The snow started just as the Buffalo Bills tied the Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t just a flurry. It was a powerful winter storm that quickly coated the field at Highmark Stadium in Buffalo during the Bills’ 32-29 win on Saturday night.
Josh Allen has been there and done that. The man plays football like he was raised in a snow globe for goodness’ sake. The Bills quarterback has played in conditions like Saturday’s snowstorm — and far worse.
But Tua Tagovailoa? The Hawaiian? The Alabama prospect turned Miami QB? Not so much.
So it felt like the Dolphins’ advantage in the game shifted substantially with the Bills’ tying touchdown and the onslaught of snow.
The Fins’ offense ran five plays after the arrival of the heavy weather, and while they drove for 32 yards, they came up without any points. They punted.
Miami didn’t get the ball back, either, as the Bills controlled the clock with a 15-play, 86-yard, six-minute drive that concluded with a field goal at the buzzer. The Dolphins’ secondary struggled — with rookie cornerback Kader Kohou letting up a few catches and committing a defensive pass interference penalty in the final minute. (Kohou grew up in Texas, a mostly snow-free state.)
Soon, the Bills were in a comfortable field-goal spot at the 4-yard line. And while one could argue there isn’t a “comfortable” field-goal spot in a storm this intense, kicker Trevor Bass hammered the ball through the uprights and enjoyed the snow with a celebratory slide.
“I know a lot of people would like to make it about the weather,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said postgame. “Our team never did. And it was cool for you guys to talk about, but it was more about the football players on the football field.”
Yeah, but that football field was covered in snow.
The Dolphins put up a fight. It really seemed like they might pull off the upset in Buffalo. The recipe was there. Tua fired downfield passes to Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill for touchdowns. Maybe Tagovailoa wasn’t having his best game — he completed just 56% of his passes — but he capitalized upon big opportunities. He fired the ball into gaps in the Bills defense and found spots to help his receivers score.
It was a tea-leaves game for Tua. People will see what they want to see. Had Miami won, everyone would proclaim the southpaw “back.” They’d run the highlights of Tua’s touchdown to Hill. There were enough big-time throws. But there were also the misses and the inaccurate or inadvisable passes. And unfortunately, those throws will become the center of attention.
Considering the Bills won it on their long drive, the blame falls mostly on the Dolphins’ defense. The unit had its moments. Pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips opened the fourth quarter with a strip-sack that gave Miami a chance to take a two-score lead. But its offense subsequently let its defense down, putting up just a field goal following the turnover to make it 29-21.
Even McDaniel seemed to have a bit of an off day. On third-and-short, he leaned into his passing offense. On a normal day, that would make sense. But against the Bills, the Dolphins averaged 7.5 yards per carry.
Despite me furiously tweeting in-game that McDaniel should run the ball, he did not. Apparently, he was not keeping track of my live tweets. If he had been, he probably would’ve pointed to the Waddle score, a 67-yard touchdown on third-and-4. It’s technically not a short-yardage situation but an optimal result nonetheless. That said, in the second half, the Dolphins faced three third downs when they needed three yards or fewer. They threw it every time. They failed to convert every time. They finished 5 of 14 on third downs. Which leaves us with this:
- The Dolphins were not good enough to beat the No. 1 team in the AFC on the road.
- But they also played well.
- It wasn’t the best they’ve played.
- Miami made progress.
All four of those things can be true at the same time.
The problem is that their progress is coming during a three-game losing streak near the end of the season — when they need to be winning.
Miami (8-6) will host the Green Bay Packers next week, then play at the New England Patriots before finishing at home against the New York Jets. That’s a tough finish. Right now, the Dolphins have a 66% chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.com. If they beat the Packers, that jumps to 76%. If they lose, their chances fall to 46%.
I’ll leave you with the truth about this game.
The real truth and nothing but it.
This game came down to Josh Allen. That’s how the Bills (11-3) won it. They have the best football player on the planet — or second-best behind Patrick Mahomes. Yes, this is a team game. But sometimes individuals take over. That’s what Allen did.
That’s what the Dolphins will have to wrestle with. If they give the Bills anything but their best, Allen will beat the Dolphins. He’s that good.
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Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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