ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Offence is back in fashion in Buffalo now that Perry Fewell – a defensive co-ordinator, of all people – has taken over as interim head coach.
In delivering Fewell his first career win, the Bills erupted for 24 points in the fourth quarter in a 31-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
And all Terrell Owens could wonder after he helped seal the rout with a 51-yard touchdown catch was what might have been if Bills owner Ralph Wilson had fired Dick Jauron a few games earlier.
“Well, he’s two weeks too late,” Owens said, crediting Fewell who took over when Jauron was fired Nov. 17. “I’ve been wanting to be aggressive all year.”
After taking their first lead on Rian Lindell’s career-best 56-yard field goal with 3:35 left, the Bills didn’t let up. Owens scored on the next possession after Chad Henne threw his first of three interceptions. And Fewell was spotted along the sideline demanding another touchdown, which came after Fred Jackson sealed the rout by scoring on a 7-yard run with 1:20 remaining.
“How sweet it is, baby,” said Fewell, who has never been a head coach at any level. “We’ve been talking about finishing. That’s what we did today.”
The win evened Fewell’s record at 1-1, and came in a week in which the Bills tagged former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan as a potential candidate to take over.
Not so fast.
“I’m not going to say that right now,” safety Donte Whitner said when asked if this was a players’ statement favouring Fewell. “But I know we can run a couple off in a row, and then we’ll talk about that.”
The Bills (4-7), who snapped a three-game skid, have little time to enjoy the victory as they prepare to “host” the New York Jets at Toronto on Thursday.
The Dolphins (5-6), meanwhile, suddenly face a must-win challenge next week when they host the division-leading Patriots. This wasn’t the position Miami expected to be in after climbing back into contention by winning five of seven to overcome an 0-3 start.
“Our team knew exactly what was at stake when we came in here to play this ballgame,” coach Tony Sparano said. “We did things, quite honestly, that 3-7 teams do in the fourth quarter. I’ve got to take responsibility. It’s my fault.”
The Dolphins couldn’t take advantage of Ricky Williams’ third consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Williams finished with 115 yards and a touchdown, but also threw an interception to end the Dolphins’ opening drive on first-and-goal from the 3.
And so much for all the pressure Miami’s defence provided in taking advantage of Buffalo’s young and injury-depleted offensive line. Linebacker Joey Porter, who had 2 1/2 of Miami’s six sacks, declined to speak following the game.
“We dropped the ball. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves,” Jason Taylor said. “Obviously, what we’re doing now is not the trick.”
Give credit to the Bills, too.
“They came out and fought like dogs,” cornerback Nathan Jones said. “They took advantage of our mistakes and beat us fair and square. There are no excuses.”
After the teams traded first-half touchdowns, the Dolphins appeared to take control by opening the third-quarter with a 16-play, 83-yard drive capped by Williams’ 1-yard plunge.
For a team with little but pride to play for, the Bills responded with an impressive drive as Jackson scored on a 3-yard run to cap a 13-play, 74-yard march.
The Dolphins managed four first downs the rest of the way.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had his second consecutive solid outing since taking over after Fewell benched starter Trent Edwards. He finished 17 of 26 for 246 yards and helped the Bills generate 336 yards offence – the second straight week Buffalo’s broken 300 yards.
Fewell was particularly impressed with Fitzpatrick’s decision to go deep to Owens, something the quarterback called at the line.
“I love it,” Fewell said. “I told him, ‘You have some big (guts).’ “
Spotting Owens lined up one-on-one with rookie cornerback Vontae Davis, quarterback Fitzpatrick threw a bomb up the right sideline in a play reminiscent to T.O.’s 98-yard touchdown in an 18-15 loss at Jacksonville last week.
“Well yeah, I think we were hitting at that last week, and we just came up a little bit short,” said Owens, who finished with five catches for 96 yards. “But we were very confident even though we lost. … We prepared hard and it showed out there.”
NOTES: Fitzpatrick also showed he could run with a 31-yard touchdown on a bootleg up the right sideline. It was the Bills’ longest TD rushing since RB Marshawn Lynch scored on a 56-yarder on Nov. 4, 2007. … Taylor was credited with a half-sack, upping his career total to 126½, moving into a tie for 11th on the NFL list with Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas. … Williams matched a season best by scoring his ninth TD rushing.