The Buffalo Bills didn’t have a clean game against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday. The team’s stars — Josh Allen, Stephon Diggs, Matt Milano — were able to shrug off a multitude of mistakes that could have led to one of the biggest NFL playoff upsets of all time.
Thankfully, we don’t have to talk about something as brutal as that. But the Bills were lucky on Sunday, and sometimes when you’re good, you get lucky.
Allen is a gunslinger, and interceptions will happen due to the nature of his playing style. He knows he can’t throw two interceptions against the Cincinnati Bengals and expect to win.
What concerned me more was the fact that the Bills put the ball on the turf four times. They got “lucky” by only losing one, which did go for a touchdown for the Dolphins. How they only lost one of their fumbles is where the luck comes in. Buffalo is playing with fire. These self-inflicted wounds create blown leads and lost games — something that could end what fans hope to be a Super Bowl season.
This week on Mr. B’s Breakdown, we’re taking a look at all four of those fumbles. In a game of inches, how close were the Bills to losing the ball? Did Miami do something different in the way they attacked the ballcarrier? Let’s dive in.
Josh Allen’s first-quarter fumble
Allen lost this ball on a 3rd & 5 as he scrambled attempting to pick up the first down. Allen pump-faked past the line of scrimmage trying to slow up the defense, but got caught from behind and lost his grip on the ball. The play resulted in a gain of two, forcing a short fourth-down try, which yielded a turnover on downs as the pass to Cole Beasley was incomplete.
Allen should have tucked this ball and powered his way for the first down. Given where they were on the field, they could have expected at least a field goal attempt. These empty possessions will be costly against the high-powered Bengals, when points will be valuable.
Josh Allen gets strip-sacked, gifts Dolphins’ TD
DOLPHINS STRIP SACK JOSH ALLEN FOR THE LEAD— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 15, 2023
With a chance to build on their lead after receiving the second-half kickoff, Allen didn’t see the blitz until Dolphins safety Eric Rowe was in his face. The scoop and score by Miami’s defense gave them their first lead of the game. Cincinnati doesn’t need help scoring points, so giving them bonus points off turnovers in their Divisional Round matchup would be a recipe for losing this heavyweight bout.
Josh Allen gets strip-sacked in fourth quarter
Nursing a three-point lead with five minutes left in the game, the Bills’ offense faced 3rd & 11 from midfield. Dion Dawkins was beaten off the edge, and Bradley Chubb was able to hit Allen’s throwing arm. Luckily, the ball bounced right to Spencer Brown, who fell on top of it. This could have cost Buffalo the game had the ball bounced Miami’s way. Joe Burrow is not a seventh-round rookie quarterback who struggles to move the ball like the Bills faced with Miami’s Skylar Thompson. He will capitalize on extra possessions. If Buffalo doesn’t fix this pass protection against the Bengals, Allen could have a long afternoon.
Nyheim Hines’ muffed punt return
Following up his two-touchdown performance, Hines muffed this third-quarter punt from the Dolphins. His fundamentals weren’t right on the catch attempt. The way he lowered himself to the ground and used his chest to try and catch the ball caused it to bounce off his pads. Again, the Bills got lucky, as Tyrel Dodson tracked it down and fell on top of it. Had the ball bounced the other way, the field would have flipped for the Dolphins. This is sloppy football, and I am sure Hines heard about it during coaching sessions this week. If we see another mishap early on against the Bengals, Hines may find himself benched for another, more reliable returner. We’ve seen head coach Sean McDermott use Micah Hyde in this role before.
Buffalo blew a 17-0 lead because of turnovers against the Dolphins, and yet still found a way to win. It’s been a theme this season. Buffalo has eight games with a negative turnover differential this season, but still have won five of them. When specifically looking at Allen, he has committed turnovers in 14 games this season — but again, the Bills have won 11 of those contests.
The Bills have built a team with a margin for error that not many teams in the NFL have, while still finding success. When the defense is able to consistently play at an elite level, they back up their gunslinger quarterback.
With the Bengals coming to town, what worries me is this defense could get worn out if the Buffalo’s offense gives Cincinnati extra possessions. The Bengals’ multidimensional offense, given extra chances, can bring down the best defenses in the league. The Bills’ offense needs to take care of the ball and not allow Cincinnati to dominate time of possession.
Buffalo, on the other hand, will be looking to create turnovers and capitalize on some Bengals starters being out with injury. They ruled out left tackle Jonah Williams and right guard Alex Cappa for the game, meaning a patchwork offensive line will be tasked with keeping Burrow upright. If Buffalo can get to Burrow, get a strip sack, or cause pressure that leads to an interception, it will change the game for the Bills.
I’m predicting a wild game, where turnovers on both sides will inflate the score. I think being at home will give the Bills the edge, winning on a game-winning drive, 31-28. The “13 seconds” game from Kansas City last year has me scared, but I expect this game will finish in dramatic fashion again — this time, in Buffalo’s favor.
What do you think will happen in this AFC divisional-round battle? Will Buffalo move on to their second AFC championship game in three years? Or will the Bengals win and make it in back-to-back years?