The Miami Dolphins’ win over the Buffalo Bills hung in the balance as Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen danced around in the backfield, continuing a day-long avoidance of Miami’s pass rush, and eventually uncorked a pass all the way across the field, against the flow of the play, to a wide open Charles Clay standing all alone in the endzone. Hard Rock Stadium was suddenly silent as the ball worked its way through the air, with everyone realizing this was about to be the play of the game.
Never mind two interceptions from Xavien Howard. Never mind three touchdown passes to three different receivers from Ryan Tannehill. Never mind a strip sack from Robert Quinn. Never mind the first 58:55 of the game.
The only thing that mattered was a ball that seemed to be in the air longer than physics should allow.
But then, the ball was on the ground. Clay, the former Dolphins tight end, could not come up with the catch and Miami escaped with a win.
After the game, that play, that long pass where Hard Rock Stadium collectively - both Dolphins fans and Bills fans - held its breath, was the topic of discussion.
“I put my head right down just like this,” Miami rookie defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said as he laughed. “Then I heard our crowd go crazy and I looked and saw the ball was on the ground, and then I said, ‘Alright, we won.’ Man, I was sweating a lot when I saw that ball in the air.”
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill explained his reaction to the play from the sideline, standing and watching Bills quarterback Josh Allen, “Well, I was holding my breath for what felt like an eternity. I saw him scrambling around. (Robert) Quinn was trying to corral him. He went left, right, back left. When he turned and wound up the throw, I looked out and saw Charles scot-free over there. From about that point until the ball hit the ground, I was holding my breath. Thankfully, they weren’t able to connect.”
Allen said of the throw, “It was obviously a real chaotic situation. (When you) spin around a couple times, it doesn’t help. He was there in the back of the end zone. The ball came out of my hand real bad. I’ve got to give him a chance.”
He then continued when asked if he thought it was a touchdown when he released it, “I mean, like I said, I was running around. I was pretty doggone tired. Like I said, it just didn’t feel great coming out of the hand. I put this one on me.”
Bills head coach Sean McDermott did not necessarily agree that it should be on Allen, telling the media, “At the end of the day, when we’ve got an opportunity to make the play, we’ve got to make it. It’s never one guy. We’ve got to make sure the ball is thrown on target and it’s caught. Throw and catch, throw and catch. I thought it was a heck of an effort by Josh and our offensive line to give him time. Josh bought some time himself and then gave us a chance, a chance to win the game.”
Clay seemed to agree with McDermott, that he should have made a play after Allen was able to buy time and make the throw. “I just didn’t come down with it,” Clay explained. “It’s not too much more than that. I need to make a play in that situation.”
He went on to add, when asked if he was focused on staying in the end zone to ensure it would be a touchdown, “No, the main thing was catching the ball. And like I said, I didn’t do it.”
“The ball had hit the ground,” Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard said of what he saw on the play. “It was short. Thank the Lord for that. The ball was short and came out of his hands so he didn’t catch it.”
Miami safety Reshad Jones saw something similar to Howard, saying, “(Josh Allen) is a running quarterback, scrambler. Charles Clay came free and I guess the ball (was) just short. We did enough to win the game.”
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase explained what was going through his mind on the play, saying, “I was just thinking, ‘Get him down,’ and the longer he extended it, then you start getting concerned, because you just figure somebody’s going to free up. I know both sides were gassed. It was just going to be who was going to keep fighting. I think both teams did everything they could today until the end.”
Miami defensive end Cameron Wake, when asked about his reaction to the final play, simply replied, “Yes!”
Asked to explain what happened, Wake expounded, saying, “He zigged left, he zigged right. I guess everybody knew it was going to be the last play of the game and he was doing whatever he could to buy time to get his receivers down the field. I don’t remember who it was, but I know I was one of the guys chasing him around. He kept giving ground and he launched it up there. I don’t know who it was. Was it Clay?...Buddy Charles back there in the end zone. He didn’t make the play, so I guess that’s pretty much it.”
Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso summed it up, saying, “What’s the saying? It’s better to be lucky than good.”