The Miami Dolphins (6-8) were defeated by the Buffalo Bills (8-6) on the road in a game that was a must-win for both teams hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Dolphins entered the contest four games out of the final AFC wildcard spot. Meanwhile, the Bills entered the game in possession of the final spot, hoping to hang on to it.
What comes up must come down
Ultimately, that is exactly what occurred. The Bills showed how focused and dedicated they were to their goal from the opening whistle. They were able to win the battle in the trenches and imposed their brute force game plan on the hapless Dolphins. The same Dolphins squad who just physically dominated the New England Patriots up and down the field received the same treatment in Western New York in Week 15.
This was especially disappointing for a few reasons. First and foremost, both teams controlled their own destiny, but only one team played like it. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Dolphins. They showed their potential last week in a game where they outclassed the Patriots in every facet of the game. After two weeks of excellent play they just plain dropped the ball in yesterday’s matchup.
It was also disappointing from a physicality standpoint. The Dolphins were getting pounded out there as the Bills didn’t have to deviate from their power-running style very often. The trenches were won firmly by Buffalo. They were able to pound the rock at will, and execute play action passes very well. The difference was Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor possesses elite-level elusiveness, much like Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Even when the Dolphins closed in on him from point-blank range he was able to slip away time and time again. This led to extended plays and breakdowns in coverage. Once again, the Dolphins had trouble covering tight ends. Buffalo’s tight ends caught seven of eleven targets for 101 yards. This may not seem like much at first, but it really did open up Buffalo’s offense, as Taylor always seemed to have a fail-safe option.
Speaking of fail-safe options and always getting away, the Dolphins had trouble getting the Bills off the field on third down. Buffalo converted seven of their 15 attempts on third down. This comes after Miami held New England to zero on eleven attempts in Week 14.
Miami’s linebackers struggled mightily in coverage, as they have done routinely throughout the season. Give credit to Buffalo for exposing Miami’s main weakness to their advantage. This leads to the next disappointment, which was Miami’s game plan.
After coming up with an excellent game plan to defeat New England, the Dolphins did not seem to have a good one for this game. If they did, it did not show on the field. That goes for both sides of the ball. Miami had a tough time moving the ball against a stingy Buffalo defense led by rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Micah Hyde.
On paper it seems as though that is not the case, as Miami quarterback Jay Cutler went 28-for-49 for 274 yards. However, most of that came in the fourth quarter. It is also important to note that Cutler threw no touchdowns and three costly interceptions. All of the interceptions were ugly, boneheaded plays that reminded us all of Cutler’s tendency to play big one week and then have a terrible game the next.
The Dolphins definitely had trouble in punching in scoring opportunities. They had to settle for field goals on multiple occasions. This kept them in the game for a while, but it’s hard to win games when one team is making field goals and the other team is scoring touchdowns.
A few bright spots
What was seen on Sunday was not all bad. There were some bright spots. One of which was receiver Jarvis Landry’s consistency. Landry played with fire and passion, as usual. Yes, his passion and anger may have cost the team some yards via penalties. However, without Landry there would have been no energy in Miami’s offense at all during Week 15. He ended the game having caught ten passes on 13 targets for 99 yards.
Speaking of receiving stats and consistency, Miami wide receiver DeVante Parker made his presence felt in this matchup. Parker has been wildly inconsistent this season. He has been one of the biggest disappointments thus far, despite developing chemistry with Cutler early on. Parker ended the day having caught six of his twelve targets for 89 yards.
Lastly, both running back Kenyan Drake and cornerback Xavien Howard turned in solid performances once again. Drake rushed the ball 16 times for 78 yards and one touchdown. He also hauled in six receptions on eleven targets for 35 yards through the air. Howard was not targeted often. When he was, he did allow for any big plays. The theme here among the players mentioned is consistency. The Dolphins are a young team and have potential. If they can strive for consistency and execution then they will be on the right track.
All of the aforementioned players and the Dolphins as a whole showed some fight in this game. They fought until the very end and were able to claw their way back into a game that got out of hand quickly. The Dolphins had a chance at going to overtime as they recovered an onside kick with less than one minute on the clock. However, their plans were foiled once Cutler threw another horrendous interception.
The Dolphins are not totally out of the playoff picture just yet, but as their record currently stands they are a longshot. This season has been a rollercoaster on and off the field for the Miami Dolphins. If they can end their season with a win over the resurgent Kansas City Chiefs or get payback on the Buffalo Bills at home that would be a solid way to end the season. This would give the locker room and the players some momentum heading into the offseason. Hopefully the injury bug leaves the Dolphins alone this time around.
With another good draft and a healthy squad, this Dolphins team may be able to live up to their lofty expectations, albeit after a one-year setback.
- Isaih Battiste is the Managing Editor of Full Press Coverage Dolphins. He covers the Miami Dolphins 365 days a year. Be sure to follow @FPC_Dolphins on Twitter and check us out on Facebook!