What we learned from the Bills’ win over the Dolphins

The Buffalo Bills (11-6) successfully ran the table into the end of the regular season to secure a playoff spot after a rough start that saw them at 6-6 and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

Five straight wins later, and they are the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and once more winners of the AFC East.

Buffalo’s start against Miami in the final game of the regular season was another ugly one that saw several turnovers in the first half.

After that, the Bills’ defense and depth players at positions on both sides of the ball stepped up, including an acrobatic heads-up touchdown by WR Trent Sherfield, a franchise record-long 95-yard punt return, and score by WR and return man Deonte Harty, and a game-sealing interception by S Taylor Rapp.

With that, here are three things we learned from Sunday’s win over the Dolphins:

Buffalo's Defense Can Close

Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images
Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images

Since the Bills made it to the AFC Championship game and lost to the Chiefs during the 2020 NFL season, a highly visible issue for the team has been the defense’s inability to get stops and close out games, in regulation as well as overtime.

The Bills’ offense more often than not did its part to give them leads and an opportunity to win, so much that the team relied too heavily on Allen and company, who would then have to watch from the sideline as those leads and games would be lost to their opponents.

While that certainly was the case in some contests earlier in the current season, the Bills defense has shown since their mid-season turnaround they can indeed close out games and seal wins.

Both the defense and special teams have stepped up for more three-phase wins, which they’ll continue to need moving forward.

Offensive Adjustments Have Paid Off

Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images
Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images

In the first part of the 2023 regular season, then offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and QB Josh Allen were targeting Stefon Diggs to a fault.

The Bills offense was one-dimensional and predictable for opponents to prepare for defensively.

There were two adjustments, among others, that stand out and appear to have helped their offense get on the right track. The first was a mid-season switch to Joe Brady as an offensive playcaller. The second was that Diggs embraced more of a role-player and team-first approach that saw him prioritize winning as the primary objective.

He sacrificed and was selfless about not needing to be the primary passing target, and his frequently commanding double teams in games opened up other holes in coverage and opportunities for the offensive.

The results saw the offense spread out more with an increase in the usage of receiving tight end TE Dalton Kincaid, WR Khalil Shakir, and hybrid running back James Cook. As well as an increase in the win column.

As a result, in Diggs’ own words, the Bills now find themselves four more games from a Super Bowl and Championship opportunity. If they can protect the football and continue to clean up the passing game the way they did in the second half of Sunday’s matchup, they may have a legitimate shot at that ultimate goal.

Clicking At The Right Time

Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images
Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images

GM Brandon Beane set out to improve the Bills’ talent and depth at key positions during the offseason to avoid the depletion the team experienced due to injuries late in their 2022 campaign.

Several of those depth acquisitions, WR Trent Sherfield, WR Deonte Harty, and S Taylor Rapp, all stepped up and made key plays to secure a Buffalo victory. And during a contest in which starters in the receiving corps and secondary left the game with injuries, no less.

This team is playing for each other, different role players are stepping up, and Buffalo is winning in all three phases at a crucial time in their season. It’s resulted in a five-game win streak, a division crown, a playoff berth, a No. 2 seed, and a home game in the first round.

The Bills Have Been One Of Their Own Biggest Opponents

Story originally appeared on Bills Wire