As expected the Bills went with Kelly Holcomb at quarterback and he did not disappoint. He was efficient, accurate, and calm in the pocket, all the things J.P. Losman hasn't been in the first quarter of the season.
Holcomb was solid and the team was inspired behind him for the first half as the Bills jumped to a 17-0 halftime advantage and then held on for dear life at the end for a 20-14 win over the formerly first place Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
For the fifth straight game the Bills won the toss, for the fourth time in those five games the Bills drove to an opening score. After toying with some cute plays, like a pass attempt to Sam Adams, Willis McGahee scored from a yard out to give the Bills a quick 7-0 lead.
They came out inspired to show that Mike Mularkey made the right call and played solid on both sides of the ball as they put together their best half of football of the season. The lone dark spot of the half was when they had first and goal inside the one and were forced to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
A third down touchdown pass from Holcomb to Eric Moulds would make up for it as the Bills had the 17-0 halftime lead as they scored on their first three possessions.
Miami roared back in the second half as Gus Frerotte threw two touchdown passes to pull within 17-14 midway through the fourth quarter. That is when the Bills would score their only points of the second half, thanks to a 53 yard kickoff return by Terrence McGee. It setup a huge 47 yard field goal by Rian Lindell. The field goal stopped a string of six straight drives that went for nothing for the Bills and gave them a six point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Miami looked like they were going to make the Bills pay for settling for three. They moved the ball right down the field and looked like they were headed for the winning score. Nate Clements had other ideas. He forced a fumble by rookie Ronnie Brown, who had a big game for the Dolphins, it was recovered by Troy Vincent effectively ending the game.
It's fitting that the biggest defensive play was made by members of the secondary. They made big plays all game long. Clements, McGee, Vincent, and Lawyer Milloy seemed to make the right play at the right time as they were responsible for four of the Bills five takeaways. That combined with a Dolphins club record 18 penalties is the reason the Bills won. The bottom line is a QB rating of 106 from the elevated starting QB, a bunch of takeaways, and bone headed penalties by their opponent at home, should have provided the recipe for a cake walk win. Instead, it was a hold your breath finish. I think it proves no matter how motivated the veterans are, no matter how good the backup QB plays, it will be tough going the rest of the way. The good news is, at least they have some positive momentum going into next week's battle with the Jets.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the Dolphins: