The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins fought hard on Sunday. Anyone familiar with the rivalry between these two teams shouldn’t have been surprised, as the two games between them in the regular season were decided by two points (a 21-19 Miami victory in September) and three points (a 32-29 Buffalo victory in December). Surprisingly, perhaps, the Dolphins nearly squeaked out a victory despite the absence of starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, among others.
Miami was opportunistic on defense — and they capitalized on a big special teams play, as well — on their way to a near-upset of the Bills in Orchard Park, NY. However, the road team ultimately fell short, losing 34-31 in a tight-fought game befitting of a third matchup between divisional foes.
The scoreboard tells the story of a much closer game than the box score would have suggested. Points are ultimately what matters, and even though Buffalo had the edge in the stats, they very nearly lost the game in spite of that. Here’s how our five Dolphins to watch fared this week.
RB Jeff Wilson, Jr.
Buffalo was able to stymie Miami’s offense for much of the afternoon. The Dolphins averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per play. Their quarterback, Skylar Thompson, completed just 45% of his passes. They averaged only 2.1 yards per rush. Wilson led Miami in carries and rushing yards, toting the rock 10 times for 23 yards and a one-yard touchdown plunge that brought the Dolphins to within three points in the fourth quarter. Wilson also saw four targets in the passing game, catching one pass for a 13-yard gain.
WR Tyreek Hill
Miami’s top playmaker was held in check for most of the afternoon, and the Bills did it by unleashing rookie Kaiir Elam on the perennial thorn in their side. Hill saw a game-high 15 targets, making seven catches for 69 yards. He had two rushes for five yards, as well. Hill had some chances to break bigger gains on bubble screens, but he stumbled on one and was forced out of bounds on another. He only had two catches for 25 yards in the second half, which was when Elam was on him, for the most part. Neither of those second-half receptions came with Elam in coverage.
WR Jaylen Waddle
It was not a good day for Miami’s dynamic young wideout, as the Bills contained him through continued physical play. Waddle contributed some help to Buffalo’s corners, as well, by uncharacteristically dropping multiple passes on the day. On one play, Waddle beat Tre’Davious White cleanly off the line, but White was able to recover and knock the ball away after Skylar Thompson dropped it in the bucket up the right sideline. Waddle was held without a catch in the first half, and it was White who stayed with him for much of the afternoon. He finished with one rush for eight yards, and three receptions for 44 yards on seven targets.
DT Christian Wilkins
Wilkins had four tackles, two quarterback hits, and one sack on the day. The sack was the first time he’s sacked quarterback Josh Allen in the nine games they’ve played against each other. That’s not what anyone wants to discuss, though. Wilkins and Allen tussled again, this time after the quarterback threw the first of two second-quarter interceptions. While Xavien Howard returned the pick, Wilkins shoved Allen, and then acted like he was shielding or boxing him out from that point onward. Allen took exception, shoving Wilkins (and falling in the process) before the two started to go after each other. Center Mitch Morse had enough, and he jumped in to defend Allen. It was on from there, as Wilkins and Morse were hit with offsetting penalties. It’s a bit surprising that offensive tackle Spencer Brown, who dove onto Wilkins’ head after Morse dragged him to the ground, wasn’t penalized as well. Ultimately, Wilkins is a punk who specializes in worming his way into opponents’ heads. Allen would be wise to ignore the fly buzzing around, especially as the scoreboard continues to tilt in his favor.
CB Kader Kohou
It was the best of times and the worst of times for the rookie corner, who had two tackles and two pass breakups on the day. Buffalo didn’t shy away from throwing it at him, and while he was able to make a couple of plays (and stay sticky in coverage at times), there were a couple of high-profile plays where he was the player who Buffalo beat. One plus-play on his ledger was Allen’s second interception, as Kohou hit wideout Cole Beasley just as the ball arrived — or even a tad early — which led to it popping in the air for safety Jevon Holland to catch. Kohou was also the man on Beasley when Allen hit him for a six-yard touchdown pass on a beautifully designed bubble screen. Kohou was on Beasley again later, and the veteran smoked the rookie on a little hesitation route to convert a huge third down in the fourth quarter. That one came one play before Allen hit Gabe Davis for a 23-yard touchdown to put Buffalo up by 10 points. Unfortunately, the Pro Football Reference advanced numbers that show Kohou’s coverage stats won’t come out until after this publishes, but given that he stays inside, we can assume that he was responsible for Beasley and Khalil Shakir more often than not. Those two were targeted 10 times, and they combined for five catches, 86 yards, and a touchdown.