The Buffalo Bills played a miserable first half against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and while the second half didn’t start much better, the Bills eventually imposed their will on the spiraling Dolphins. Buffalo played well on defense throughout the afternoon, and their offense did just enough in the second half to pull out an ugly 26-11 victory.
While it might not have been a game for the ages, a win is a win, no matter how ugly it may be. Ultimately, Buffalo won the game because they are significantly more talented than the Dolphins. Against a better opponent, the Bills can’t afford to sleepwalk through 40 minutes of football and still come out with a 15-point win.
As for our players to watch, the list had some hits and some misses. Here’s how our five-plus players to watch fared last weekend.
QB Josh Allen
In the first half, Allen was consumed with frustration. He seemed mad that he wasn’t being protected, mad that he was unable to establish any rhythm, and mad at the officials (especially when he appeared to cause the Dolphins’ interior line to jump offsides late in the second quarter only for there to be no penalty called other than intentional grounding on Allen). After the intermission, though, Allen put it all together and did what we expected him to do against a team that he has dominated in his career. For the first half, Allen completed 10-of-17 passes for 80 yards. Twenty of those yards came on one pass, a completion to Cole Beasley, so Allen had a rough half overall. In the second half, though, Allen completed 19-of-25 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He threw an easy score to Gabriel Davis in the third quarter, following it up with a dart to Stefon Diggs on Buffalo’s next drive. He finished the game off with a seven-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Allen definitely straddles the borderline of confidence and arrogance, and some of that arrogance manifests as frustration when things don’t go his way. This isn’t a knock—some of the best players in any sport are their own biggest fans—and you need a certain amount of swagger to compete at the professional level. Allen has been very good at controlling the more negative aspects of that confidence as his career has boomed over the last two seasons. While he almost came unraveled towards the end of the first half on Sunday, he instead channeled that frustration into a fantastic second-half performance.
WR Stefon Diggs
At halftime, Diggs had caught two passes for 11 yards. He was targeted four times. When my dad asked me where Diggs was in the first half, I responded, “On a milk carton.” The Bills couldn’t do anything on offense, and that included finding their All-Pro wide receiver. In the second half, Buffalo did a much better job handling Miami’s blitz packages, which caused them to stop running them as often. That gave Allen time to work, and he found his wideouts with much more frequency. It was Cole Beasley who dominated the day, as he caught ten passes for 110 yards on the afternoon, but Diggs turned in a more-than-respectable performance. He caught five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown for the afternoon.
[Insert RG Here]
I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Buffalo has a problem up front. The interior offensive line has been bullied all year, and neither Dion Dawkins nor Daryl Williams has been as good as they were last season. With Spencer Brown out, Buffalo reshuffled its line entirely, kicking Williams back to right tackle, moving Jon Feliciano from left guard to right guard, and inserting Ike Boettger in the starting lineup at left guard. The results were not good. Feliciano strained his calf late in the game, so Cody Ford played the final four snaps on offense. With Feliciano termed “week-to-week” by head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills have a prime opportunity to scour the trade market to upgrade the weakest spot on the team. Buffalo has already lost two games this year where the interior offensive line was dominated from start to finish. They need to improve here in order to solidify their Super Bowl chances.
DE Greg Rousseau
It’s always a plus when a general manager hits on their first-round draft choices, and through the first (almost) half of his rookie season, Groot appears to be a hit for general manager Brandon Beane. Along with 2019 first-round pick Ed Oliver, who had a phenomenal game on Sunday, Buffalo has been able to hit on some early defensive linemen in revamping its defensive line. Rousseau made two tackles and had two hits on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday, but his most impactful play may have been one where he didn’t hit the quarterback. Groot had his helmet ripped off by Miami right tackle Jesse Davis on a fourth-down play where Tagovailoa connected with tight end Mike Gesicki for a 40-yard gain. Had the officials called the obvious penalty, the play wouldn’t have counted. Rousseau has been a problem for opposing offensive lines all year, and Sunday was no exception.
S Micah Hyde
Buffalo’s veteran safety, one-half of the league’s best safety combo, came up with one of the weirdest turnovers I’ve ever seen. Late in the first half, with the Dolphins deep in Buffalo territory, Miami couldn’t seem to line up properly. After some wild gesticulating and a late shift, Mike Gesicki came in motion, but the center snapped the ball too early. The ball bounced off of Gesicki, through some traffic, and into the waiting hands of Hyde, who looked like he was trying to score before he was shoved out of bounds. Aside from the fortuitous turnover, Hyde had a great day in both pass coverage and run support. He made just four tackles on the day, but as evidenced by the fumble recovery, he continued to be in the right place at the right time, allowing Buffalo’s defense to function at maximum efficiency throughout the afternoon.