The Buffalo Bills proved once again why they belong in the playoffs year after year under head coach Sean McDermott. Saturday’s victory over the Miami Dolphins at home in the snow allowed the Bills to clinch a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive season, and brought their record to 11-3. Buffalo still retains the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture, and now hold a three-game lead over the rest of the division.
After failing to find an offensive rhythm for at least the first five drives last week against the New York Jets, the Bills flipped a switch and took advantage of a leaky Dolphins defense. Allen threw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone. This game was neck-and-neck for the majority of the evening, but ESPN Analytics favored Buffalo for all but a chunk of the third quarter, where they went scoreless and allowed Miami to score 16 unanswered points.
After being favored heavily from start to finish in back-to-back weeks in terms of win probability metrics via ESPN Analytics, the Bills had their hands full with slowing down the Dolphins’ offensive playmakers. Once the snow started falling late in the fourth quarter, the flip on the Bills’ sideline switched, and it was apparent they were truly “playing in their element.”
Let’s take a look at some key moments from Saturday’s highly-contested divisional matchup, and why the Bills were able to walk away with the win and a playoff berth.
1st quarter, 1:05 remaining — BUF with a 70.4% win probability: The Dolphins established their run game early during this drive, and they drove down the field with ease. Their drive stalled due to a big sack by defensive end Shaq Lawson, holding them to three points. Luckily, the Bills flipped the switch on offense and answered back with a touchdown in just four plays, with tight end Quintin Morris doing the scoring honors. It was Morris’ first career touchdown catch and the beginning of Josh Allen’s first-half dominance.
Halftime — BUF with an 87.5% win probability: The Bills orchestrated yet another impressive two-minute drill — combined with some Allen magic, of course. Allen did it again: as time expired in the first half, Allen scrambled to the right sideline and found running back James Cook for a touchdown. Buffalo took a 21-13 lead heading into halftime, with a chance to double-dip coming out of the half.
4th quarter, 11:56 remaining — MIA with a 77.3% win probability: The Dolphins made halftime adjustments that clearly mattered, and scored 13 unanswered points in the third quarter. Both of their playmakers found the end zone this quarter — wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle — and the Bills’ offense wasn’t looking good. A fumble by Allen a drive later resulted in three more points for Miami, and Buffalo found itself down 29-21 very quickly after leading 21-13 at halftime.
4th quarter, 9:02 remaining — MIA with a 51.7% win probability: Allen responded with a touchdown to tight end Dawson Knox. The drive went 75 yards in under three minutes. The Bills had to go for two points to try and tie it, and let me just say, I’m thankful that Josh Allen is a literal moose. Not many quarterbacks could have gotten a two-point conversion by leaping and extending over the goal line with an entire defense on top of them.
4th quarter, :02 remaining — BUF with a 98.1% win probability: After multiple huge defensive stops, the Bills iced the game. The snow started coming down in full force at this point, and Allen and the offense started with the ball on their own 14-yard line. The offense orchestrated a beautiful 15-play, 86-yard drive that lasted the remainder of the clock. Allen was on point this drive, and it was evident why Bills fans love him so much, with him playing like the same dominant quarterback in a blizzard. Shout out to the offensive line for brushing away the snow where kicker Tyler Bass lined up to kick the game-winning field goal.
As stressful as this contest was, the Bills proved they can win big games. A win is a win, and it’s even sweeter when it’s a division rival and it clinches a playoff berth. On to the Chicago Bears next week to win the division!