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Buffalo Bills 56, Miami Dolphins 26: Rapid recap and notes

Another victim vanquished on the path to the playoffs.

After a 56-26 victory, their fifth consecutive blowout victory, it’s time to crown the King in the North. The Buffalo Bills are 13-3, undefeated against their division rivals, and have the league’s second-best win-loss record. Before the game began, fans of the Miami Dolphins thought they might be able to beat the Bills if Buffalo rested their starters. That misplaced confidence tells the whole story—when the Bills chose to play most of their first string, they built up a 28-6 lead in the first half of the game. After Buffalo brought in the backups, the gap only widened. The Bills completely outclassed the Dolphins today—and every team in the NFL playoffs should be terrified to face this group.

Josh Allen wanted to make a strong closing argument for MVP, and the Bills allowed him to play all the way into the third quarter to make that case. He went 18-of-25 (72 percent) passing, for 224 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Against the top-scoring defense in the NFL, mind you. The Dolphins have only allowed 21 passing touchdowns this year, and seven of them were by Josh Allen.

Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (and his receiving corps) looked like a JV squad playing against the Bills defense. Tagovailoa threw three interceptions, including a pick-six, and there was no Ryan Fitzpatrick available to clean up his mess. The receivers did him no favors, with copious dropped passes on crucial moments. The Dolphins started the game 0-for-10 on third down—not great, Bob. They had four turnovers overall.

There’s no shortage of individual highlights to celebrate here. We’ll start with Isaiah McKenzie, who scored three first-half touchdowns, including a spectacular 84-yard punt return touchdown. Dean Marlowe also had a career day, with two interceptions. Corey Bojorquez had an incredible punt that landed inside the one-yard line. Josh Norman contributed a pick-six, and John Brown was hot in his return to action: four catches, 72 yards, and a touchdown. The Bills offensive line kept Allen clean again, with only a single sack surrendered. There’s plenty to celebrate today, not the least of which is what the outcome means in the context of the whole season.

The Bills have now won 13 games for the first time since their Super Bowl-caliber 1991 season, and only the third time in franchise history. It’s the second-best record in the NFL, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills have clinched the second seed in the AFC, behind the Chiefs. They’ve won their last six games, by an average of 20 points.

It’ll take a few more hours before we know Buffalo’s Wild Card opponent. Given what we saw today, we’d hope it’s the Dolphins, but this Bills team can win against anyone in the NFL. Rev up your engines, Bills fans—the journey to the Super Bowl begins tomorrow!


Injury Report

  • Taron Johnson and Matt Milano collided on a tackle, and Johnson ended up with a stinger. He returned to play shortly after the injury, as did Milano.
  • Stefon Diggs took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Christian Wilkins, but it looked to be a minor impact and didn’t affect Diggs’s availability in the game.

Miscellaneous

  • Isaiah McKenzie’s 84-yard punt return touchdown was the team’s first return touchdown since Micah Hyde pirouetted an onside kick to the end zone last season. It was the first punt return touchdown since Marcus Thigpen against the Green Bay Packers in 2014.
  • Josh Norman hasn’t been able to play much this season because of injuries and COVID, So he has to feel good about a pick-six off Tua Tagovailoa in the third quarter.
  • This was the first time the Bills scored an offensive, defensive, and special teams touchdown in a single game since 2011, in a 40-14 win against the Denver Broncos.
  • Only two catches for Gabriel Davis, but they were each big plays. He had 107 yards and a touchdown—and this was the first 100-yard day in Davis’s career.
  • Congratulations to practice-squad promotion Antonio Williams, who had 12 carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns today! The rookie running back had to endure several cuts and re-signings this year, and thought about coaching at his alma mater at one point during the pandemic. He stuck with the Bills and was rewarded with his first game action.
  • Dane Jackson keeps making plays whenever the Bills give him a chance. The rookie cornerback nearly secured a safety with a potent tackle when the Dolphins were pinned at the one-yard line in the first quarter. He also had a pass breakup in the closing minute of the second quarter.
  • Also promoted from the practice squad was defensive end Mike Love, who showed up with a nice tackle for a six-yard loss at the goal line in the second quarter.
  • Stop the presses: The Bills stopped a two-point conversion! It was only the second time this season, and helped preserve a 30-point lead in the game (so, you know, the lowest possible leverage).

Record watch

  • Josh Allen is now the single-season passing yards leader for the Buffalo Bills. He passed Drew Bledsoe (needing 40 yards) and then some, with a 224-yard passing day in the first half.
  • Allen also locked in the single-season records for passer rating and completion percentage.
  • The Bills set a new franchise record for points scored in a season—by halftime.
  • Tyler Bass started the day with 133 total points—seven away from Steve Christie’s franchise record of 140. Eight touchdowns and eight extra points later, Bass is the team’s single-season scoring leader. Not a bad rookie year.
  • Stefon Diggs all but locked in the NFL lead for receptions and receiving yards, with seven catches for 76 yards in the first half of today’s game.
  • Diggs also crossed 1,500 receiving yards for the season—which has only happened 15 times since the turn of the millennium.