After Week 12, the Miami Dolphins were riding high — they were 8-3, they held the tiebreaker over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, and all seemed well in Miami Gardens. Since that point, though, the Bills and the Dolphins have gone in opposite directions. Miami has lost three straight games, all on the road, while the Bills haven’t lost since dropping a wild 33-30 contest against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10.
Miami’s big-time players all came through with big-time performances on Saturday night. The only problem for them was that Buffalo’s Josh Allen had a bigger-time performance, and the Bills pulled out a 32-29 victory in the snow as a result of his heroics. Our five Dolphins to watch all performed fairly well. Here’s the full recap.
QB Tua Tagovailoa
It wasn’t the most efficient outing for Tagovailoa, but it was certainly a good one. With all the consternation surrounding his performance in cold-weather games, Tagovailoa came out and completed 17-of-30 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. That wasn’t for lack of trying, though, as Buffalo cornerback Taron Johnson let an easy pick-six slip through his hands at one point, and rookie corner Kaiir Elam nearly wrestled one out of wideout Tyreek Hill’s hands on a wide receiver screen, as well. Tagovailoa did much of his damage after halftime, completing 9-of-14 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns after intermission. Come to think of it, though, those touchdowns went for 67 yards to Jaylen Waddle and 20 yards to Hill, so that means Tagovailoa was 7-of-12 for just 46 yards on his other passes. This Miami offense is a big-play machine, and limiting those goes a long way towards making the team struggle. Buffalo was unable to do that, allowing Tagovailoa to throw to the middle of the field — where he thrives — constantly.
RB Raheem Mostert
Mostert carried eight times for 11 yards in the first meeting between these teams. On Saturday, he carried eight times for 101 yards — in the first quarter. Buffalo’s run defense was horrendous and the tackling was abysmal for much of the first half, and it wan’t much better in the second half. Mostert rushed 17 times for 136 yards overall, and his one reception went for 20 yards. I can’t think of a good reason why he didn’t see many touches after that first quarter, but I can say that it was very helpful for Buffalo that head coach Mike McDaniel decided to go away from what was working more often than not. For all the complaining I’ve seen on social media about officiating decisions, it’s really the Dolphins’ mind-boggling decision to throw on so many 3rd & Short plays when they were running at will that cost them the game.
OT Terron Armstead
The big left tackle is dealing with a plethora of injuries, but he played really well on Saturday night. As we’ve already discussed, the run game was clicking all night. The Dolphins rushed 25 times for 188 yards and a touchdown on the day, and Tagovailoa had plenty of time to throw for most of the game. He did take two sacks, but one was thanks to a perfectly-timed blitz right up the gut, and the other was thanks to great coverage by Buffalo’s secondary. Armstead played very well, primarily against defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Boogie Basham.
EDGE Bradley Chubb
Miami’s pass rush wasn’t much of a factor on Saturday night, as Buffalo’s makeshift offensive line did enough to keep Allen upright — and Allen’s own ridiculous mobility helped, as well. Chubb, in particular, wasn't much of a factor, totaling just two tackles and one quarterback hit. That hit came on Allen’s absurd touchdown pass to running back James Cook at the end of the first half, so it didn’t have much impact. Allen took six hits and two sacks in a game where he was without his starting center and right guard.
S Jevon Holland
Man, this guy is good. The Dolphins used him to spy Allen at points, and on one third-down play, he fired off and tackled the burly quarterback to force a punt. They also used him in deeper zones and man coverages. He’s just 22 and in the second year of his rookie deal, but he’s another guy from an opposing squad who would look really good in a Bills uniform at some point in his career. He’s also the guy who tight end Quintin Morris smoked on his way to catching the first touchdown of his professional career, so you can’t have it all. But man, in two games against Buffalo this year, Holland has been fantastic. He had just three tackles and a pass breakup on the day, but that line doesn’t do his performance the justice it deserves.