The Buffalo Bills beat the Miami Dolphins in essentially every statistical category except for the one that matters most on Sunday, as the Bills took a 21-19 loss in spite of a box score that would have suggested otherwise. The loss was another frustrating example of enough crazy things going against the Bills to make life extremely difficult, and an opponent playing just well enough to eke out a win.
Buffalo lost four players to injury and at least five to heat illness throughout the contest, and that’s in addition to the players they already had out for the game. Even with all of the adversity, Buffalo still had the ball and a chance to win on their last drive. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be in South Beach.
How did our players to watch fare this week? It was a pretty good day overall, just one that didn’t end the way we all wanted it to end.
QB Josh Allen
Here’s how good Allen is: At halftime, I asked my dad if he thought Allen was playing particularly well. He said no, it didn’t seem like he was as sharp as he could be. Allen was 24-of-31 for 219 yards and two touchdowns at halftime. The guy is so good that people can watch him play as well as or better than people play over entire games in just one half of football, and it feels like he hasn’t quite hit his stride. Allen is a mutant capable of shedding tackles from 300-pound men, outrunning 200-pound corners, and hurdling 250-pound linebackers.
He finished with a Bills record 63 passing attempts on the day, completing 42 of them for an even 400 yards. He added a game-high 47 rushing yards on eight carries. He made plenty of phenomenal throws and decisions, hitting 11 different receivers to spread the ball around to his skill players. Part of that was because his teammates kept exiting the game due to injuries and the excessive heat, but it also shows Allen’s ability and willingness to utilize all of his teammates.
Allen lost a fumble early in the game, which gifted Miami great field position that led to their first score, but I can’t blame the fumble on him. Dolphins linebacker Melvin Ingram occupied left tackle Dion Dawkins while cornerback Jevon Holland came in untouched on a third-and-long play that was immediately preceded by two Zack Moss one-yard gains. Allen was lucky not to be intercepted on a few throws, as he had at least three passes glance off the hands of Miami defenders. He missed an open Isaiah McKenzie for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown on fourth and goal in the fourth quarter, ending the drive that came immediately before the Butt Punt. On that throw to McKenzie, I just think Allen was so tired that his legs didn’t complete his throwing mechanics, and he skipped a rock in to Lil’ Dirty rather than threading the needle to set Buffalo up for a possible win. Allen was goaded into a personal foul penalty by defensive end Christian Wilkins. Wilkins has a habit of goosing grown men at the bottom of a pile and it didn’t sit well with Allen, who decided to remove the defensive tackle’s helmet in retaliation. The second man is always caught, and while Wilkins’s member-grab went unnoticed, Allen’s head-shot led to a second and long.
In all, Allen played about as well as he could given that he was meeting some of his offensive linemen for the first time. That inability to finish drives, though, should eat at him over the days to come.
WR Stefon Diggs
Well, I said it would take a “Herculean effort” to stop Diggs, but it turns out that all it took to stop him was excessive heat, cramps, and the early stages of possible heat stroke. Through it all, Diggs persevered, although he had to remove himself from the game more than once in order to hydrate and regain his breath. Diggs caught seven passes for 74 yards on 11 targets. For any mere mortal, that’s a great day at the office. For a guy who came in averaging ten catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns per game through two weeks, it was a step back. That’s less a dig on Stef than it is an indication of just how good he and this Buffalo offense is most days. Diggs played just 70% of the snaps, well below his usual number, due to the heat. It’s hard not to wonder how the game would have turned out if he had been able to appear for his normal workload.
DE Greg Rousseau
This man is a menace. Rousseau is putting up elite numbers in the early stages of the 2022 season, and he was great again on Sunday. He totaled three tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing 63% of the team’s snaps. Rousseau is benefiting greatly from the addition of Von Miller, as the single-team blocks combined with his great athleticism are allowing Rousseau to do what he does best, which is set the edge and hit the quarterback. At just 22 years old, it seems that general manager Brandon Beane hit on his 2021 first-round draft choice.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Buffalo held up quite well on defense considering the number of players they were missing, and Edmunds was a big part of the reason why. He was second on the team in tackles with five, and he was in good position more often than not as the game progressed. In the early going, Edmunds and Buffalo’s defense as a whole looked to be fooled by Miami’s play-action calls, which left some openings for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to hit. Edmunds was characteristically strong in zone coverage, and Miami ran for just 41 yards on 17 carries. He doesn’t make the splash plays like Matt Milano does, but he allows the rest of the defense to do so much.
To address my bullet points from last week:
- How will Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford hold up against a deadly one-two punch in Hill and Waddle?
They’ll hold up very well for the most part, especially Elam. The man drafted to counter wide receiver Tyreek Hill made his first career start. More often than not, he was matched up on the speedster, and he held Hill in check. Buffalo’s nemesis had just two catches for 33 yards.
- Can Jordan Poyer play?
Nope, and it hurt. On a 3rd & 22, Buffalo’s young safeties, Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin, were exposed thanks to a questionably conservative play call from defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier. Wide receiver Jaylon Waddle shook Hamlin, and since Tyreek Hill had run a wheel route on the opposite side of the field to draw Johnson, the middle was wide open. Tagovailoa threw a dime to a wide-open Waddle to set Miami up with what was the game-winning touchdown.
- If no, how will his likely replacement in Jaquan Johnson fare?
Like Hard Rock Stadium’s questionable design, Johnson’s outing was the best of times and the worst of times. We already noted the worst, as he was late helping Hamlin on what ended up being the biggest play of the game for Miami. Johnson was able to fly up around the line of scrimmage and deliver some hard hits, though, and he totaled five tackles on the game.
- Are we going to see Taron Johnson trying to shadow Hill again? That’s something I’d like to avoid, so I hope not.
It didn’t happen, as that assignment went to Elam. As we noted above, Elam acquitted himself fairly well.
- Do the Bills activate an extra defensive back just in case for depth purposes?
Not only did they activate undrafted rookie Ja’Marcus Ingram, but after rookie starter Christian Benford suffered a fractured hand, Ingram came in and played meaningful snaps at corner. He was the boundary corner in the Cover-2 shell on the deep ball to Waddle in the play mentioned above, and he was the corner passing Waddle off to the safety on Waddle’s side. Frankly, Ingram and the rest of Buffalo’s secondary played fairly well given all the injuries.