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Buffalo Bills 26, Miami Dolphins 11: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills remain the best team in the AFC East

The Buffalo Bills survived an upset scare against their division rival, coming out of the bye week with a 26-11 win over the Miami Dolphins. It was an uneven game for the Bills, who misfired numerous times in the first half, but they kept the score close in the first half and put together a winning performance in the second half.

The Bills started out a little rusty, going three-and-out on their opening drive. Josh Allen missed a free blitzer, and had to escape the pocket to the right. He probably had a step on the rusher, and also had Stefon Diggs wide open in front of him, but overthrew the receiver. That was the first sign of Buffalo’s struggles to come.

It seemed like the Bills would force a quick punt after the first couple Dolphins plays went well for them, but Tua Tagovailoa hit DeVante Parker on a jump ball to keep their drive going. Miami would ultimately matriculate the ball down to the Buffalo 18-yard line, but Jason Sanders pulled his field goal attempt wide left, and it was no good.

Buffalo’s next drive didn’t start well, with Devin Singletary tackled for a loss on the first play. Two plays later, the Bills were called for a false start. But Allen scrambled free for 34 yards on third down, bringing the Bills to Miami’s side of the field. But Allen tried a harmless deep pass, and the Bills picked two running plays that went nowhere on second and third down. Buffalo settled for a field goal to take the 3-0 lead.

The Bills held Miami to a punt on their next drive, an eight-play drive that only gained 21 yards. But Miami responded by stopping the Bills’ offense for their own punt, and it was a shank. Matt Haack only sent the ball 19 yards, so it only took one good gain to put the Dolphins in field goal territory. The Bills’ defense held them there, but Miami tied the game 3-3.

The offensive ineptitude continued, with the Bills struggling to block up and make solid gains. A few checkdowns and screen plays put the Bills into Miami territory on the two-minute drill, but Josh Allen misplayed a 4th & 4 call and ended up called for intentional grounding. That gave the Dolphins new life and favorable field position, and they came close to the Buffalo end zone before the half. Fortunately for the Bills, a botched play led to a fumble that Micah Hyde picked up, preventing any points.

The Bills righted the ship after halftime. Miami came out with three three-and-outs on their first three possessions of the second half. The Bills’ offense had its own three and out, but finally found its rhythm on the next drive. The spark plug was Cole Beasley, who kept finding openings for quick catches. At one point, Allen targeted Beasley five times on six plays. That success helped Allen loosen up, and it led to a touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis that put the Bills back in the lead.

Following Miami’s punt, the Bills had another strong drive. Again, Beasley was the star, with two catches for 31 yards. With 2nd & 10 from the Miami 19, the Dolphins tried a Cover-0 blitz, but Allen read it and threaded the needle to Stefon Diggs for a touchdown. After going into halftime with an ugly 3-3 tie, the Bills were now ahead 17-3 and feeling a lot better.

Trailing by two scores in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins weren’t ready to roll over and die. Tagovailoa had his best drive of the day, with the highlight a 40-yard pass to Mike Gesicki. Two plays later, he buried his head and burrowed into the end zone for the touchdown. A successful two-point conversion cut the lead to 17-11.

The Bills then uncorked a classic vintage of clock killing, with a 14-play, 59-yard drive that ate up six minutes of clock in the remaining fourth-quarter time. They forced Miami to use up every timeout, and finished with a field goal that stretched their lead to two scores, 20-11.

Miami, forced into desperation mode, needed big plays to make a comeback, and that’s exactly what the Bills were hoping for. Jordan Poyer perfectly timed a Tagovailoa pass and picked it off, running it back all the way to the Miami 11. The Bills probably could’ve run out the clock with some vanilla playcalling, but put a cherry on top of the win when Allen took a naked bootleg and ran it into the end zone for his third touchdown of the day. The Bills tried a two-point conversion for #analytics, but the snap wasn’t handled cleanly and Buffalo had to settle for the 26-11 lead. Miami took possession, but were forced to let the clock run out.

The Bills have righted the ship after a disappointing loss to the Tennessee Titans before the bye, and at 5-2, they’re back into the right area of the AFC seeding. They’ll hope to build up a new winning streak starting next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Injury report

  • Halfway through the third quarter, Cole Beasley needed help from the training staff after being tackled. He might’ve just been winded, since that was his fifth consecutive catch on that drive. He came back in and played out the rest of the game.
  • A few plays later, Zack Moss seemed shaken up after a run, and was favoring his right arm as he jogged off the field. He was out for about a quarter, but returned to the game in the fourth quarter.
  • Jon Feliciano suffered some sort of lower body injury at the end of the game. It wasn’t clear what it was, but it held him out of the final few plays.

Quick hits

  • It took 95 plays and 82 minutes for the Dolphins to score points against the Bills, dating back to last season’s win in week 17. Buffalo shut out Miami in their first meeting this season, and held a shutout until midway through the second quarter today.
  • Another streak ended: Buffalo’s NFL record streak of 15 games with the lead at halftime came to a close when they were tied 3-3. Time to look up the NFL record for “not losing” at halftime.
  • And one more streak that came to a close—after 128 offensive plays, the Dolphins finally scored a touchdown against the Bills, their first since last year.
  • Buffalo’s special teams: When it’s good, it’s real good. And when it’s bad, it’s real bad. Congrats to Tyler Bass for hitting a 57-yard field goal, and no kudos for Matt Haack (19-yard shanked punt) or Isaiah McKenzie (muffed a punt near the end zone, thankfully recovered as a touchback).
  • You think the Bills are going to second-guess their decision to move three players (Boettger, Feliciano, and Williams) to replace one player (Spencer Brown) on the offensive line today?
  • The Bills missed a golden opportunity for an onside kick, after taking the 10-3 lead. Miami was called for a 15-yard penalty, which set the Bills kicking unit at midfield. They could’ve tried a short kick with very little risk of field position. Instead, they opted for a pop fly near the end zone.
  • Great day for Cole Beasley, who went over 110 receiving yards for the sixth time in his career. He also tallied up ten catches for only the fourth time. Allen targeted him five times for four catches on the team’s first touchdown drive, using him to build some rhythm into the offense.
  • Great work by Tre’Davious White, who was a shutdown corner practically the entire day. He broke up two passes.
  • Ed Oliver also had an outstanding game on defense, with a TFL and multiple QB pressures.
  • Josh Allen must have been listening to the statheads this week, because he made sure to score his 28th career rushing touchdown with only a minute left in the game. That ties him with Cam Newton for the most in a QB’s first 50 games.
  • The Bills trailed dramatically in time of possession at halftime, but managed to retake the lead by the end of the game.
  • Another great day for Buffalo’s safety duo. Both players had turnovers—Micah Hyde a fumble recovery, and Jordan Poyer an interception.

Next week

The Bills will head to Florida to face the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars, presently 1-5, started battling the Seattle Seahawks at 4:05 p.m. EDT this afternoon.