Nothing was really going on in the Miami Dolphins season finale versus the division rival and AFC East champion the Buffalo Bills. That is, except a beating.
Dolphins lost 26-56 and missed out on making the playoffs thanks to themselves and the lack of help from the other NFL teams that needed to beat the Browns, Ravens, and Colts.
In regards to their game in Buffalo, the Dolphins lost in all three phases of the game: offense, defense, special teams… you name it. And aside from some short flashes of sputtering offense, there really wasn’t much to talk about besides the complete and utter collapse of a young Dolphins team that was competing for a playoff spot. So I decided to make a list of all the disappointing and disastrous Miami Dolphins moments that I could think of during this no-show.
1st Half – Dolphins failed on special teams and allowed a long return by Bills Isaiah McKenzie for a touchdown. There was a possible holding penalty near centerfield in which a Dolphins player was being wrapped and turned by a Bills blocker, but that was never called or mentioned. Referees missed that, but whatever.
Dolphins allowed Bills to go downfield with about 4 minutes left to play in the 1st half. Josh Allen had chunk plays to receivers Stephon Diggs and John Brown. Brown burned Byron Jones on a deep-fly pattern for a touchdown to basically end the 1st half. Brown is fast, but this is very disappointing considering that this happened to a shutdown corner in Jones.
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3rd QTR – Dolphins go down the field on the opening drive. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took off running in the red zone on a QB-draw but slides instead of running headfirst for maximum gain. The slide caused Dolphins to be near the 5 yard-line, instead of the possible 2. This was a questionable decision considering he is the unquestioned leader of this offense and knows how much is on the line for this team. Dolphins were behind at this point, and the team needed a spark; that slide did not provide it. In a nutshell, it shows the rookie is still playing with a conservative mindset instead of an aggressive one. If Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing in this game, you can bet that he would go headfirst.
Tua also slid on a 1st and 10 at the bottom of the 3rd QTR. Being down 35-13, Tua takes off left, being chased by a linebacker from behind, there is a safety ahead. Still, the safety is playing cautious and defending more for containment than coming in for a hit. Tua ends up sliding for a gain of 3 instead of a potential gain of 7 or 8 yards. Again, conservative mindset.
The Bills started the 2nd half with Matt Barkley and a feature of backups. That should’ve worked in the Dolphins’ favor to climb back into this game, but it didn’t. The Bills didn’t look too far off from their normal selves for the remainder of the game.
After scoring a touchdown on their 2nd-half opening drive, the Dolphins’ 2nd drive had far more devastating results. Tua threw a slant to Parker, but Parker fell on the route. The ball was then intercepted by Bills cornerback Josh Norman and returned for a touchdown.
The Dolphins’ 3rd down conversion problems continued in this game, just like they had for most of the season. Miami was 0 for 8 midway through 3rd QTR. On a 3rd and 1, a short pass over the middle was almost intercepted by a Bills linebacker. Later on, another attempt ended when receiver Isaiah Ford appeared to drop a pass on a 3rd and 9. In Ford’s defense, the ball was tipped right before he could haul it in. The Dolphins’ 3rd QTR conversion problems were finally capped off with a Tua Tagovailoa interception when he overthrew intended receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. on a 5-yard slant.
Down 35-13, in the bottom half of the 3rd QTR, Dolphins safety Eric Rowe missed a possible interception on a Bills 2nd and 9. Rowe followed a receiver on an out-and-up down the sideline while maintaining excellent coverage and was in prime position to intercept a floater of a pass from Barkley. However, Rowe looked back but failed to locate the ball before the receiver did. Rowe’s momentum carried him out of position, and the ball ended up being caught. This play was definitely a missed chance for a turnover that the Dolphins badly needed.
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Beginning of the 4th QTR— the Bills had the ball on a 1st and 10 just inside the red zone. Knowing that the Bills want to run out the clock and end this game, the Dolphins decided to play a single-safety high with a linebacker behind the defensive line with the other linebackers at the line protecting the edges. In other words, the Dolphins left the middle of their defense alone with one defender. That turned out to be a mistake. Bills ran up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown.
Just after that, on 1st and 10, Tua took a deep shot that was highly off-target and landed right into a Bills safety’s breadbasket. The Bills got the ball on a short field and eventually scored. 49-13 Bills.
Midway through the 4th QTR, the Dolphins had a decent drive. On a 1st and 10, Tua dropped back and fired to a wide-open Isaiah Ford over the middle for a possible 17-yard pickup. Ford dropped the pass.
4th QTR, roughly 6:30 left to play, Dolphins were just across midfield, Tua threw to Mack Hollins on a slant. Hollins made the catch, took two steps, and fumbled. (I wasn’t surprised, Hollins hands have been questionable since Day 1. And he’s had memorable drops in the Chiefs and Raiders game.) Bills recovered the football. They scored on the very next play on a deep shot to some guy named Gabriel Davis. Bills lead 56-19.
The Dolphins eventually got a score in before this game ended, but that was during garbage time.
Actually, the whole game was garbage time.
See you on the field in 2021, Dolphins. Hopefully, next season’s end will be better than this.