And maybe, it’s the Dolphins—because it certainly wasn’t the unraveling Buffalo Bills—who can lay claim to being Toronto’s team this weekend.
Taking advantage of an indifferent Bills “home” crowd and an inept Buffalo offense, the resurgent Dolphins continued their remarkable turnaround from last year’s 1-15 finish by scoring a decisive 16-3 win on Sunday. In winning for the sixth time in seven games, the Dolphins (8-5) moved into a three-way tie for the AFC East lead with New York and New England.
“The story does keep getting better,” said Bell. “This is something that’s definitely sweet, going from one win to being in every game this year and having a legitimate chance to win. It’s a great feeling.”
The Bills might be benefiting from getting nearly $10 million a game— nearly double what they bring in at Orchard Park—for the eight-game series that runs through 2012. But they lost a decided home-field advantage.
The warm-weather Dolphins, 2-7 at Orchard Park in games played after Dec. 1, took advantage of the opportunity to play indoors at the Rogers Centre, where it was 68 degrees, as opposed to 15 outdoors. And in the stands, there was a large contingent of Dolphins fans wearing orange and aqua.
“It definitely didn’t feel like an away game for us,” Bell said. “The way we played up here today and just to look out in the stands, I think we did win over some fans.”
The Bills (6-7), by comparison, made a terrible first impression in playing their first of five annual regular-season games in Toronto.
In falling all but mathematically out of playoff contention, Buffalo has lost six of seven, failed to score a touchdown in two consecutive games, and the meltdown has put coach Dick Jauron squarely on the hot seat.
Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon declined to discuss Jauron’s status directly, but did refer to the team’s slide as “unacceptable.”
“We’re extremely disappointed. It’s unacceptable to be in this position after a 5-1 start,” Brandon said.” This was a season in which we had to take the next step and nobody in this organization is happy.”
Jauron is in the final year of his contract and coming off two consecutive 7-9 seasons. The team’s in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a ninth straight season.
Chad Pennington efficiently picked apart the Bills, going 23-of-29 for 181 yards and a 20-yard touchdown to Anthony Fasano. Pennington became the third Dolphin to reach 3,000 yards passing in a season and first since Jay Fiedler in 2001.
Dan Carpenter rounded out the scoring by hitting three of four field-goal attempts, including a 50-yarder.
The Dolphins’ defense did the rest in limiting the Bills to 163 yards offense while also holding an opponent without a touchdown for the second straight game following a 16-12 win at St. Louis.
Then again, at the rate Buffalo’s offense is stalling, it’s a surprise it wasn’t stopped at the border.
“It can’t get much worse,” receiver Lee Evans said. “We had no rhythm. It’s definitely frustrating because we had opportunities. It’s really hard to put into words.”
J.P. Losman, starting in place of injured Trent Edwards (groin), was wildly inconsistent, finishing 13-of-27 for 123 yards and a costly interception that ended Buffalo’s best scoring drive. It happened late in the third quarter when, facing first-and-goal from the 3, Losman underthrew a fade to Evans, and the pass was intercepted by Will Allen.
Rian Lindell hit a 40-yard field goal for Buffalo.
Miami running back Ricky Williams was happy to return to Toronto after he spent the 2006 season with the CFL Argonauts.
“It wasn’t clear who the home team was, but that’s nice for us,” said Williams, who had 40 yards rushing, and had a touchdown run negated by a penalty. “I got kind of emotional during the national anthem. It’s a beautiful song and I hadn’t heard it for a while.”
Dolphins LB Joey Porter had two sacks, upping his total to 16 1/2 , two short of matching the team’s single-season record. … Bills CB Leodis McKelvin had 56 kickoff return yards, giving him 1,233 on the season, surpassing Eric Moulds in 1996 for the most by a Buffalo rookie. … The Dolphins have won three straight road games for the first time since 2005, and are three games above .500 for the first time since going 10-6 to finish the 2001 season.