The Buffalo Bills did, in fact, win that football game, 34-31 over the Miami Dolphins, and will advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. It was not easy, pretty, or even remotely close to perfect. It was a lot of sloppy, unprepared, bad football from both sides. The Bills got off to a hot start and early lead before self-inflicted wounds reared their ugly head once again for this team. Turnovers and bad mistakes kept this game far closer than it should have been. A cursory glance at the box score reveals just as much, as the Bills almost doubled up the Dolphins in total yards on offense, but the Bills once again found a way to keep the Dolphins in the game. A win is a win, and an ugly win, especially in the playoffs, is far better than an ugly loss, but it is difficult to feel good after how that game played out.
Below we will take a look at players that inspired us, inquire about a position group, discuss an offense that left us with more questions than answers, and air our irks and grievances about this game as a whole.
Inspire – Tremaine Edmunds, Taron Johnson, and Kaiir Elam:
Taron Johnson was phenomenal all game. Making plays on the ball, playing the run, making tackles; he was everything, everywhere, seemingly all at once. Tremaine Edmunds played in a similar fashion, making big plays, covering well, and delivering a smattering hit in the second quarter. These are two players that the Bills ask a lot of in their defense; Edmunds is the captain and relays the calls to the defense, and Johnson acts as a third linebacker given just how much the Bills play nickel defense, and plays the role extremely well. Both of these players deserve immense praise today for steadying the defense in a very tight and tense game.
A special mention to Kaiir Elam is deserved right now, as he had to come into full CB2 duty with Dane Jackson going down with a knee injury. Elam stepped up and made two of the game’s biggest plays with an INT in the third quarter, and contesting Mike Gesicki on fourth down to all but end the game. Elam, who has had his ups and downs as many rookies have, seems to be catching on at the right time. Elam and White should be a formidable cornerback duo moving forward in the playoffs.
Inquire – Bills DL:
There was hardly any pass rush in this game for the Bills. Skylar Thompson, for much, of the game had more than enough time to throw, and the Bills barely found any pressure or sacks against a very beat-up and bad Dolphins OL. The coverage held up fairly well overall but the pass rush simply couldn’t find any consistency throughout the whole game. Ed Oliver made some plays late that helped keep the Bills in good positions defensively, but the Bills largely could not find any way to pressure a third-string QB with a bad OL in front of him. Someone is going to have to start stepping up sooner rather than later on this defensive line and start creating consistent pressure throughout the game.
Require – Bills offense:
Early on the Bills were attacking the Dolphins’ man coverage and heavy blitzes with deep passes. An aggressive mentality to counter the aggressive mentality. This is a good thing, offenses should not be playing with a scared mentality. But there is a difference between aggressive and simply reckless. When the Dolphins were beginning to lock up the Bills a bit better after the first quarter, the Bills should have switched gears a little bit and either run the ball (although there was little success to be found in the few times they did run it) or been more willing to throw the quick and short game. Dorsey did not make those adjustments, and while the variance of the highly aggressive, downfield attack paid off in the end, there was no reason for them to keep playing more vertical when it simply wasn’t working. An attacking vertical offense is good, but very difficult to maintain through four quarters of play due to the difficult nature of making accurate throws deep, and making those catches deep. Now some of this is on Dorsey, and some of this is on Allen as well. That deep shot to John Brown was wildly off target and completely unnecessary, and likely not what Dorsey expected or wanted Allen to do there. Allen’s fumble to start the third quarter completely flipped the script on the game, and ball security has been an issue for Allen all year. The offense did score 34 points, but they did it in the most excruciating way possible after the first quarter. If the Bills have any hope of making it past the Divisional Round this year, they are simply going to have to be better and more consistent for all four quarters, no other way around it.
Irk – Where to start?
All looked well in the first quarter. Then all hell broke loose. To be clear, the Dolphins did very little to win this game. Skylar Thompson made some very nice throws, but also completed 40% of his passes. No, that’s not a typo. Some of that is also on the Dolphins receivers who did Thompson absolutely zero favors today, dropping several easy passes on numerous big plays. Regardless, the Bills were a mess after the first quarter. Simply put, the Bills, as they have all season, shot themselves repeatedly in the foot until the clip ran out. Fumbles, bad field position on special teams, INTs, lighting multiple timeouts on fire for no good reason. In fact, let’s explore those timeouts. Both were called by McDermott to help reset the defense, and both seemed largely unnecessary. The first one is excusable, as it was clearly an unusual formation that the Bills weren’t totally prepared for in the red zone, there’s nothing drastically wrong about that. But the second one was a complete panic move by McDermott. NFL coaches are very meticulous, detail-oriented people, and the best ones even more so than others. But sometimes that over-attention to detail can lead to a moment like this where a coach panics because the alignment is just a little off, or a player isn’t 100% certain on a call before the play. Sometimes it’s worth taking a timeout to help. Sometimes you have to trust your players to play ball and win. Especially when the team you’re panicking against is starting a rookie seventh-round pick.
Win, and move on. That’s the message this team should have right now. They’re in the Divisional Round, and one bad game does not mean you have to have a bad postseason. The Bengals barely squeaked by the Raiders last year before making their run. The Bus in 2020 barely held on to their lead against Washington before making their run. It’s not over. Even if it feels like it might be. This is still a very talented team with the ultimate equalizer at QB. It’s time to move on to the Divisional Round.