The Miami Dolphins fell in defeat to their division rivals, the Buffalo Bills, on a cold — and eventually snowy — Saturday night in Orchard Park, New York by a score of 32-29. A field goal from the leg of Bills kicker Tyler Bass as time expired secured the win for Buffalo and dropped Miami’s record to 8-6 with just three games left to play.
While I’m disappointed that the Dolphins couldn’t pull off the upset, I am encouraged by how tough Miami played against Buffalo — showing the world that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can handle cold weather games, and a defense that is as shorthanded in the secondary as any team possibly could be, can take a top-tier offense led by a Pro-Bowl quarterback in Josh Allen down to the wire and nearly claim victory.
Alas, the victory wouldn’t materialize through the thick snow that had begun to blanket the field at Highmark Stadium and the Dolphins players, coaches — and even their fans — would be left replaying critical moments throughout the contest in their heads and asking themselves, ‘What if?’ over and over again.
We will do the same as we take a look back at the good, bad and ugly from Miami’s 32-29 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.
Raheem Mostert dominates the Bills defense on the ground during the first quarter of play
In the first quarter, the Dolphins offense was led by running back Raheem Mostert who rushed the ball eight times for a total of 101 yards.
Read that again.
Mostert had over 100 yards rushing through just one quarter of play on Saturday night against one of the better defensive teams in the league. He averaged 12.6 yards per rush that quarter and got Miami’s offense off to a hot start.
Unfortunately, despite the hot start, he was only given nine carries the rest of the game and amassed just 35 yards on those totes.
Head coach Mike McDaniel would later say that Mostert’s lack of opportunities were due to the fact that the Bills began stacking the box with defenders and McDaniel wanted to take advantage of 1-on-1 opportunities on the outside with his receivers.
One does have to wonder if things would have gone a bit differently if McDaniel would have committed to the ground game after the snow began falling and the playing surface became slick — negating the speed and quickness that wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle typically win with each week.
Missed opportunities hurt Miami’s offense and defense against the Bills
Despite Miami’s success on the ground during the first quarter against Buffalo, they managed just three points on the scoreboard during that stretch in a game where points were going to be needed to outduel the Bills’ potent offense.
On Miami’s second series, in a goal-to-go situation, receivers Tyreek Hill and Trent Sherfield dropped consecutive passes from Tua Tagovailoa that would have resulted in touchdowns for the Dolphins. Because of those mistakes, Miami was forced to settle for three points from the leg of Jason Sanders instead of taking six.
While Miami’s defense tightened up in the second half — until Buffalo’s final, game-winning drive — their first-half third-down defense was abysmal, even allowing the Bills to easily convert a third and 17 at one point. The Dolphins’ third-down defense has been atrocious all season long, and while conceding that they’ve been hampered by copious injuries to their secondary this year, a more effective pass rush would have helped them during the first half against Buffalo.
I hate to be that guy, but more missed opportunities lie with the referees in this one. The refs allowed Buffalo’s secondary to mug Miami’s receivers all throughout the game on Saturday night. Don’t believe me? Just do a quick Twitter search and you’ll find numerous instances where Dolphins pass catchers were being contacted well before the ball arrived — their arms being held down by their sides play after play.
In addition to those missed calls, Bills quarterback Josh Allen was bailed out late in the contest when an intentional grounding penalty was more than warranted after he threw the ball away directly at the feet of an offensive lineman with no receiver even remotely close to the pass. No penalty was called, however, and the Dolphins got hosed again.
Finally, while there was some contact from defensive back Kader Kohou on Buffalo’s final pass during their game-winning drive, it was far less than the contact that was being initiated against Miami’s receivers all game long, so if you’re going to call it then, why weren’t you calling it like that all game long? It was a very frustrating night in regards to the calls the officials were making... or not making in some instances.
Bills fans turn game into ugly spectacle by throwing ice-balls at Dolphins players and coaches
After complaining incessantly about the heat and humidity in Miami Gardens during the Dolphins’ week three victory over the visiting Bills, Buffalo fans chose to use the elements against Miami’s players and coaches on Saturday night by pelting the visitors with ice-balls throughout the entire game and even while the team was headed to the locker room at halftime.
Their actions were so egregious that the officials in charge of enforcing the rules for the players on the field had to turn their attention to the stands and threaten the fans with a 15 yard penalty for the home team if the ice throwing did not stop. At one point, the action on the field was forced to be paused because of the misconduct.
It was truly an ugly display from a fanbase known for their drunken pre-game debauchery and quite frankly, it was a miracle that no one on the sidelines or the field of play was seriously injured due to the criminal actions that took place.
The league should absolutely take steps to make sure that nothing like that is allowed to happen at games in cold-weather cities moving forward.
Through fourteen games, Miami has a record of 8-6 after suffering a third straight defeat, this time at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. Are you crushed or do you take solace in the fact that Miami looked much better this past game than they did the previous two against the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Chargers? Do you think that Miami will be able to win two of the next three games to make the playoffs? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @MBrave13. Fins up!