26-minute Lead Not Enough as Dolphins Fall to Bills

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Miami Dolphins running back Mark Walton escapes a tackle from the Buffalo Bills' Micah Hyde. PC: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL’s week seven in the books for the Miami Dolphins, the goose egg continues in the win column for the winless team. They caught the loss on the road from the Buffalo Bills in a 31-21 game and their record drops to 0-6 in the 2019 season. The only sure competition at the moment remaining for the number one draft pick falls with the similarly 0-7 winless Cincinnati Bengals.

“We just got to keep playing. Look, it’s a 60-minute ballgame. We preach that on a daily basis and practice that way. That’s what I expect from this team, that’s the standard,” head coach Brian Flores said. “Yeah we’re just going to keep playing and see what happens. So, they did that, we just have to finish that ballgame. You know, we have to make a couple more plays and pull a win out.”

Two stand-out players for Miami against Buffalo

This week the duo in the Miami backfield was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Mark Walton. Fitzpatrick finished throwing 23-for-35 for 282 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for another 13 yards and a TD. Walton lead the Dolphins in rushing attempts and yards, running 14 times for 66 yards. He also caught the ball once for a loss of 8 yards on a broken play. 

Despite the rushing numbers not being there for him, running back Kalen Ballage saw the end zone for the second straight week. Ballage has been demoted to the No. 3 RB on the team, as he saw just three rushes for seven yards, but popped in a red zone carry resulting in the score. Kenyan Drake, freshly acquainted with the bench, also saw six carries for 21 yards on the day.

Parker stays hot

Wide receiver DeVante Parker also saw the end zone today on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick, making it his third score on the season. Parker now has a TD in three straight games. He also saw 43 more yards on four more catches.

“There’s been so much improvement from Week 1 to now. A lot of that is just working together, whether it’s at practice or just sitting at a lunch table. I think we all know each other a little bit now. Everybody knows each other’s names and that’s something we didn’t have in the first few weeks,” Fitzpatrick said. “Those guys are working extremely hard and I told them this week at practice that I’m extremely proud of the way they’re working, and they’re fighting their tails off on every snap. We have a lot of confidence in those guys.”

Turnovers cost Dolphins the game

Turnovers, however, were a big problem for Miami against the Bills. Miami took a 7-6 lead with 14 seconds remaining in the first quarter, and held onto it until almost the end of the third quarter. Buffalo eventually scored a TD with a successful two-point conversation to cap off a 98-yard drive after Fitzpatrick threw an interception on the Buffalo two-yard line. 

“We turned the ball over, defense didn’t execute on long drives and we just came up short,” outside linebacker Jerome Baker said. “Yeah, there are definitely some positives if you look over the film some guys did some great things, but we lost at the end of the day and you come to play and win games and unfortunately that’s not what we’re doing.”

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After a pair of punts by both teams, the Dolphins then fumbled after a one-play drive. With only 16 yards to go from the end zone, the Bills punched it in again to take a commanding 24-14 lead with six and a half minutes to go before the end of regulation. 

“I mean, I thought, did a lot of good things in the game but you know turnovers are the biggest difference from winning or losing this league,” Flores said. “We turned it over twice, they didn’t turn it over and that ultimately becomes a difference in the game. We look, there’s some good things happening. But we had an opportunity in this game and we didn’t take advantage of.”

The Dolphins got the ball back on their own 40-yard line with 3:59 left in the game, and closed out a 60-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run by Fitzpatrick with under two minutes remaining. 

Down a field goal with 1:45 to go in the game, the Dolphins took their shot at an onside kick attempt. There was no “FitzMagic” to be found on another play as the Bills’ Micah Hyde returned the onside kick attempt 45-yards to the house. This put the game out of reach as Buffalo took the 31-21 lead with less than 100 seconds left in the game.

“To have the opportunity on the one or two yard line, to have a critical error and then to have another one and throw the interception down there is tough. I think we were looking to go up maybe 21-9 at that point playing with some momentum, and we were feeling really good coming out of halftime,” Fitzpatrick said. “That killed us a little bit. They were able to go down and score on that next drive, so that was a tough part of the game.”

Allen leads the way for Bills

On the Bills side of the ball, quarterback Josh Allen threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns, grabbing an 111.4 quarterback rating. The Bills also ran for 117 yards and forced two turnovers that capitalized on, that helped carry them to their fifth victory in just six games. These five victories gives them the best start they’ve had to a season in over one decade.

Familiar faces leaving South Beach?

Miami next goes on the road again up in Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football. The Dolphins will have some decisions to make at multiple positions before game time however. Walton is quickly moving up the depth charts and making the most out of his opportunities. With continuous trade talks about Drake, he could be on the move before the Oct. 30 NFL trade deadline. RB Patrick Laird is also waiting in the wings for the club, who looked promising in preseason, as it looks as though Ballage is used primarily for a single play in the red zone and random breaks to backs throughout the game. Additionally, Parker’s name has recently come up with interest from the San Francisco 49ers.

With nine days to go before the trade deadline for a rebuilding team looking to acquire draft picks and young talent, keeping an eye on key tenured big names from Miami will be important.

– Christian Chappell is a Sports Contributor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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