MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (WROC) — The Bills were supposed to lose this game.
All the guys that were missing both before the game plus all the guys who left during the game. Buffalo was on the road. It was a short week. This is a game every NFL team loses. Even the far and away Super Bowl favorite.
And the Bills darn near stole it anyway.
Josh Allen was unbelievable. Again. This game had your normal array of fallaway 20-yard dimes and third-down scramble conversions to bail out a lost play. From about the middle of the second quarter on, the entire offense seemed it was “Josh, drop back and run around until someone’s open”. It didn’t work every play and there was a touch of Hero Ball Josh, but it worked enough. Give Allen the ball for three or four plays to get ten yards and he almost always keeps the chains moving.
I really thought Allen was going to pull this game out of the fire. I thought Miami was brutally stupid for going into a shell, even with the ball just in front of their own goal line in the final two minutes. Keep giving Allen chances and he’s going to win most games. This game was just not most games.
It’s said a lot in football that the best way to protect your defense is if your offense can keep the ball and keep that defense off the field. That almost felt like the game plan a little bit with the Bills. There were lots of throws underneath. Allen seemed satisfied taking checkdowns. Devin Singletary led the Bills with nine catches while James Cook, Zack Moss and Reggie Gilliam added seven more.
If that was the plan, it was a pretty good one. Tua Tagovailoa and his two superstar receivers got only six drives together where they were trying to score. Shortening the game is just fine when your entire secondary is missing.
The funny thing is all that time of possession and the 90 offensive plays might actually have been part of the reason why the Bills couldn’t finish at the end. The offense was exhausted. After the game, bodies were lying on the field left and right from both teams. Gabe Davis was flat on his back in the locker room 15 minutes after the game ended when media entered. I’ve been on the sideline for 23 seasons worth of games and this has to be among the top five hottest games I’ve covered. And I don’t remember many games where players from both teams were dropping like flies.
The Bills said they did everything you’re supposed to do to get ready for a hot and humid game in Miami. Everything they normally do. I just don’t think anyone could have been prepared for how hot and how exhausting it turned out to be.
Greg Rousseau went to the University of Miami. He’s played and practiced in this weather on a regular basis. He does think it’s harder to play in South Florida heat when you’re used to crisp beginnings of Western New York fall, but Rousseau still thought Sunday was crazy.
“You can just fall on the floor, not get hurt and Boom! Your hamstring. You feel a cramp. You don’t even got to get hit,” Rousseau said.
I think all those plays on offense made it worse. The more snaps the Bills took, the more players they lost. By the end of the game, all that was left on offense were backups (in some cases, DEEP backups) and the tattered remains of players who had survived all 90 plays. That’s a hard way to mount a last-second comeback.
Give the Dolphins defense credit. They were on the field for all the same plays and, for a bunch of them, they had to chase around the Josh Allen Experience. They still made more plays. This game was a war of attrition. The Dolphins had more able bodies standing at the end. They were the team who barely dragged themselves to the finish line first.
Shortening the game is one part of winning with a beat-up defense. The next part is winning the key plays. Doing the small things well. The Bills just didn’t do enough of that.
The 20-play marathon drive should have ended with a touchdown, but Gabe Davis couldn’t finish a touchdown catch that was in his hands. Allen blew a spike play at the end of the first half that cost the Bills points. Tyler Bass missed a field goal he normally makes. Confusion on offense force the Bills to burn timeouts in both halves. It’s understandable considering the injury situation, but those were mistakes the Bills could not afford.
This loss in no way derails Buffalo’s Super Bowl favorite status. If your closest division challenger can only beat you by a fingernail with half your defense out to start the game, half the offensive line out the end it, on the road, on a short week, there’s little to worry about. Even though the Bills now trail the Dolphins by a game plus a tiebreaker in the division, this loss only affirmed the belief that Buffalo is the clear favorite in the AFC East.
This was a situation where so many things were stacked against the Bills they had to be almost perfect to overcome it. They ended up being almost perfect.
“You can’t measure heart,” Rousseau said. “I feel like our team is going to go a long way with the mentality we bring, no matter how many people were down.”
It also helps that the Bills keep bringing number 17 to games. They always have a chance with him, even in the games they’re not supposed to win.