Spiller, Watkins spark Bills' 29-10 win over Miami
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Russ Brandon's voice was hoarse and his eyes red.
The victory capped a stretch in which the Bills celebrated their proud past by paying tribute to late Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson, who died in March. They looked forward to a promising future after reaching a ''definitive agreement'' to sell the team to NHL Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula for an NFL-record $1.4 billion.
And suddenly, Buffalo is off to a 2-0 start and alone atop the AFC East standings.
''It was one of the most special days of my career,'' Brandon said.
''We had a great tribute to Ralph on Friday. And then to cap it off today with a tremendous win,'' he added, pausing to catch his breath. ''It doesn't get any better.''
The Bills' newly formed ''Clemson Connection'' provided a third-quarter spark. C.J. Spiller returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and rookie receiver Sammy Watkins made it 23-10 with a 12-yard touchdown catch.
The Dolphins (1-1), by comparison, unraveled and sustained a potentially serious blow in the first quarter when running back Knowshon Moreno did not return after hurting his left elbow.
The injury looked serious, though coach Joe Philbin had no update on Moreno's status following the game.
Philbin was more concerned about an all-around poor effort.
The Dolphins' offense managed 62 yards in the first half, and never advanced beyond its own 41. Miami's defense limited Buffalo to 13 first downs, but allowed five gains of over 20 yards. As for special teams, the Dolphins had a punt blocked, muffed another aside from Spiller's touchdown return.
Here are a few other observations that took place during the Bills home opener:
LOSING MORENO: The Dolphins lost their starting running back on Moreno's first carry, 11 minutes in.
Driving through the middle for a 4-yard gain, Moreno was initially hit on the right side by Nickell Robey. Nigel Bradham then struck Moreno from the left, hitting him directly in the arm, which appeared to bend backward.
Moreno, with Denver last season, had an NFL-leading 134 yards rushing entering Week 2.
''We had to keep playing, but we definitely missed his intensity,'' said receiver Mike Wallace, who made a one-handed catch on a 7-yard pass for a touchdown that briefly cut Buffalo's lead to 16-10 late in the third quarter.
BRADHAM'S RETURN: Bradham made a big impact on numerous plays in his first game after missing the opener while serving a one-game NFL suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Bradham was in on seven tackles, had one quarterback pressure and successfully defended a pass attempt.
''Having to sit home and watch, it was just one of those things where your passion takes over,'' he said. ''I was playing really emotional.''
BAD MATCHUP: Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler wondered if it's not a coincidence that Miami followed an impressive season-opening 33-20 win over AFC East rival New England with a third straight loss to Buffalo.
''I feel like we are built to beat some of the teams in our division: Take the Patriots,'' Wheeler said. ''I think the Bills are built to beat us. The defense stops our offense. Their offense runs the ball on us. I think we need to get better all the way around.''
SACK ATTACK'S BACK: The Bills' talented defensive front four had dominating day in sacking quarterback Ryan Tannehill four times for 31 yards.
Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes sacked Tannehill on consecutive downs for 21 yards early in the second quarter. Mario Williams and Stefan Charles also had sacks to up Buffalo's total to six this season under new coordinator Jim Schwartz.
BY THE NUMBERS: Watkins had eight catches for 117 yards, while Spiller finished with 69 yards rushing. Bills PK Dan Carpenter hit five field goal attempts, and banked a sixth off the left upright. Bills QB EJ Manuel went 16 of 26 for 202 yards. The Bills managed one touchdown on six drives inside Miami's 20. Dolphins PK Caleb Sturgis rounded out the scoring with a 34-yard field goal.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL