It was a nerve-wracking start to the Week 18 contest for Buffalo Bills fans looking for victory over the Miami Dolphins. Most of the middle was pretty nerve-wracking too if we’re being candid. A Deonte Harty punt returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter tied things up and a Dawson Knox touchdown six-and-a-half game minutes later gave Buffalo the lead for the win. Buffalo’s two late scores were enough to secure the victory in large part thanks to a stifling defense that held one of the league’s most prolific offenses to 14 points total, and none in the second half. Let’s check out some highlights and break down a few of the finer points as I make up another word: Celebration-alysis!
Christian Benford’s interception
In a game of this magnitude, how you start can set a tone. Miami started with the ball and brought it to near midfield. A tackle for a loss by defensive tackle DaQuan Jones two plays before this one set Miami back on a first down. After a modest gain on second, the Dolphins went for a kill shot. A coverage swap via the Bills’ zone defense led to cornerback Christian Benford being in perfect position to undercut the pass just as it arrived for the pick.
Great Dane Jackson play
While the Dolphins scored on two of their four possessions in the first half, Buffalo’s defense clamped down immediately in the second. On their first possession after the break, Miami set themselves up with a reasonable third down. A quick pass to wide receiver Braxton Berrios put the ball at what looked like the first down marker. Berrios gained possession just shy. Cornerback Dane Jackson was waiting in the wings and hit Berrios before he could turn and try to reach the line to gain.
Micah Hyde’s punch
Since we’re in celebration mode, no need for excessive chatter here. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was likely going to make this catch for a first down but Micah Hyde took a swing and knocked it away.
Taylor Rapp’s interception
You’ve seen the broadcast angle, and I’m guessing by now the sideline angle courtesy of social media. Here’s the end zone angle, and I’ll tell you why. At the pause you can see that Taylor Rapp, who came from behind wide receiver Chase Claypool, had cut in front of him. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s pass was in front. Claypool had a shot but would have needed to extend forward, where Rapp was currently existing. This angle best shows the pass being ahead of Claypool and possibly incomplete on its own. That would have been a good result. Rapp’s head’s up play was a heroic result.
The Final Straw
The defense was preposterously good, so here’s a few stats to mull about. The Dolphins scored at the third-highest rate during the regular season with 43.5% of drives ending in a score. Buffalo kept them to 2-of-9, or 22%. Further, we’re not discounting the two scoring drives, which had 11 and 9 plays.
But, aside from those two opportunities, the Dolphins only had one drive longer than five plays and/or two minutes and 17 seconds. In the second half none of their drives were longer than four plays. Their longest — if we’re counting by the clock — was two minutes and 14 seconds. The Buffalo Bills held the ball for over 38 minutes, which is just insane. It was in large part due to a defense that allowed practically nothing.