Ed Oliver sounds as if he was just as captivated as the average NFL fan was in watching the film from the historic show the Miami Dolphins put up last weekend. It had been 57 years since an NFL team put up 70 points, which came wrapped with more than 700 yards against the hapless Denver Broncos.
“It looked like they were having fun,” Oliver, the prolific Buffalo Bills defensive tackle, told reporters during a news conference this week. “It was fun to watch. Literally, every other play they were scoring. It’s crazy.”
Oliver knows who’s got next. And he hardly sounded intimidated by the challenge on Sunday, when Miami (3-0) brings its No. 1-ranked offense to Buffalo (2-1) for an AFC East showdown. The early divisional lead isn’t the only reason that the NFL’s most compelling matchup of Week 4 will take place at Highmark Stadium.
Buffalo’s defense might be just the unit to slow Miami’s roll. Sure, after collecting nine sacks and four takeaways against Washington and poor Sam Howell, the Bills will get a step up in competition as Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa enters as the league’s top-rated passer and likely MVP front-runner.
The Bills rank second in the league for scoring defense (11.7 points per game) while leading the NFL in interceptions (7), takeaways (9), lowest passer rating allowed (54) and pressure rate (50.6%). They are tied for second in the NFL for sacks (12) and third for passing yards allowed.
Plus, the Bills have defeated Miami seven consecutive times in Buffalo.
On paper, Buffalo stands a chance better than most.
Yet this Miami offense, averaging 43.3 points per game, is more lethal than the unit that went to Buffalo last season and lost a pair of games by three-point margins in Week 15 and in the wild-card round of the playoffs, the latter coming with Tagovailoa sidelined while in the league's concussion protocol.
Maybe familiarity will make a difference. The Dolphins’ “revolutionary” offense, as Bills coach Sean McDermott described it, gains advantages with the top-end speed (see Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle) and vertical threats unleashed by a potent play-action game and exhaustive use of pre-snap motion.
A defense can get dizzy, it seems, accounting for all of the movement before the snap before it gets dazed by the slashing runs, deep shots and yards after the catch.
For the Bills to handle it, Oliver maintains that it will take discipline in the schemes and consistent pressure on Tagovailoa. They will also need to play to their personality as an attack defense, which means not getting tripped up by the razzle-dazzle before the snap.
“We call it ‘smoke and mirrors,’ “ said Oliver, who leads NFL defensive tackles with six quarterback hits and has two sacks. “If you get into that, you’re going to miss what you really need to see, and that’s what’s right in front of you. We’re an attack-oriented defense. Everyone has their assignment. If you’re looking at too much, then you ain’t seeing nothing. Just keep it simple. And attack.”
It will be easier said than done for the Bills – and fun for the rest of us to watch.
Tuna Bank & Trust
In “Once A Giant: A Story of Victory, Tragedy and Life After Football,” best-selling author Gary Myers reveals that Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells has given out loans totaling more than $4 million to several of his former players who have fallen on hard times. The book chronicles the bond and challenges for the 1986 New York Giants for decades since their Super Bowl 21 triumph.
Parcells, who according to Myers made $33 million in his final two NFL jobs coaching the Dallas Cowboys and running the Dolphins' front office, considers it part of his responsibility to aid players – whom he now considers friends – who sacrificed so much, in part to further his career success.
“Why wouldn’t you feel that way?” Parcells told Myers. “Some of these guys spent 10 to 12 years with me. Some of them didn’t have fathers. I feel an obligation to help them.”
Parcells didn’t name names of the players he’s helped, with the issues including medical bills stemming from football injuries. But according to Myers, Parcells doesn’t expect the loans will be repaid – which isn’t always the case. Even with friends.
In other words, the Tuna still has a big heart.
Ezekiel Elliott, coming off his “breakout game” with the New England Patriots, will return to Jerry World on Sunday to fuel an intriguing subplot. The Cowboys are planning some sort of tribute to honor the former rushing champ. Jerry Jones wouldn’t reveal specifics of the tribute, but the smart money says it will likely be in the form of a video.
Elliott, who won two NFL rushing titles during seven seasons with Dallas and ranks third in franchise history behind Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett for rushing yards (8,262), 100-yard games (30) and TDs (68), was released last spring in a cost-cutting move as the team transitioned to Tony Pollard. He’s coming off a 16-carry, 80-yard effort in the win at the New York Jets, his best game since running for 92 yards against the Giants last year in Week 12.
Revenge? Although Elliott acknowledged during a midweek media session that he’s motivated to make the Cowboys regret not re-signing him, he quickly added that he’s similarly inspired each week and, typically, downplayed any special juice for Sunday.
“I’m going to try to keep it even-keeled,” Elliott said. “I think in any moment, in any game, no matter how big or small…you can’t get too high, get too low. You’ve got to stay neutral and realize you’ve got one job to do. “
Elliott led the Cowboys with 12 rushing TDs in 2022, which seems more significant as Dallas has struggled in the red zone – ranked 27th in the NFL for TD rate, while kicking an NFL-high 10 field goals.
Still, while Elliott was a proven hammer on short runs near the goal line, short-yardage runs haven’t been the huge issue for Dallas without him. When the Cowboys scored just one TD on five drives that went inside the 20 during the huge upset loss at Arizona in Week 3, they were 5-for-5 in converting on third-and-short, which was one of Elliott’s specialties.
Dallas’ problem in the red zone has been in getting close enough to the goal line to finish off drives with short TD runs.
The trade that brought Philadelphia native D’Andre Swift home has the look of another coup for Eagles GM Howie Roseman, who essentially landed the running back from the Detroit Lions for a fourth-round pick (the teams also swapped seventh-round picks in the exchange). Swift, second in the NFL to Christian McCaffery with 308 rushing yards, is averaging 6.8 yards per carry, best in the league (minimum 25 attempts). When he faces a Commanders defense that was gashed by Buffalo for 163 rushing yards in Week 3, Swift will have a chance to become the first Eagle to rush for 100 yards in three consecutive games since Brian Westbook in 2006. But there’s no pity for Detroit, which drafted Swift out of Georgia in the second round in 2020. Having revamped its backfield with a new 1-2 punch at running back with David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, the Lions rushed for 211 yards at Green Bay on Thursday night… When the Jaguars meet the Falcons on a pitch in London, Calvin Ridley will have a chance to make amends for a disastrous performance (two dropped touchdowns, two false start penalties) in last weekend’s loss to the Texans. For added spice, Ridley will face the team that drafted him in the first round in 2018 – only to trade him after Ridley seemingly became disinterested in playing for Atlanta and took a lengthy leave of absence to focus on his mental health. Then in 2022, the NFL suspended Ridley for the entire season for violating the league’s gambling policy. Ridley spoke highly of the Falcons for dealing him away for a fresh start, yet acknowledges that it won’t be just another game at Wembley Stadium. “You know, it’s still the first team I played for, and I know a couple guys over there,” Ridley told reporters in Jacksonville. “It’s still love. No hard feelings.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Buffalo Bills might have right formula to stop Miami Dolphins' offense