Surprising Dolphins set for rematch with Bills

Field Level Media

November 14, 2019 at 12:37 am.

Sunday’s matchup between the Buffalo Bills (6-3) and the host Miami Dolphins (2-7) should be easy to decipher.

After all, the Bills beat the Dolphins 31-21 in Buffalo on Oct. 20, and they are favored by a touchdown to do it again on Sunday — while sitting four games better in the standings.

But it’s not quite that simple. While Dolphins management signaled a rebuilding season by selling off current assets for future draft picks, Miami’s players certainly have not given up.

That has been evident the past two weeks, as the Dolphins defeated the New York Jets 26-18 on Nov. 3 and the Indianapolis Colts 16-12 on the road this past Sunday.

“We are starting to come together,” first-year head coach Brian Flores said of Miami’s surprising two-game win streak after an 0-7 start. “Being able to overcome adversity is part of playing in the NFL, and we’re doing that at a higher level now.”

The Dolphins are also getting healthier, starting with standout safety Reshad Jones, who has missed four straight games due to cracked ribs. Jones was limited in practice this week but said he expects to play on Sunday.

Jones should provide a big boost to a secondary that has taken two big blows this year — the trade of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the season-ending knee injury sustained by cornerback Xavien Howard, a 2018 Pro Bowler who tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions last season.

Miami’s revival has been led by graybeard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who turns 37 on Nov. 24. He was Buffalo’s starter from 2009 to 2012, posting a 20-33 record during those years.

Fitzpatrick began this year as Miami’s starter and got benched in favor of Josh Rosen, only to regain his position. Since returning as Miami’s starter, Fitzpatrick has tossed six touchdowns with four interceptions and a 2-2 record.

Buffalo counters with a quarterback on the other side of the NFL age scale — 23-year-old Josh Allen, who was the Bills’ first-round pick (seventh overall) last year.

Allen is 11-9 in two years as Buffalo’s starter, completing 56.1 percent of his passes. He has thrown 20 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions, including 10 and seven, respectively, this season.

Allen has boosted his completion percentage from 52.8 as a rookie to 59.9 in his second season, but the offense hasn’t been clicking on all cylinders.

The Bills rank 25th in the NFL in scoring average (19.3), and, despite Allen’s strong arm, he has failed to complete a pass that traveled at least 30 yards in the air.

“If I could pinpoint the problem, I would probably be hitting (deep passes),” Allen said. “I don’t know if I’m super anxious about underthrowing the ball and risking an interception. The ball comes out, it feels good, and it carries a bit further than I think. It’s something I will continue to try to improve.”

Sunday’s game will be a homecoming for a couple of Bills starters who played for the University of Miami: running back Frank Gore and right guard Jon Feliciano. Gore and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips are former Dolphins, and rookie running back Devin Singletary played at nearby Florida Atlantic University.