The Miami Dolphins set themselves up for the easiest playoff clinching scenario on Sunday, yet failed to show up to their game.
Miami Set Up “Win and In” After Beating New England, Las Vegas
The two best teams in the AFC East squared off in the regular season finale on Sunday with different goals in mind. The Buffalo Bills already clinched the division looking to continue their momentum going into the playoffs while Miami could secure a playoff berth with a win. It set themselves up for a win and in situation after defeating the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders in back to back weeks to place themselves above the four other 10-5 teams in the tiebreaker situations heading into the NFL’s final week.
Buffalo Game Plan Kept Close-Knit
The Bills could still clinch the No. 2 overall seed in the AFC with a win (or Pittsburgh Steelers loss) and did not announce any game plan heading into Sunday despite Pittsburgh announcing it would rest a majority of starters. Buffalo did in fact play a majority of its starters, except for a few defenders who missed the game for the first half, and then looked to its backups.
Dolphins Give Up 56 Points in Embarrassing Fashion
But, it didn’t seem to matter who played. Miami allowed more than 50 points in a must-win game and lost 56-26.
“We didn’t play well in any phase,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said. “Offense, defense, or special teams. I thought we had a good week of practice, I thought we were ready. At the end of the day, we didn’t execute in any of the three phases. You’ve got to execute against a good football team if you’re going to give yourself a chance.”
Miami Held Lead After First Quarter, Fell Apart Quickly Thereafter
The first quarter was a strong defensive display from both teams out the gates, and Miami actually held a 3-0 lead. No team would be able to reach the end zone in the period but Miami was able to strike first with 8:07 left to play with a field goal from kicker Jason Sanders.
But in the second period quarter, that’s when things got ugly for the Dolphins. It was all Bills.
Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie Singlehandedly Sank Dolphins
Quarterback Josh Allen threw two touchdown passes in a span of five minutes to put his team up 14-3. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was on the receiving end of both and then took a punt return 84 yards to the house on another punt from the Dolphins to quickly give Buffalo three TDs. A broken defensive play from Miami would see the Bills add yet another TD with one minute remaining in the half and put the Dolphins in a gaping 28-6 halftime hole.
The second half started much like the first half, little offense in the third quarter, and scoring outputs in the fourth. But, Miami saw most of Buffalo’s backups punish them in the final quarter to put the final dagger into its season.
Allen Put Up Modest Numbers in First Half, Tagovailoa Struggled on Nearly 60 Attempts
Allen finished the day going 18-for-25 for 224 yards and three TDs. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa went 35-for-58 for 361 yards, but threw three interceptions and only one TD. Coming into the game, Tagovailoa had just two INTs in nine games and the lowest INT ratio to passes in the league at 0.9-percent (NFL.com, Pro Football Focus). But, not anymore.
“It’s always tough to come in and play this team,” Dolphins offensive lineman Jesse Davis said. “Putting ourselves down early didn’t help. Our execution wasn’t where it needed to be, but we kept fighting and that’s what this team has shown all season, we can fight.”
Miami Still Clinched 10 Wins on Season Despite Ugly Loss
The loss officially eliminated the Dolphins from playoff contention. This comes after having a big turnaround season that saw the team finish 10-6 overall. The season may not have gone the way that fans may have wanted but this one will be one to remember as this can prove to be the start of something big for the franchise.
“The season we had last year to this year was kind of night and day difference,” Davis said. “That kind of spoke for what we did this offseason, what we were able to do this season. Obviously we wanted to win that game and give us our own shot to get in. This is a great group, looking at the team from top down. Overall, I think we can fight. We’ve shown we can improve and hang with some teams but tonight we weren’t able to perform.”