During the first quarter of a wintery Saturday night victory for the Buffalo Bills’ over the Miami Dolphins, running back Raheem Mostert ripped off a diabolical run down the right side of the field. He was pulled down to the turf after gaining 67 yards with two defenders hanging on for dear life.
Yellow laundry came flying into view, with the penalty going to defensive back Taron Johnson for a horsecollar tackle. Bad news, right? Insult to injury at a minimum. It was a bad look on a poor defensive play. It only cost the defense four yards as a half-the-distance-to-the-goal penalty, but it set Miami up in perfect position to score from inside the five-yard line.
Still, key to that moment was stopping Mostert short of the end zone. It gave the defense a chance to atone for the mistake. The Dolphins obliged them that opportunity, despite having a new set of downs at Buffalo’s four-yard line. The Bills held Miami to just one yard gained over the next three plays. One yard — after giving up 67 and a bonus four on a penalty only moments earlier.
The defensive stand brought out the Dolphins’ field-goal unit, which converted its second three-point try of the game.
The failed effort on Mostert’s run and poor tackle form cost Buffalo three points, but it also saved them four. Mostert was assuredly going to score if Johnson didn’t stop him. But stop him he did, in what looked like a last-ditch effort to save points.
Those four points were huge at game’s end. While questionable playcalling near the endzone by head coach Mike McDaniel potentially cost his team more points — and opting to kick a field goal in place of a try on 4th & Goal from the four seemed curious given the run game’s success — it was Mostert’s inability to score that completely flipped Miami’s ability to win, or simply force overtime in the end.
Instead of the Bills needing to score a touchdown — behind 33-29 in the scenario where Mostert scores — Buffalo was able to milk clock while methodically moving downfield in a tie game. Game over.
So while Johnson’s tackle was a poor penalty following a terrible defensive lapse, it’s a huge reason why the Bills are winners of five straight and headed for the postseason four seasons in a row.