The Dolphins dropped a heartbreaker Sunday night to division rival Buffalo to cap the Bills' comeback in the AFC East. As a banged-up Dolphins roster gest ready for the postseason, here are the takeaways from the 21-14 loss:
1. Not enough consistency in the biggest games
The regular season finale for Miami was all too similar to the rest of the games this year against the NFL's top teams. The Dolphins finished 1-5 vs. clubs with a winning record, most of which followed a common script.
For the second straight week, and the second time against Buffalo this season, the Miami offense went cold in the second half. Four straight possessions ended in punts, the most consecutive punts for the Dolphins this season. Miami didn't have a second-half series last longer than four plays.
Then, needing 50 yards with more than 80 seconds remaining, a drive that looked promising to start ended in an interception.
"If you lose to two good teams down the stretch, you leave yourself vulnerable to say you can't beat good teams, which will be the case until you do," Head Coach Mike McDaniel said. "My opinion on winning football games against records that aren't above .500, it's irrelevant. That narrative will occur until you do things to change it."
Fortunately, the Dolphins still have one more chance this season to re-write that script.
2. Wilkins leads dazzling defense effort
The Miami defense allowed just 14 points to one of the NFL's most dangerous offenses, including three takeaways off quarterback Josh Allen. Miami intercepted Allen twice in the end zone and a Christian Wilkins strip-sack and recovery at the end of the third quarter put Miami in prime position to take a two-score lead in the game's final period.
Wilkins and Zach Sieler led the charge inside, while the next-man-up mentality provided another spark off the edge. Already down Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb, Miami lost Andrew Van Ginkel early in the third quarter with a foot injury.
That triumvirate compiled 23.5 sacks this season. Melvin Ingram picked up 1.5 sacks in his third game with the team while Wilkins and Sieler combined for the other 1.5. Those two – also known as Salt and Pepper – totaled 19 sacks on the season, the most by any defensive tackle duo in Dolphins history.
3. Playoff matchup finalized
Heading into Week 18, four potential opponents were in play for Miami's Wild Card round game. The loss means the Dolphins will go on the road as the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs for a rematch against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The two teams met on November 5 in Frankfurt, Germany in a game that, at the time, featured the AFC's top two teams at 6-2.
McDaniel addressed the rematch after Sunday night's loss.
"There is evolution to what you're doing. So it's not like it's ever the exact same thing when you play someone in the middle of the season and play them in the postseason," McDaniel said. "There are usually some bells and whistles attached to the scheme and game plan so you got to be ready for a lot."
One big storyline to watch this week? The NFL's leading receiver, Tyreek Hill, will make his long-awaited return to Arrowhead Stadium, where he spent the first six seasons of his career and helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV.
For more analysis, takeaways and breakdowns, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield, available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.