with the others ending in a fumble, interception and downs.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
First down production. On 15 first down situations in the first half on Sunday, the Bills combined to gain 8 yards rushing on five carries, and Allen completing 4 of 8 attempts for 54 yards, 35 of them coming on a TD to Gabe Davis. Buffalo also lost 20 yards on two first down penalties.
LB Terrel Bernard. The second-year player became the NFL’s first to get two or more sacks, an interception and recover a fumble in an outing since Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher did so in 2007.
DT Poona Ford. The offseason free-agent addition was a healthy inactive, with edge rusher Kingsley Jonathan making his season debut.
Backup OL Ryan Bates is listed day to day with an ankle injury.
39 — The number of Allen’s touchdowns rushing after scoring on a 10-yard run. He ranks fourth on the NFL list among quarterbacks, one behind Jack Kemp and four behind Steve Young. Cam Newton leads the list with 75.
The first of two scheduled meetings against the Dolphins, who have lost seven straight at Orchard Park, including a 34-31 loss in an AFC wild-card playoff meeting in January. Tagovailoa is 1-4 overall against the Bills, and 0-3 at Buffalo.