With the 2017 NFL season in the books following a fairly surprising playoff berth, we look back at the season and our beloved Buffalo Bills. Every week is a story, and we bring this to you through the lens of key plays that defined the game. Your Week 17 match-up:
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
After a loss to the New England Patriots, the Bills sat at 8-7. The playoffs were in reach, but they’d need help (thank you
Chuck Norris Cincinnati Bengals). While not ideal, it would all be for naught if they fell to the Miami Dolphins. The Bills had defeated the Dolphins just two weeks earlier at home, where an interception put a stop to a late Dolphins comeback. The up-and-down Dolphins could be beaten, but there was no reason for comfort.
With nothing to play for, the Dolphins pulled starting quarterback Jay Cutler after their first series (a three and out). Third-year man David Fales came in for the remainder of the game. In an eerily similar set of circumstances to their first contest, the Bills put up a large lead which they’d see rapidly erode in the fourth quarter. Just like the first time around, Miami pulled within one score. And like the other game, they recovered an onside quick to attempt a last-minute comeback. The ending, which you’ll see below, was the perfect way to cap off an emotional roller coaster that would continue into the visitors’ locker room and beyond...
Nick O’Leary touchdown (Q1, 10:20)
The parallels between both contests started right out of the gate. The Bills scored a touchdown on their opening drive with a wide open Nick O’Leary making an easy catch from Tyrod Taylor. The Bills only scored a touchdown on an opening drive in one other game in 2017. I bet you know which one. If you’ll allow a tangent here, if I had to guess I’d say that O’Leary might be related to Jack Nicklaus somehow. If I have the time, I’ll look into that...
Cameron Wake facemask penalty (Q2, 0:49)
FINALLY! It took all year but penalties were a major part of the narrative in Week 17. Taylor scrambles and loses the football, which Miami recovers. Before the turnover, Cameron Wake is guilty of a facemask penalty on everyone’s favorite golfing grandson. As it occurred before the fumble, Buffalo retained the ball. If you follow the penalty recaps, you know that I consider it a major issue to negate a turnover. The 5.6 penalty harm rates this one as “quite bad.” Additionally, the recovery would have given the Dolphins an excellent chance to put points on the board going into the half. Instead, the Bills escape unscathed.
KYYYYYYYYLE! (Q3, 7:10)
A comfortable lead allowed the Bills to call a play that can only be seen as the coaching staff emphasizing the importance of their expected culture. The willingness to call up #95 to score didn’t merely ripple through the team and fans. It sent shockwaves. With a possible retirement on the horizon, Sean McDermott lets Kyle Williams transcend the game for what could have been his final appearance in a Bills’ uniform.
Fun fact: The official play-by-play puts the timestamp on this play as 7:16. It’s the rare intersection where “completely wrong” meets “absolutely perfect.”
Jarvis Landry TD, but wait...there’s more (Q4, 6:21)
Jarvis Landry is not generally popular with Bills fans, so it was disappointing to see him score this touchdown. This game had been an emotional rollercoaster for everyone (Dolphins included), and well...
All hell broke loose.
After the touchdown, Landry takes offense to something and throws a headbutt, which draws a flag. The officials had a rough time calling this. At one point, Richie Incognito was ejected for his part in the scuffle. Incognito was on the sideline the whole time in no small part because he plays offense for the Bills. Ryan Davis should have been penalized for taking down Kenyan Drake. Instead, Ryan Groy was flagged. When the dust settled, Landry and Kenyan Drake were ejected. On this play alone, there were six flags thrown. There could have been more. Thanks to the zany offsetting penalties rule, none of what you see above mattered beyond ejections (which was still significant). Landry could not stop jawing at the refs, earning a 15-yarder on his way to the locker room. When the clock hit zero, the Dolphins had been flagged 18 times. Of those, 14 were assessed for 145 yards and 22.6 Harm (that’s reeeeeally bad).
Jordan Poyer interception (Q4, 0:56)
After the Landry touchdown, the Dolphins found the end zone again to make it a six-point game. Even worse, they had recovered an onside kick in what can only be described as a Quantum Leap-like situation. With David Fales stepping into the body of “starting QB,” the Miami Dolphins tried to relive the past and right the wrongs. From around midfield with nearly a minute to play, Jordan Poyer picks off David Fales and is encouraged to stay down by his teammates. Not even Ziggy and Al could completely change the course of Dolphins history. Would having two of their best offensive players on the field have helped the Dolphins? If so, Bills fans weren’t complaining. The only thing left for Buffalo was to hold off on the showers so they could await the outcome of the Bengals and Ravens game.