Bills upbeat after 'imperfect' win over Dolphins


Bills upbeat after 'imperfect' win over Dolphins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills were far from perfect. And this time it didn't matter.

For once, coach Chan Gailey found it a lot easier going over the blemishes in team meetings on Friday, because the Bills were finally coming off a victory.

``Yeah, you still have concerns, but it's a lot easier to talk about them after you won a game,'' Gailey said, a day after Buffalo hung on for a 19-14 win over the Miami Dolphins. ``Guys take criticism a little better when you've won the ballgame. And what it does to me is it proves to our guys that they don't have to be perfect to win.''

In snapping a three-game skid and winning for only the second time in seven games, the Bills (4-6) received a dominating performance from their oft-maligned defense to overcome an offense that had difficulty finishing.

While the offense settled for field goals on four drives inside the Dolphins 20, safeties Jairus Byrd and Bryan Scott combined to seal the win by coming up with interceptions in the last 2 minutes to end Miami's final two possessions.

Offensive sputters aside, it was the defense's ability to close out a game that was reason to provide hope that the Bills are finally moving in the right direction.

``We've found ways to lose games that we shouldn't lose,'' Scott said. ``The lack of consistency that we've been dealing with all year and not finishing strong or just playing a half of football, to finally put it together, that's a great feeling.''

It was a long time in coming for a high-priced, Mario Williams-led unit that had taken the brunt of the blame for the team's woes. Before Thursday, Buffalo ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed, was dead last in giving up an average 31.67 points a game and had not produced a turnover in its previous three outings.

Against the Dolphins, the Bills forced three turnovers, including a fumble recovered by Byrd. Williams had one of the team's three sacks. Buffalo gave up 184 yards and 16 first downs - both season lows - and allowed Miami to cross midfield just twice on 11 possessions.

``This is one of the better mornings of the year right here,'' defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said. ``You get a win. You feel good.''

And they get the entire weekend to enjoy it while believing they're still in a position to make a late-season playoff push. The Bills are off until Monday when they return to prepare for a game at Indianapolis on Nov. 25.

And there's potentially even more good news on the horizon.

Gailey said there's a good chance both running back Fred Jackson and defensive end Chris Kelsay will be cleared for practice by Wednesday. Jackson did not play against Miami because of a concussion, while Kelsay has missed the past two games with a neck injury.

That doesn't mean the Bills lack concerns.

It starts with an offense that's been inconsistent in scoring touchdowns. Their lone touchdown against Miami came 90 seconds in, when Leodis McKelvin scored on a 79-yard punt return.

The Bills never reached the end zone again despite producing 204 yards of offense in the first half. They stalled four times inside the Dolphins 20, with Rian Lindell hitting four field-goal attempts, the longest from 42 yards.

``It doesn't really matter because we got the win,'' receiver Stevie Johnson said. ``But I think we could've showed how powerful our offense could be. ... I felt like we could've beaten them by more points.''

The lack of finish has become a trend.

In its past seven games, Buffalo's scored eight touchdowns and settled for 10 field goals on 22 trips inside an opponent's 20. That includes the Bills scoring four TDs on seven red-zone possessions in a 37-31 loss at New England last weekend.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick credited the Dolphins' defense for playing well, and noted that it was difficult to prepare a full game plan with only three days of practice.

``Yesterday, there's some stuff we have to look at and correct,'' Fitzpatrick said.

He'll still take the win.

``It's a rosier day, today,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``There's more sunshine in here today than there's been the last few weeks. It makes everybody feel better.''


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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.


A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.


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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.