Dan Marino was 28 when the Buffalo Bills last were enjoying such a one-sided series against the Miami Dolphins.
It was a while ago: Marino, the Hall of Fame quarterback for Miami, turned 60 this week.
The Bills beat the Dolphins six straight times during that run from 1987 through 1989, a streak they’ll try to match on Sunday when the AFC East rivals kick off. Miami has had almost no answers for Buffalo in the teams’ past five meetings, with the Bills scoring at least 31 points in each of them – including 56 in a most lopsided regular-season finale last winter.
So it raises the question of whether Buffalo simply has Miami’s number right now.
“I respect where you’re coming from with that, but nah,” Bills coach Sean McDermott replies. “Nah.”
There was a consistency in the themes coming from the respective team camps this week when players and coaches were asked about the Bills’ 56-26 win back in January, the second-biggest margin of victory Buffalo has ever enjoyed against the Dolphins. Last year was last year, this year is this year, that team was different, this team is different.
“It didn’t go so well,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said, offering an early front-runner in the race for understatement of the year.
Division games always matter – there are only six of them – and this one looms perhaps a bit larger than most, particularly with this being just Week 2. The Dolphins were the only AFC East team to win last week, meaning they can move two games clear of Buffalo in the standings if they finally find a way to solve the Bills’ hex over them.
“It’s not a grudge match or nothing like that,” Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “Yeah, it’s a division game so it’s important, and it’s the most important game of the year because it’s the next one. But we’re just going to have to prepare well. You can’t think about anything else except the task at hand.”
It’s human nature to think that the Dolphins who endured that season-ending loss in western New York last January will want to avenge it on Sunday. But Bills quarterback Josh Allen said his team is in a similar position, not wanting to get off to an 0-2 start.
In short, both teams might have a little extra incentive.
“They’re 1-0 and we’re 0-1,” Allen said. “We’ve got to focus on going into a hostile environment and trying to execute.”
The Dolphins – even aided by the South Florida heat and humidity – have lost 12 of their past 18 home openers. They’re 0-2 in home debuts under Flores, falling 31-28 to Buffalo last season and 59-10 to Baltimore in 2019. The Bills are trying to win a third consecutive road opener. It would be their longest such streak since four straight from 1991 through 1994.
Bills offensive co-ordinator Brian Daboll called a pair of flea flickers against Pittsburgh last weekend. Neither worked. Buffalo was forced to punt in the first half when Allen overthrew Stefon Diggs on the first trickery try, and the other came on fourth-and-one in the second half when running back Matt Breida was tackled for a seven-yard loss. “When you run gadgets and they don’t work, no bueno, right?” Daboll said.
JOINED AT THE HIP
Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa – who dealt with a serious hip injury in college and has been dogged by questions about durability since – has spoken to Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick this week, now that his former Miami teammate is going through a hip issue of his own. Fitzpatrick’s hip was partly dislocated in Washington’s season opener and he will miss significant time. “Fitz is going through what he’s going through. I wish him the best,” Tagovailoa said. “I think this is something that he’ll get through. Knowing the kind of person that Fitz is, he’ll get through this.”
A major area that needed cleanup by the Bills this week was the play of the offensive line. Even after returning all five starters from last season’s team that won the AFC East, the Bills allowed three sacks and were called for holding six times – two of which were declined – in Week 1. McDermott said it was troubling. Centre Mitch Morse indicated it was a wake-up call. “I think it’s a great gut-check, right?” Morse said. “Very frustrating, but we also know this is a great opportunity to learn quite a bit.”
Dolphins CB Xavien Howard, who had the forced fumble and recovery that sealed Miami’s Week 1 win over New England, had high praise this week for Bills CB Tre’Davious White. Both are among the NFL’s best at that position. “He’s a baller,” Howard said. “He tackles well. He plays the ball. He does a lot of great things well. He’s also quick. Just watching his game – I try to watch a lot of guys’ game, especially when I’m playing against them. Each corner, I try to learn from and try to see what they do well.”