ORCHARD PARK - After 11 weeks, the Buffalo Bills' defense finally showed up Thursday night, stymieing the Miami Dolphins' offensive attack en route to a 19-14 win.
The Bills held the Dolphins to 184 yards on 55 plays, a much better effort than they have shown all season, aside from their game against Cleveland in Week 3 when they held the Browns to 240 yards (207 through the air and just 33 on the ground).
"I mean a Thursday night primetime game, you're going to have natural adrenaline to be up for this game," Bills' free safety Jairus Byrd said. "To play on such short notice, you have to rely on your adrenaline to get you over the top because you are tired.
Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) celebrates with teammate Da'Norris Searcy (25) after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NFL game Thursday.
"Seeing the predicament we are in, it was a must win," Byrd continued. "We had no choice but to go out and play hard."
And the Bills did play hard, as they limited the Dolphins to 60 yards on the ground and held Reggie Bush to 20 yards on 10 carries - his second lowest output of the season. The St. Louis Rams held him to 17 yards on 12 carries in a Week 6 game the Dolphins won, 17-14.
"Honestly, everybody was in their gaps," Byrd said of why the Bills' defense had success Thursday. "I've talked about it in games where the runs have gotten out of there, people just weren't in their gaps or not doing the little things and (Thursday) we were swarming to the ball. I mean there weren't lanes and if there were, they closed quick. So everyone just did a great job."
Daniel Thomas added 33 yards on 12 carries for the Dolphins, who also got very little out of rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, who finished 14 of 28 for 141 yards, a touchdown and two fourth-quarter interceptions, one of which came from Byrd.
Up 19-14, with under two minutes left in the game, Tannehill dropped back, heaved a long pass down the left sideline intended for Davone Bess. The pass was long which gave Byrd a chance to make a play on the ball, which he did, as he made a diving interception at the Bills' 35-yard line.
"He has great football knowledge," Bills' head coach Chan Gailey said of Byrd. "He has great football knowledge. He has instincts - that is probably another word for instincts, great football knowledge. He anticipates where the ball is going very well. He is around the ball a lot. He makes a lot of football plays."
The Bills were not able to salt the win away however, as they gave the Dolphins one final shot at a game-winning drive with 1:23 left in regulation. But Bryan Scott made sure the Bills and their fans didn't leave Ralph Wilson Stadium heartbroken for the second time in four weeks, as he intercepted a Tannehill pass at the Bills' 42-yard line with less than a minute to go.
"It is huge for them to do that," Gailey said of his defense shutting down the Dolphins. "All of the pro football world is watching this game. They watch this game. There is three prime time games a week and this is one of them. For them to do that and play the way they played (Thursday)Again I believe that is something we can build on. We need to be able to build on that."
Overall, Thursday night represented the Bills' best effort on the defensive side of the ball. They held a team to under 200 yards, allowed only one touchdown and came up with timely turnovers. Now, players, coaches and fans alike are hoping this win will catapult the Bills to a winning record for the first time since 2004 when they finished 9-7.
"We dug this hole for ourselves, so every game is a must win and we are approaching it as we're kind of forgetting what was behind and saying it is a seven game season, whatever it is," Byrd said. "We are just focusing on what is ahead not behind."