The Miami Dolphins had a chance to take a commanding early season lead in the AFC East. Had they beaten the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, they would have started 2-0 with a 2-0 divisional record. Miami had a golden opportunity to put the league on notice that the AFC East would not be Buffalo’s division to dominate.
It only took seven minutes of game time for the Bills to dash those hopes.
A three-and-out, a 46-yard touchdown run for Buffalo, a failed fourth-down conversion, an injury to the starting quarterback, and a passing touchdown for Buffalo put the Bills up 14-0 before fans had a chance to settle into their seats. While Miami’s defense held for the rest of the first half, Buffalo ran away and won a laugher, 35-0.
The Bills were able to contain Miami’s key players all afternoon. Here’s how our Dolphins to watch performed on Sunday.
QB Tua Tagovailoa
The second-year man exited early thanks to a rib injury suffered on Miami’s second series. After the right tackle failed to do much more than breathe on second-year defensive end A.J. Epenesa, Tagovailoa tried to hold on to make a good throw with pressure in his face in order to convert a fourth down. Instead, he threw an incomplete pass, and Epenesa absolutely rocked him. Head coach Brian Flores did not reveal the extent of Tagovailoa’s rib injury, but he needed to be carted to the locker room. Tagovailoa dropped back to pass six times. He was sacked twice and hit two more times, completing one of four passes for 13 yards. Sure, this was just Tagovailoa’s 11th career start, but the problems he has with blitz identification and releasing the ball on time don’t seem to be improving—not against Buffalo, anyway.
WR Will Fuller V
The free-agent acquisition was declared out on Friday after we published. He missed the game due to a personal matter, but he has since rejoined the club.
TE Mike Gesicki
At 6’6” and 250 lbs, Gesicki is the kind of big, athletic target that usually gives Buffalo fits. On a day where nothing went right for Miami, Gesicki was able to make his first receptions of the 2021 season. He was targeted six times, hauling in three passes for 41 yards. That line might not be much to celebrate, but his 41 yards gained represents nearly a quarter of Miami’s 216 total net yards on what was a miserable offensive afternoon. The Bills’ defense came to play.
DT Christian Wilkins
The big defensive tackle notched four total tackles on the afternoon, but he didn’t make any tackles in Buffalo’s offensive backfield, which is a win for an embattled interior offensive line in Buffalo. Wilkins did deflect a pass at the line of scrimmage. Overall, the Bills were able to find some room on the ground, although it wasn’t a terribly efficient afternoon. Buffalo gained 143 yards on 30 carries, but if you remove Devin Singletary’s 46-yard touchdown and Mitchell Trubisky’s victory-formation kneel-downs, Buffalo carried it 27 times for 99 yards. Buffalo had some trouble finding room in a few short-yardage situations, although not all of them, as Zack Moss was able to find paydirt for his first two touchdowns of the season, and fullback Reggie Gilliam was able to convert a first down on one of his two carries.
CB Xavien Howard
In the immortal words of color analyst Matt Millen, “This guy is just a good football player.” Fortunately, we were playing Bills bingo and not a drinking game where we asked you to imbibe every time Millen said that because, if that were the game, we’d have been absolutely hammered by the second quarter. In any case, Howard really is a darn good football player, and he made life miserable for Josh Allen and company all afternoon. He was in Stefon Diggs’s shirt more often than not, and he came down with an interception when Allen threw a bit behind Diggs over the middle in the second quarter. Diggs did go up and beat Howard on a 41-yard completion in the fourth quarter on a gorgeous catch and throw, so even good football players can be beaten time and again. Howard finished his day with two tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception.