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Buffalo Bills 31, Miami Dolphins 21: Rapid recap and notes

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The Dolphins didn’t make it easy, but Buffalo won another.

The Buffalo Bills, for one half, looked like they might be the “same old Bills” to trigger a letdown by losing to the winless Miami Dolphins. Instead, cheered by their fans, the Bills rallied to score 15 unanswered points, held off their division foes, and took the win, 31-21.

The first half wasn’t an unmitigated disaster, but it was definitely not anything anyone wanted to see. Buffalo came close to the red zone on each of their first three drives, but couldn’t follow through for the touchdown. They only managed three field goals. Meanwhile, the Bills’ defense looked strangely mortal against the league’s worst offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick found openings, the running game worked, and Miami scored two touchdowns to take a halftime lead.

There’s no question that Tre’Davious White was Buffalo’s MVP today. The team played listless for most of the first half, falling into a 14-9 deficit, and the Dolphins steadily took a 16-play drive down to Buffalo’s two-yard-line. After Jordan Phillips bought the defense some room with a sack, White broke on an out route with a diving interception. The Bills would take the ball 98 yards on their ensuing possession, and score a two-point conversion, and the margin of victory shifted 15 points. Later, in the fourth quarter, White forced a fumble that was returned to the 16-yard-line. A few plays later, the Bills punched in another touchdown.

The other key to Buffalo’s victory was Josh Allen’s second half. He was 10-of-11 passing with two touchdowns, exactly what the team needed to establish dominance again.

The Dolphins didn’t go quietly into the night. Fitzpatrick gutted out several plays in the final four minutes of the game, dodging and weaving around pass rushers and slamming into Micah Hyde as he gutted out a touchdown run to put the Dolphins within three.

But Miami still needed an onside kick to have a chance at this one. A long shot even in the best conditions. The Bills needed only that one play to lock up the victory. Micah Hyde leaped, pirouetted, and caught the kick in midair, ran between two Dolphins, and returned it to the end zone.

Injury Report

Duke Williams landed hard on his shoulder after catching a deep crosser. The team considered him “questionable” to return, but in a good sign he was seen back on the sidelines after being examined in the locker room.

Linebacker Maurice Alexander was injured after making a tackle late in the fourth quarter. He was able to jog off the field, and later returned to the game. The Bills are thin at linebacker, with both Matt Milano and Corey Thompson out for injuries.

Backup cornerback Kevin Johnson left the field in the final two minutes with a head injury. He did not return to the game.

Miscellaneous

  • The turning point of the game was unquestionably Jordan Phillips’s sack (and forced fumble) in the third quarter. It woke up the Bills’ defense, and Tre’Davious White carried the torch to spark the turnaround.
  • Phillips now has five sacks, leading the team this year.
  • Speaking of sacks, Ed Oliver landed his first career sack! It was a bit unorthodox, though: he sacked Albert Wilson, who set up to pass after a lateral but couldn’t escape the rush.
  • Up-and-down day for rookie tight end Dawson Knox. He had a pair of drops, but did take a shovel pass on a sweep and converted a first down.
  • The Bills tried a few more sweeps during today’s game, including quarterback sweeps. Josh Allen was actually Buffalo’s second-leading rusher today, ahead of rookie Devin Singletary.
  • One weird moment in today’s game: the Dolphins faced a fourth-and-one at the goalline, and the stadium was so loud Brian Flores couldn’t contact the refs to get them to measure the spot. He had to burn a timeout, but smartly called a fake field goal that bought Miami a first down.
  • Micah Hyde’s onside kick return touchdown was the first returned that way since 2010.
  • It was also Buffalo’s first kickoff return touchdown, period, since the 2014 season. It’s been five years since we had one!
  • Today’s game was more classic Ryan Fitzpatrick. Some Magic moments, some Tragic ones. He’s the perfect quarterback to rally a team to “competitive” without actually locking down a win.
  • Kudos goes to Stephen Hauschka, who was the only reason the Bills landed on the scoreboard in the first half. He hit from 39, 43, and 45 yards.
  • The Bills were called on nine penalties for 83 yards today. In the first half, those penalties were critical in preventing the Bills from reaching an offensive rhythm. The team leads the league in pre-snap penalties assessed.
  • The Bills improved to 5-1 and gained another conference win in today’s result. If not for the 6-0 New England Patriots sharing their division, the Bills would be the second seed in the AFC.
  • Buffalo’s next opponent is the 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles, who play the Cowboys Sunday night.