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Bills sweep Dolphins to keep playoff chances alive; Miami heads into offseason needing to find answers

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills ended their respective 2017 regular season campaigns with the second-half of the team’s annual home-and-home series against each other. This year, the second game came with this afternoon’s contest in Miami, with the Bills entering the game looking to end their seventeen year playoff drought.

The Bills did their part, coming away with the 22-16 win, then headed into the locker room to see the end of the Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens game, with the Ravens losing qualifying the Bills for the playoffs.

First Half Recap

The Dolphins received the opening kick, but did nothing with the ball, going three-and-out with just three yards gained. Kenyan Drake lost three yards on the first play of the game, with Jay Cutler connecting with DeVante Parker for six yards on the next play. After an incomplete pass that was nearly picked off, the Dolphins were forced to punt.

The highlight of the first possession Miami was Mike Pouncey making his 16th start of the year, something he has not done since 2012.

The Bills did not falter on their opening drive, quickly moving down the field. After no gain from LeSean McCoy, Tyrod Taylor began looking like the Dolphins killer he has been lately. Finding McCoy across the middle, Taylor picked up 18 yards, then he found Deonte Thompson a few plays later for 13 yards. Charles Clay picked up eight more yards on a Taylor pass, then, after a neutral zone infraction from Gabe Write, Taylor found Nick O’Leary in the endzone for a 26 yard touchdown, with no Dolphins player anywhere near the tight end.

Bills touchdown. BUF 7-0.

Miami replaced Cutler at quarterback for their second possession, inserting David Fales into the game. The Dolphins picked up 11 yards on Fales’ first play, with the quarterback connecting with Jarvis Landry. Drake then picked up 32 yards on the next play before a couple of penalties backed up Miami; Drake was called for illegal motion when he tried to help Fales who was calling out the wrong number on the “mike” identification call, then Ted Larsen committed a false stat. On 1st-and-20, Fales again connected with Landry, this time picking up two yards. Fales found Kenny Stills on 2nd-and-18, adding 11 yards. After an incomplete pass, the Dolphins offense stayed on the field on 4th-and-7, with Fales throwing short to Parker, who converted the first down. After another incomplete pass, Drake picked up one yard, but a penalty on Jakeem Grant for an illegal block in the back, negated the play. On 2nd-and-19, Drake picked up 11 yards, then Fales connected with Landry for five yards. On 4th-and-3, the Dolphins again attempted to go for it, but the pass was broken up and Miami turned the ball over on downs.

McCoy lost five yards on first down, with Andre Branch bursting through the line for the tackle for loss. On the next snap, however, Branch line up in the neutral zone and gave the Bills back the five yards. Taylor then threw for a four-yard gain to McCoy, with McCoy picking up four more yards on the next play. Taylor connected with Thompson next, picking up 10 yards, followed by former Dolphins tight end Charles Clay again sticking it to his former team, picking up 17 yards. Marcus Murphy picked up 25 yards on a run, with another five yards added for a facemask from Reshad Jones. McCoy then lost five yards, with Lawrence Timmons coming up with the tackle, but the five yards were immediately given back on the next play with Davon Godchaux called for encroachment. After two incomplete passes, the Bills settled for a field goal.

Bills field goal. BUF 10-0.

Miami would go three-and-out on their next possession, with Fales picking up three yards on a scramble, then finding Grant for two yards before being sacked for a loss of eight.

Buffalo’s possession would last six plays instead of three like Miami’s, but would also result in a punt. After an incomplete pass, McCoy would pick up two yards, then an 18-yard pass from Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin would have an additional 15 yards added for unnecessary roughness on Walt Aikens for a hit on Taylor. Two McCoy runs for no gain set up 3rd-and-10, with Cameron Wake coming up with the sack, his tenth of the year.

The Dolphins would start to move the ball on the ground, with three straight runs from Drake picking up five yards, four yards, and four yards, respectively. Senorise Perry lose two yards on the next play, then added five yards to set up a 3rd-and-7. Fales looked for tight end Anthony Fasano on the play, but the ball fell incomplete and Miami punted.

The Bills matched Miami’s running game start to a drive, picking up five yards on two straight McCoy runs, then one more on another run. Taylor found Clay for six yards, but a penalty on the Bills for ineligible player down field on an aborted screen pass backed up Buffalo. Taylor found Murphy for two yards on 2nd-and-14, then Mike Tolbert for six yards on 3rd-and-12, leading to a punt.

Miami would go three-and-out on their drive, picking up nine yards, with Fales coming up a yard short of the first down on a scramble where he clearly could have picked up the conversion.

Buffalo did not do much more with the ball, though they were able to pick up 40 yards on the eight play drive. Clay caught a Taylor pass on first down for six yards, then Wake and Branch split a sack on Taylor, dropping the Bills back five yards. After a timeout, Taylor found Clay for 10 yards, then threw an incomplete pass. On 2nd-and-10, Taylor scrambled for 11 yards before a fumble appeared to be recovered by the Dolphins, but a facemask penalty on Wake gave the ball back to the Bills. After two incomplete passes, Taylor scrambled for two yards before Buffalo had to punt the ball with 22 seconds remaining.

Fales knelt on the ball to kill the clock for the first half.

First Half Immediate Reactions

What is going on with all these penalties? The Dolphins have 107 total yards on offense, with 70 penalty yards. That is ridiculous. There have been nine penalties on Miami in 30 minutes of play. These penalties have to be one of the top priorities to fix this offseason.

Fales has looked like a young quarterback who is trying to get his feet under him. He has been inaccurate on throws and he should have converted that first down, running out of bounds a yard shy of the sticks, when he clearly could have made it.

The defense has had some great moments, like Wake’s 1.5 sacks, but they also are again unable to cover a tight end. Clay has five receptions for 56 yards while O’Leary was the only player in the zip code on his touchdown reception. Finding a linebacker who can cover a tight end will be another priority for this offseason.

Second Half Recap

Buffalo received the kickoff to start the second half, with Taylor finding Zay Jones for seven yards on the fist play. Taylor then scrambled for 18 yards on the next play, with Jones and linebacker Kiko Alonso, who made the tackle on first down, both needing medical attention. McCoy picked up three yards on the next play, but appeared to have his ankle rolled under the pile on the tackle and needed to be carted off the field. Tolbert replaced McCoy and picked up four yards on the 2nd-and-7 play, then Taylor cound Murphy for five yards. Murphy lost four yards on first down, with Taylor connecting with Benjamin for nine yards on 2nd-and-14, but Taylor was stopped on a scramble after picking up one yard and the Bills would kick a field goal.

Bills field goal. BUF 13-0.

Miami could not get anything going on their first possession of the second half, despite a 26-yard gain on a Fales to Landry pass on first down. Fales found Landry on the next play, but the receiver, who closed to within one of Larry Fitzgerald for the NFL lead in receptions with the previous catch, dropped the pass. Drake then picked up two yards, but an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-8 led to a punt.

The Dolphins would get crushed by yet another penalty on the Bills’ next possession. Murphy picked up five yards on first down, then added nine yards on second down. After Taylor threw to Patrick DiMarco for four yards, a three-yard pass to Jones was overturned when the Dolphins challenged the play. Taylor then threw deep for Thompson in the endzone, with Cordrea Tankersley called for pass interference, giving Buffalo 1st-and-Goal from the one-yard line. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams then reported as an eligible receiver, lined up in the backfield and punched the ball into the endzone for another score. They would attempt a two-point conversion, but would fail to convert.

Bills touchdown. BUF 19-0.

Miami would finally score on their next drive, starting with a Fales to Grant pass for 13 yards, then a pass to Drake for four yards. Drake picked up another four yards on a run on 2nd-and-6, then converted the first down with a three-yard run on third down. Fales then found Parker, who caught the ball and ran for 24 yards, with Drake then adding six more yards. A pass interference penalty two plays later gave Miami another first down, then Drake lost two yards, followed by two incomplete passes, which led to a field goal from Cody Parkey.

Dolphins field goal. BUF 19-3.

Buffalo answered right back, however, starting with a Taylor scramble for five yards, then Tolbert picking up 16 yards. Tolbert then added another yard followed by Taylor finding Jones for 18 yards. Tolbert picked up seven yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. Tolbert kept it up with a four-yard run, then a five-yard run. Murphy picked up two yards on 3rd-and-3, and, after attempting to draw Miami offsides, the Bills called for a timeout and kicked the field goal.

Bills field goal. BUF 22-3.

The Dolphins would claw a little more back into the game, but things would get crazy. Fales would start the drive finding Landry for 18 yards, then tight end Anthony Fasano for one yard, followed by Drake for no gain. On 3rd-and-9, Fales found Stills for 16 yards, then again found Landry for 23 yards. After Drake ran up the middle for four yards, Fales connected with him again for 11 yards, then Stills for seven yards. On 2nd-and-3 from the Buffalo five, Fales threw to Landry who reached the Buffalo one, appearing to fumble the ball as he reached for the goal line. After Buffalo returned it all the way for a score, replay ruled Landry was down because he was touching the ball as he was out of bounds. Landry was then targeted again, scoring on the one-yard pass, then craziness ensued.

Six unnecessary roughness penalties were called as the Dolphins and Bills started fighting. Landry and Drake were both ejected for their parts in the fight, which included Drake throwing a Bills helmet after he was being twisted around and hit in the face at the bottom of a pile.

After replay ensured Landry had scored, the Dolphins receiver ended his season with 112 receptions, currently sitting in the NFL lead and setting a new franchise record.

Miami failed on the two-point conversion attempt.

Dolphins touchdown. BUF 22-9.

Buffalo would lose three yards on their possession and punt after going three-and-out.

After an incomplete pass, Fales found Grant for 11 yards, then, after a false start for the Dolphins, Fales connected with De’Veon Smith for 12 yards, then Parker for four yards, Smith again for 13 yards, Smith for two yards, and Parker for 14 yards. Parker fumbled on the play, but the ball bounced directly to Senroise Perry, who picked up another two yards. Fales then found A.J. Derby for nine yards, before running the ball into the endzone for a score.

Dolphins touchdown. BUF 22-16.

Miami recovered the onside kick, with Bobby McCain coming up with the ball and Clay being called offsides for the Bills on the play. Fales threw on first down, finding Parker for nine yards, then threw the ball away to avoid a sack. Perry picked up five yards on 3rd-and-1, then Fales avoided another sack, picking up one yard and getting out of bounces. On the 2nd-and-9 play, however, Fales overthrew Kenny Stills and the ball was picked off.

Buffalo killed the clock and ended the game.

Immediate Reactions

The season is over, and it has been an up-and-down ride, with probably more down than up. There are many things the Dolphins have to do in the offseason, but the end of this game actually somehow became fun. Fales started finding a rhythm, even without Drake and Landry. There was the potential for a miracle win, but in the end, the game, and the season, ended on the wrong side of the record.