Dansby sparks D to lead Dolphins over Bills 15-10
Brandon Marshall might have garnered more of the attention this offseason when the Miami Dolphins acquired the big and gifted receiver in a trade with Denver.
Turns out, the Dolphins decision to sign linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency to become the centerpiece of a retooled defense can't be underestimated, either.
Though Marshall had a team-best eight catches for 53 yards, his performance was overshadowed by Dansby in a 15-10 season-opening win over AFC East rival Buffalo on Sunday. Dansby opened with a tone-setting sack three plays in, and added eight tackles in a game the Dolphins never trailed.
''It brought me home,'' Dansby said, referring to his sack three plays into the game, in which he got in untouched around the right side to drop Trent Edwards for a 9-yard loss. ''When you make a play like that, you know, the guys get to celebrate with you and just have fun.''
The Dolphins defense, featuring two rookie starters and a new coordinator in Mike Nolan, had much to celebrate in limiting the Bills to 166 yards on offense, nine first downs and allowing Miami to have the edge in time of possession by nearly 14 minutes.
Add in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Ronnie Brown and two field goals by Dan Carpenter, and it allowed Miami to get off to a 1-0 start for the first time in five years.
The only thing that surprised Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis is how the Bills lost track of where Dansby was on the field so early in the game.
''You tell me,'' Davis said, before referring to Dansby's No. 58. ''If I was on offense, I'd be saying `58! 58!'''
Then again, not much went right for a Bills offense that failed to show any signs of development from its popgun past in Chan Gailey's debut as head coach.
The 166 yards were the fewest by the Bills since they had 163 in a 16-3 loss to Miami on Dec. 7, 2008. Their nine first downs matched the season low recorded twice last year. And the addition of rookie first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller failed to provide a spark, as he was limited to 6 yards on seven carries, and 8 yards on four catches.
''If fingers need to be pointed, they need to be pointed back at me,'' said Gailey, who also doubles as the offensive coordinator. ''We didn't play well enough to win, and that's my responsibility.''
The only time the Bills showed any rhythm came when they switched to the hurry-up mode with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter. Edwards marched the Bills 85 yards on 10 plays, capping the drive by hitting Roscoe Parrish for a 31-yard touchdown on fourth-and-11.
It proved too little too late. Backed up to their 1 on their next possession, the Bills gambled by giving up a safety. They eventually got the ball back at their own 20, and managed just 4 yards on their final drive.
''We really didn't make anything happen,'' receiver Lee Evans said. ''We'll learn from this game and be much better. I think it's a good teaching tool.''
The Bills had better learn fast because they hit the road for the next two games at Green Bay and then New England.
What could hurt further is Buffalo's already injury-depleted group of linebackers might be down another key member after Paul Posluszny did not return after hurting his right knee in the third quarter. Gailey said Posluszny will have tests to determine the severity of the injury, but didn't rule out the possibility of it being long term.
The Dolphins don't have it easy either in preparing to travel to play at Minnesota next week, and with questions of their own to address on offense.
Despite generating 296 yards and going 8-for-18 in third down, the Dolphins lacked finish, particularly in the second half when they managed only six first downs.
''I think we just need to go back to work and we've got to concentrate,'' quarterback Chad Henne said. ''Overall, it wasn't pretty, but we got some things done.''
Henne completed 21 of 34 passes for 182 yards, and had an opportunity to blow the game open but underthrew a deep pass into the wind intended for Marshall. Brown led the offense with 65 yards rushing and 20 receiving.
''It feels great to be 1-0. It's a good first step,'' coach Tony Sparano said. ''It validates some of the things we've been talking about. The guys in that locker room believed in it.''