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Time for the Miami Dolphins to step up against Rex Ryan and the Bills


The Miami Dolphins want to believe they have turned some kind of corner with their upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Maybe, but there’s a big bully waiting to turn them right back around.

His name is Rex Ryan, coach of the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets before that, and his game is chaos.

“He does a good job of really throwing the kitchen sink at you and seeing if you’re able to handle it,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.

Notice that he didn’t say everything but the kitchen sink. We’re talking about bringing the whole house, with blitzes coming from every conceivable angle and unexpected packages of players appearing in unprecedented places on the field, right where a quarterback was planning to place the ball.

Last September at Miami, the result was a three-interception day for Tannehill and a 41-14 win for the Bills, leaving Joe Philbin on his last legs as Dolphins coach.

The physical intimidation doesn’t stop with the defense, either. Buffalo rushed for 266 yards in a 33-17 November win over Dan Campbell’s supposedly more stubborn Dolphins at Orchard Park. Two Bills, LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, rushed for more than 100 yards that day.

Bottom line? The Dolphins pretty much bottomed out against Buffalo last season, and it wasn’t so great before Rex arrived in 2015, either.

Miami has lost five of its past six games with the Bills. For comparison’s sake, the Dolphins and New England Patriots have split their past six meetings.

Before we can get a real grip, in other words, on what the Dolphins are becoming under new coach Adam Gase, they need to get a handle on Buffalo. Rex has got the Bills going right now, too, winning four in a row with no game in that stretch closer than 11 points.

All this is happening with leading receiver Sammy Watkins on injured reserve and with star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus missing from the lineup the first six games because of a suspension and an injury.

“You do what fits your personnel,” Rex said Wednesday. “All we do is, we try to win, regardless of what it looks like, how bad it looks or how great it looks.”

Look out for more smash-mouth football, then, from a Buffalo bunch that led the NFL in rushing last year and are doing it again at an average of 5.61 yards per carry. If McCoy is unable to play against Miami because of a hamstring injury that popped up this week, the job probably goes to Mike Gilleslee, a former Dolphin and Gator, and he probably makes it work.

That’s how the Bills have gotten to 4-2, anyway.

Do you know, for instance, who is leading the NFL in sacks with eight? That would be 33-year-old linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who is getting to quarterbacks the way Mario Williams couldn’t last year when he was with Buffalo.

It’s possible, of course, to beat Rex at his own brutal game. The Bills were no better than 8-8 last year and Miami is 7-7 against him all-time, the Jets years included.

What’s needed on this particular Sunday and at this particularly fragile spot in Gase’s remaking of the team is a second consecutive breakthrough performance, and against this one opponent above all others.

No more getting pushed around by the Bills. No more looking up at them from the bottom of the AFC East. There’s just no reason for it, especially in the minds of old goats like me who remember Miami’s demoralizing 20-game win streak in this series back in the 1970s.

Defensive end Cameron Wake wasn’t even born then, of course, but he understands the ancient drumbeats of this rivalry. The only way to wrestle control of it away from Rex is to be nastier at the point of attack. This is especially important on Sunday with safety Reshad Jones, the Dolphins’ surest tackler, newly placed on injured reserve.

“That’s the nature of the beast,” Wake said. “If they’re going to run the ball, you’ve got to be out there and play physical and play hard-core and see if they’ll be able to match our intensity.”

Anything less and the Dolphins will be Buffaloed again.

Stumbling into the bye week at 2-5 is what comes with that.

Watching Rex flex once more.


Reader Comments ...


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