The Miami Dolphin hosted the Buffalo Bills in a hard fought game for both teams. What started off ugly for the Dolphins, then became ugly for the Bills in the second half, tightened up down the stretch and suddenly became a good game between two division rivals.
Here is our immediate recap and reactions to the game. We will break it down more over the next several days.
Bills 31 - Dolphins 28
The game started with the Bills receiving the opening kickoff. The first play from scrimmage immediately hearkened back to Miami’s struggles last week with the New England Patriots, as Devin Singletary took a simple handoff up the middle for 14 yards. The Dolphins rush defense let them down all game last week, and it looked like they were about to start having the same issue against the Bills. It calmed down after that, however, as the Dolphins forced a punt after three more plays.
Miami did not do anything with their possession, picking up a first down, but having to punt after just five plays. During the possession, Miami cornerback Byron Jones was seen heading to the locker room after sustaining a non-contact groin injury during the Bills’ possession.
The Bills came back out and immediately began attacking Miami’s Jones-less secondary. The Dolphins did not have an answer to the Bills’ crossing patterns, with the team easily erasing a beautiful punt from Miami’s Matt Haack that started the Bills at their own three-yard line. Miami’s secondary could not cover as Josh Allen began carving them up. In just 5:19, the Bills covered 97 yards to score on a one-yard run from Reggie Gilliam. Bills 7-0.
Miami immediately responded, however, as Myles Gaskin started to impact the game, both with hard running on the ground and as a receiving option. The drive was highlighted by a 26-yard thrown and catch from Fitzpatrick to Preston Williams, who laid out and caught the ball, dragging his feet to set up Miami on a 1st-and-Goal from the two-yard line. Fitzpatrick then connected with DeVante Parker for the touchdown. Tied 7-7.
On the first play of the next possession, Allen found Dawson Knox short, who turned up field for a 38-yard gain, only to have Miami linebacker Kyle Van Noy strip the ball and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene recover for Miami.
Unfortunately, Miami was unable to do anything with the ball and punted after a three-and-out possession.
Starting at their own 16-yard line after the punt, the Bills crushed the Dolphins secondary again. After picking up a first down on an 11-yard pass to Cole Beasley, Allen looked deep to Isaiah McKenize, gaining 46 yards on the play and moving down to the Miami 22-yard line. Allen then found Diggs in the endzone for the score. Bills 14-7.
Miami picked up a first down on the next possession, with Fitzpatrick finding Ford for 14 yards. That was the extent of the drive, however, as Miami punted shortly thereafter.
Buffalo’s next drive again attacked Miami, this time adding in the ground game for large chunks of yardage as well as continuing the aerial attack. With plays including Zack Moss running for 14 yards, Allen finding Diggs for 16 yards, Singletary picking up 18 yards, and a defensive holding penalty that allowed for a first down on what would have been a 3rd-and-10 stop, the Bills moved 73 yards before converting a 39-yard field goal. Bills 17-7.
Miami responded with a three-and-out losing one yard.
The Bills looked to attack with 1:45 remaining in the half. They started with a short pass from Allen to Singletary, picking up 12 yards on the play. After that, however, the drive stalled and they punted the ball back to Miami with 42 seconds remaining.
Gaskin picked up 14 yards on second down, then Gesicki caught a Fitzpatrick pass for 27 yards, moving Miami to the Bills 34-yard line and allowing Jason Sanders to connect on a 52-yard field goal. Bills 17-10.
After the Dolphins kicked an onside kick to kill the clock, the teams headed into the locker room for the half.
Bills 17 - Dolphins 10
Miami received the second-half kick. After an incomplete pass to start the drive, Fitzpatrick found Parker for 15 yards over the middle of the field. The game was then delayed due to lightning near the stadium. After a 36-minute break, the Dolphins came back out firing, with Gesicki picking up 12 yards on a pass from Fitzpatrick, then Parker adding 20 yards on another Fitzpatrick pass, then Gaskin picking up nine yards on the ground. Gaskin looked to have added another big run to set up Miami in the redzone, but a penalty on Parker for a block in the back negated the play and led to the drive stalling. Sanders connected on a 45-yard field goal to end the possession. Bills 17-13.
Buffalo picked up nine yards on an Allen-to-Diggs pass, then saw Singletary pick up the first down on a three-yard run. After a pass from Allen to Singletary added eight yards, the Bills did nothing else and punted.
Miami came out slinging the ball on the next possession. Starting the drive with a Fitzpatrick pass to Ford for 14 yards, it was followed by a 23-yard pass to Gesicki plus a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, then a nine-yard pass to Parker. After a couple of runs, including a one-yard gain from Jordan Howard to convert the first down, Miami went back to the air, with Gesicki making a one-handed catch across the middle to pick up 11 yards. Matt Breida then gained 12 yards to set up Miami with 1st-and-Goal from the one-yard line. Howard ran for no gain on first down, Fitzpatrick ran for no gain on second down, then threw an incomplete fade toward Gesicki on third down. Electing to try for the score on fourth down, Fitzpatrick found Williams for what should have been a touchdown, but the ball went right through the receiver’s hands.
The Bills got the ball back at their own one-yard line, picking up six yards on an Allen pass to Brown. Moss then picked up two yards, setting up 3rd-and-2, but the Bills could not convert and were forced to punt.
An 11-yard return from Jakeem Grant set up Miami in Buffalo territory, with Breida picking up four yards before the end of the quarter. Miami then returned to doing to the Bills what they Bills did to the Dolphins in the first quarter. Working primarily on the ground, Breida picked up five- and three-yards on two runs, Gaskin added nine- and two-yard runs, Fitzpatrick scrambled for five yards, then Jordan Howard punched it in for the two-yard score. Dolphins 20-17.
Buffalo immediately responded though, starting with a 47-yard pass from Allen to Diggs to start the drive. After a sack spit between Emmanuel Ogbah and Andrew Van Ginkel, the Bills turned to Singletary, who picked up 10 yards, then two yards, before Allen threw to Gabriel Davis for the score. Bills 24-20.
Miami’s next drive was ugly, despite getting a free five yards to start the drive with an illegal contact penalty on Tre’Davious White. Fitzpatrick was sacked on first down, then threw incomplete on second down, a pass that should have been picked off by White, who baited the throw then jumped the route. Fitzpatrick threw a screen pass to Gaskin for a 10-yard gain, but Miami had to punt on 4th-and-9.
The Bills charged straight back down the field on their next drive, with the crossing patterns Miami struggled to defend in the first half coming back to haunt them late in the fourth quarter. Allen found Diggs for 21 yards on the right sideline, then came back to connect with Brown wide open on the left side of the field for the 46-yard score. Bills 31-20.
Getting the ball back with 3:09 to play, Miami started working through the air. Gaskin caught a pass for eight yards, then Ford for another eight yards. Fitzpatrick found Gesicki for 19 yards, then the quarterback somehow avoided a sack with a shovel pass for three yards to Gaskin. After the 2-minute warning, Jakeem Grant was called for a false start, backing up Miami. Fitzpatrick then found Ford for 13 yards, Gaskin for two yards and a run out of bounds to stop the clock. Fitzpatrick looked for Gesicki for a 12-yard gain, then ran for seven yards, before finding Gesicki on the eight-yard touchdown pass with Fitzpatrick connecting with Williams in the back of the endzone for a two-point conversion. Bills 31-28.
The Bills recovered the on-side kick and knelt twice to kill the clock.
First Half: Fitzpatrick is still struggling, but the offense did look better than last week. He just cannot seem to find a rhythm. He will have a great possession, then come out and do nothing. He will make a great read and drop a dime, then stand in the pocket and wait for the sack to come get him.
Second half: Fitzpatrick is DEALING! The team is taking it to the Bills, and Fitzpatrick is spreading the ball around, taking advantage of matchups, and making smart pays. This is such a difference from the first half.
Losing Byron Jones definitely hurt this defense. The secondary could not stop the crossing patterns, especially early and late in the game.
Miami is looking like a team that can compete at this point, though they are 0-2 on the season. The defense needs to figure out some things still, and the offense needs to find its rhythm earlier in the contest each week, but the team is looking decent.