ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills coach Sean McDermott was so eager to simulate the speed of the Dolphins’ offense in practice this week, he wondered jokingly if sprinter Usain Bolt might be free.
With the world record holder apparently unavailable, McDermott leaned on his fastest player, practice squad receiver Andy Isabella, to handle the scout team duties to get his defense up to speed for what could become a track meet between AFC East rivals on Sunday. The Dolphins are 3-0 and the three-time defending division champion Bills are 2-1.
“There’s only so many guys to go around to run as fast we we need them to run to just simulate the speed,” McDermott said. “It’s unique.”
Revolutionary is another word McDermott used to describe a Dolphins offense that scored 70 points in a span of 52 minutes and 59 seconds to rout the Broncos last weekend.
And it’s a unit that features ball-carriers having achieved the five fastest speeds on the field in games this season, as measured by Next Gen Stats. Rookie running back De’Von Achane ranks first, and fifth, after topping out at 21.93 mph against Denver. Receiver Tyreek Hill made the list twice, and running back Raheem Mostert once.
Hill joked he didn’t need to check the list because he considers himself the team’s fastest player, before turning serious in discussing how speed wears down opposing defenses.
“For a guy like me, I feel I can run all day, unlike a guy who is 6-foot and up not used to running a lot,” Hill said, referring to his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame. “Teams can’t play man to man on us all game.”
Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White shuddered when asked what it’s like defending Hill when the receiver gets a head start by going in motion before the ball is snapped.
“I just pray and hope that definitely doesn’t happen,” White said. “But I just think that if we play team total defense, we’ll be OK.”
Buffalo’s Josh Allen-led attack is no slouch either. The Bills combined for 75 points in two lopsided victories following a season-opening dud against the New York Jets. And their defense is coming off a win at Washington in which it forced five turnovers and had nine sacks.
Much will be on Allen’s shoulders. Perhaps the best way to counter the Dolphins is to keep their offense off the field by winning the time-of-possession edge with lengthy scoring drives.
“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to win a football game. If it’s by putting up 40 or putting up four, we’re just trying to go out there and play complementary football,” Allen said.
Four points likely won’t cut it, but the Bills have dominated Miami since McDermott took over in 2017. In that span, the Bills are 11-2 against the Dolphins, and 7-0 at home, including a 34-31 win an AFC wild-card playoff meeting in January.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remembers that game, having watched it from home while sidelined by a season-ending concussion.
“Oh, we got to beat these guys,” Tagovailoa said. “They’re the next team up and that’s how I think all our guys see it. We’re not worried about anything else right now this week except for the Bills.”
Achane was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after he had 203 yards on 18 carries in his second career game last week. It was the most yards by an NFL player in his first or second game since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970.
“I love it, man. He had a lot of hype coming in here,” Dolphins safety Jevon Holland said. “He said he runs like 26 miles an hour. He might’ve hit that on that run.”
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Bills second-year middle linebacker Terrel Bernard earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after becoming the NFL’s first player to post two or more sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery since Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher did so for the Bears in 2007.
Bernard missed much of the summer with a hamstring injury, and McDermott showed faith in him by inserting him into a starting role.
“There’s things that you see in his base of who he is that you like,” McDermott said. “Do you know if he’s going to blossom and turn into something? You don’t know that. But he’s certainly off to a good start.”
Miami’s defense has given up only 157 rushing yards over the past two weeks after allowing the Chargers to rush for 233 yards in the opener. The Dolphins have eight sacks, and their 24 quarterback hurries are the third most in the NFL. They’re tied for seventh in takeaways after recording three against Denver.
Aside from the Dolphins’ speedsters, the Bills have to contend with the wide array of pre-snap motions Miami uses to keep defenders guessing.
“Part of what the motion does is it undresses what you’re in, so it forces your hand a little bit,” McDermott said. Asked how a defense might buy time before the ball is snapped, the coach said: “Call timeout. But we only get three of those.”