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Sack attack

Dolphins down Bills' QBs six times in 22-13 win

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Latest: Monday October 09, 2000 01:38 AM

  Lamar Smith Dolphins running back Lamar Smith looks for an opening against the Bills. AP

MIAMI (AP) -- Like so many times in the past, the showdown between AFC East archrivals Miami and Buffalo ended with Thurman Thomas holding a game ball.

Only this time Thomas provided a spark for the Dolphins rather than the Bills, and he did it not so much with his running as with his taunting.

Thomas repeatedly talked trash to his former teammates, and Miami's defense backed him up with a smothering performance Sunday to beat the Bills 22-13.

"I'm 1-0 against the Bills. I'm happy," Thomas said. "Once I strapped it on today, everything I did for 12 years in Buffalo went out the window."

Another solid defensive performance for Miami
MIAMI (AP) -- Trace Armstrong felt as if some people might have forgotten how good Miami's defense was, especially given last year's late-season slump that ended with a 62-7 playoff loss at Jacksonville.

He wanted to remind everyone.

Again.

The Dolphins had six sacks against Buffalo -- including 3 1/2 by Armstrong -- forced two turnovers and held another opponent to just one touchdown Sunday. The defense also scored nine points in the 22-13 win.

"We always felt like we had a good defense," said Armstrong, 35, who already has 10 sacks this season, two shy of his career high set in 1996. "With the Jacksonville game, people just forget how good we were. We were one of the best defenses in the league the last few years."

They still are.

Miami (5-1) has given up three touchdowns and just 51 points this season. The Dolphins also held their third opponent to a lone touchdown. The other three teams managed a combined three field goals.

"We know every week teams are going to make plays on us," linebacker Robert Jones said. "We just have to handle it with composure. We can't go into games expecting to shut everybody out or hold teams to field goals."

They came close against the Bills.

The Dolphins sacked Rob Johnson five times, sacked Doug Flutie once and returned a fumbled for a touchdown.

Buffalo drove 80 yards on three plays, scoring on Sammy Morris' 2-yard run with 8:34 to play and cutting Miami's lead to 15-13. It was the first rushing touchdown Miami has allowed this season.

But the Dolphins responded.

On the Bills' next possession, Patrick Surtain hit Morris and forced a fumble. The ball popped out, and Sam Madison caught it in the air and sprinted untouched 20 yards for a score.

"We stress turnovers and scoring on defense and we've done that two weeks straight now," Madison said.

Miami, which got a defensive touchdown from Jason Taylor last week, also recorded a safety against Buffalo.

So how good is this defense?

"We'll know in January," Armstrong said. "We've still got a lot of football left." 
 
 

The Dolphins (5-1), picked by many to finish last in the division, moved into first place with their fourth consecutive victory and beat Buffalo for the first time in four meetings.

The Bills (2-3) lost their third game in a row, all to AFC East teams.

"They were three complete team losses," linebacker John Holecek said. "No question, we're in a big hole."

The Dolphins registered six sacks, scored a safety and clinched the victory when Sam Madison returned a fumble 20 yards for a score with 4:45 left. Trace Armstrong contributed 3 1/2 sacks and forced two fumbles.

The victory was especially sweet for Thomas, Buffalo's career rushing leader. Last week, he accused Holecek and two other Bills players of being disrespectful and admitted he holds a grudge.

"Thurman had a look in his eye all week," Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler. "He was jacked up, and it's easy to feed off a guy like that. It gets us and the crowd fired up."

Thomas, at 34 playing mostly on third down, had a series of verbal exchanges with his former teammates on the way back to the huddle, particularly after big gains by Miami. After picking up 15 yards on a screen pass, Thomas stepped in front of Holecek and signaled a first down with an exaggerated gesture.

"I guess all his talk worked for him," Holecek said. "I don't know why he felt like he had to create an enemy, but I guess I'm going to have to play the role."

Thomas, so often a Dolphins killer in the past, rushed for 24 yards in seven carries and added 26 yards on three receptions. That earned him a game ball from head coach Dave Wannstedt.

  Click on the image for a larger version. CNNSI.com

"It's one I'll treasure," Thomas said. "Coach Wannstedt wanted to make the point that I'm part of this team now."

Despite Thomas' taunting, the Bills almost made him swallow his words.

A 24-yard pass interference penalty on Patrick Surtain set up Buffalo's only touchdown, which came on Sammy Morris' 3-yard run with 8:34 left to make it 15-13. It was the third touchdown and the first rushing score allowed by Miami this season.

The Bills got the ball back with 4:59 to go, but Surtain forced a fumble by Morris. Madison caught the fumble before it hit the ground and scored for a 22-13 lead.

"I didn't know he fumbled," Surtain said. "I just saw Sam doing his dance in the end zone and figured something good had happened."

Buffalo's Rob Johnson finished 11-for-26 for 178 yards with five sacks. He was harried repeatedly and finally knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter when hit by Kenny Mixon after throwing a pass.

Doug Flutie replaced Johnson, drove the Bills to the Miami 31 and then had a pass intercepted by Jerry Wilson.

"We gave this game away," Buffalo head coach Wade Phillips said. "We were in a position to win against a team that hasn't given up many points."

Jay Fiedler directed a Miami offense that controlled the ball for 34 minutes. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, a 20-yarder to Leslie Shepherd.

Miami punter Matt Turk pinned the Bills inside their 20-yard line four times, including a coffin-corner kick that rolled out at the 1. Two plays later, backup tackle Jermaine Haley slipped past center Jerry Ostroski to tackle Jonathan Linton on a dive play for a safety.

Olindo Mare improved to 9-for-9 on field goals this year, scoring from 30 and 33 yards for Miami. Buffalo's Steve Christie kicked field goals of 45 and 23 yards.

The Dolphins, who have a bye this week, overtook the New York Jets atop the AFC East.

"We're doing better than everyone expected us to do," linebacker Zach Thomas said. "I hope everybody just keeps writing us off."

Notes: Johnson said he left the game when tendinitis in his throwing elbow flared up, but he expects to be fine this week. ... Dolphins reserve linebacker Scott Galyon hurt his right knee, and doctors suspect a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Guard Mark Dixon sprained his left elbow and cornerback Terrance Shaw suffered a concussion. ... At 35, Armstrong has 10 sacks, two shy of his career high set in 1996. ... The Dolphins have been at or above .500 for 58 consecutive weeks, the longest streak in the NFL. ... Buffalo allowed a season-high 120 yards rushing. ... The Bills are 0-3 against the AFC East for the first time since 1987.


 
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Dolphins RB Thurman Thomas says playing against his former team wasn't a distraction. (113 K)
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