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Armando Salguero: Bills Adjust Game Plan Day Before Dolphins Game, Save Their Season

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MIAMI GARDENS — The soundtrack of victory on Sunday was the Buffalo Bills locker room filled with players, cheering as hip hop country music (yeah, that’s a thing) blared from the sound system behind closed doors.

It was a celebration

And it was loud.

But the noise wasn’t nearly as loud as the message the Bills delivered on the Hard Rock Stadium field in dismantling the Miami Dolphins.

Bills 35.

Dolphins 0.

“It shows the type of character of the guys that we have in our locker room that we did not let what happened last week destroy us,” offensive tackle Dion Dawkins declared. “Because something like that can destroy a football team, any loss, especially at home, can.

“With media and all that, there’s a lot of different parts to do with it. But for the guys we have in our locker room to put that to bed and move on to a fresh start, that’s shows we have the right guys to get this thing done.”

The Bills saved their season Sunday afternoon.

That may seem too dramatic because on its face all they did was win one game, and only the season’s second game at that.

But dig deeper to the reality of the situation and one sees history was ready to bury the Bills before this game began. This is a team, recall, which came to Miami with an 0-1 record after a disappointing 23-16 loss to Pittsburgh in its regular-season opener.

A loss to the Dolphins would have merely made Buffalo 0-2 but since 1978 only 11.1 percent of the teams that opened the season with two consecutive losses qualified for the playoffs.

And in the last two seasons, all 20 teams that opened the season 0-2 also failed to make the playoffs.

Add that historical fact to the pressure of being a Super Bowl contender that failed in its first game out of the gate, and its understandable this game felt as close to do-or-die as it gets this early in the season.

But, no problem.

The Bills are tied atop the AFC East with Miami and the New England Patriots. And the crisis they felt all last week has been averted.

“Last week was one game. So don’t panic,” safety Jordan Poyer said. “We learned from that film. We watched it. We spent the 24-hour window on it and we moved on from it. This team has been together long enough to where we’ve deal with wins, we’ve dealt with losses.

“We’ve learned how to do both. Coming out today just kind of shows what this team’s about. We took a tough loss last week but we were able to bounce back. Offense came to play. Defense came to play. And so did special teams.”

It was indeed a dominant outcome in which the Bills started fast and finished strong.

The Buffalo defense’s first series? Two sacks of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Their offense’s first series? A 46-yard touchdown run by Devin Singletary on the second play from scrimmage.

The defense’s attack collected six sacks and was so ravenous it knocked Tagovailoa from the game with a rib injury that makes his near-term status uncertain.

“We’re getting some tests run,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores lamented. “I just asked. They don’t know the severity of the injury right now. But we’re going to run some tests tonight and tomorrow morning, hopefully have a little bit more information.”

The Bills led 14-0 at halftime. The tally suggested a dominance that wasn’t really there –yet.

“I didn’t think we were really in a rhythm in the first half even though we scored 14,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said.

In the second half the Bills scored on their first drive and never looked back.

“We were men on a mission this week,” safety Micah Hyde said.

The Bills rushed for 143 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per attempt using some plays that coaches dreamed up the day before the game.

“We changed stuff yesterday,” quarterback Josh Allen revealed. “Into our run game. Put in new plays. And our guys rolled with it and figured out a way to go out there and play it.”

And why would an NFL team stick new stuff into a game plan the day before a road game?

“Just new stuff in the game plan,” Allen said. “Coaches see different things. We don’t have much say of what goes in. I think I have the most say, but I still don’t have much say. Whatever they put in, we got to run it. It’s our job to go out and execute.”

They did. With a vengeance.

“It was an incredible way to bounce back after last week,” Poyer said. “And we just want to continue that momentum.”

Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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