ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills were far from perfect. And this time it didn't matter.
For once, coach Chan Gailey found it a lot easier going over the blemishes in team meetings on Friday, because the Bills were finally coming off a victory.
"Yeah, you still have concerns, but it's a lot easier to talk about them after you won a game," Gailey said, a day after Buffalo hung on for a 19-14 win over the Miami Dolphins. "Guys take criticism a little better when you've won the ballgame. And what it does to me is it proves to our guys that they don't have to be perfect to win."
In snapping a three-game skid and winning for only the second time in seven games, the Bills (4-6) received a dominating performance from their oft-maligned defense to overcome an offense that had difficulty finishing.
While the offense settled for field goals on four drives inside the Dolphins 20, safeties Jairus Byrd and Bryan Scott combined to seal the win by coming up with interceptions in the last 2 minutes to end Miami's final two possessions.
Offensive sputters aside, it was the defense's ability to close out a game that was reason to provide hope that the Bills are finally moving in the right direction.
"We've found ways to lose games that we shouldn't lose," Scott said. "The lack of consistency that we've been dealing with all year and not finishing strong or just playing a half of football, to finally put it together, that's a great feeling."
It was a long time in coming for a high-priced, Mario Williams-led unit that had taken the brunt of the blame for the team's woes. Before Thursday, Buffalo ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed, was dead last in giving up an average 31.67 points a game and had not produced a turnover in its previous three outings.
Against the Dolphins, the Bills forced three turnovers, including a fumble recovered by Byrd. Williams had one of the team's three sacks. Buffalo gave up 184 yards and 16 first downs — both season lows — and allowed Miami to cross midfield just twice on 11 possessions.
"This is one of the better mornings of the year right here," defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said. "You get a win. You feel good."
And they get the entire weekend to enjoy it while believing they're still in a position to make a late-season playoff push. The Bills are off until Monday when they return to prepare for a game at Indianapolis on Nov. 25.
And there's potentially even more good news on the horizon.
Gailey said there's a good chance both running back Fred Jackson and defensive end Chris Kelsay will be cleared for practice by Wednesday. Jackson did not play against Miami because of a concussion, while Kelsay has missed the past two games with a neck injury.
That doesn't mean the Bills lack concerns.
It starts with an offense that's been inconsistent in scoring touchdowns. Their lone touchdown against Miami came 90 seconds in, when Leodis McKelvin scored on a 79-yard punt return.
The Bills never reached the end zone again despite producing 204 yards of offense in the first half. They stalled four times inside the Dolphins 20, with Rian Lindell hitting four field-goal attempts, the longest from 42 yards.
"It doesn't really matter because we got the win," receiver Stevie Johnson said. "But I think we could've showed how powerful our offense could be. ... I felt like we could've beaten them by more points."
The lack of finish has become a trend.
In its past seven games, Buffalo's scored eight touchdowns and settled for 10 field goals on 22 trips inside an opponent's 20. That includes the Bills scoring four TDs on seven red-zone possessions in a 37-31 loss at New England last weekend.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick credited the Dolphins' defense for playing well, and noted that it was difficult to prepare a full game plan with only three days of practice.
"Yesterday, there's some stuff we have to look at and correct," Fitzpatrick said.
He'll still take the win.
"It's a rosier day, today," Fitzpatrick said. "There's more sunshine in here today than there's been the last few weeks. It makes everybody feel better."
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