ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — C.J. Spiller gave a knowing wink when assessing the impact the Buffalo Bills’ dynamic “Clemson Connection” made in a home-opening 29-10 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
“Yeah, that’s what we do,” Spiller said. “The only thing I was thinking was, ‘Man, what we could’ve done if we played together in college.'”
Spiller, the Bills’ 2010 first-round pick out of Clemson, scored on a 102-yard kickoff return on the team’s first touch of the ball in the third quarter. And first-round pick Sammy Watkins, the latest Tigers player to join Buffalo’s ranks, capped the next drive with a 12-yard touchdown catch.
The Dolphins (1-1) had no answers against their AFC East rival. Worse still, Miami sustained a potentially big blow when running back Knowshon Moreno, a key offseason addition, did not return after hurting his left elbow 11 minutes in.
The injury looked serious, though coach Joe Philbin had no update on Moreno’s status following the game.
The Bills provided electricity to a charged-up crowd during a week the franchise celebrated its proud past and promising future.
The game began with a tribute to Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson, who died in March. And it came during an uplifting week in which the franchise’s long-term future was essentially secured: Wilson’s trust reached a “definitive agreement” to sell the team to NHL Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula for an NFL-record $1.4 billion.
Bills President Russ Brandon nearly broke down in tears afterward.
“It was one of the most special days of my career,” Brandon said. “A great tribute to Ralph on Friday, and then to cap it off today with a tremendous win, and the pregame ceremony. It doesn’t get any better.”
Dan Carpenter hit five field goals and the Bills had four sacks in helping Buffalo get off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2011, and only the sixth time since 2000.
The game was decided during a 9:10 span in the third quarter, and after Caleb Sturgis capped the Dolphins’ opening drive by hitting a 34-yard field goal to cut Buffalo’s lead to 9-3.
Spiller struck first on the ensuing kickoff by bursting through a hole up the right hash mark. Kelvin Sheppard was the only Dolphin to get his hand on Spiller, who had a clear path to the end zone once Sturgis missed a diving tackle at the Buffalo 35.
The Dolphins replied with Mike Wallace making a one-handed catch for a 7-yard touchdown.
Watkins, with his first career touchdown, capped the Bills’ next drive with a 12-yard catch set up by Spiller’s 47-yard run. EJ Manuel hit Watkins on a crossing pattern over the middle, and the receiver got the ball just inside the right pylon.
Watkins finished with eight catches for 117 yards, and Spiller added 69 yards rushing.
Manuel went 16 of 26 for 202 yards in building on his promising performance in a season-opening 23-20 overtime win at Chicago.
Very little went right for the Dolphins’ offense, which failed to carry over momentum from last weekend’s 33-20 win over New England. The big blow came when Moreno was hurt on his first carry. Driving up 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.
Moreno, with Denver last season, had an NFL-leading 134 yards rushing entering Week 2.
“Obviously, we would love to have him, but you have to deal with those things,” Philbin said. “Injuries happen, so it didn’t really impact the game plan a whole lot. Other guys have to step up.”
They didn’t. Moreno’s backup Lamar Miller finished with 11 carries for 46 yards.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 31 of 49 for 241 yards with a touchdown and interception.
The Dolphins were limited to six first downs and 62 yards offense in the opening half, and never advanced past their 41.
Their special-team play was particularly sloppy. Aside from Spiller’s touchdown, Brandon Fields had a punt blocked in the first quarter, and Jarvis Landry muffed a punt in the fourth quarter.
“We just didn’t play well. We didn’t get first downs,” Tannehill said. “We didn’t rush the ball. We didn’t throw the ball. We didn’t catch the ball. We didn’t do anything well.”
NOTES: The Dolphins have lost three straight to Buffalo, their longest losing streak since going 0-4 from 2006-07. … Carpenter hit five of six field goal attempts, the longest from 38 yards. He hit the left crossbar on a 31-yarder. … DEs Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, and DTs Kyle Williams and Stefan Charles each had a sack.
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