Despite playing one of the most competitive games at Buffalo in recent years, familiar woes buried Miami for the seventh straight week. We'll examine the three biggest takeaways from Sunday's 26-11 defeat in Orchard Park.
As always, for further analysis, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.
Check out the top photos from Week 8 - Dolphins at Bills, presented by Baptist Health.
1. Slowing a Juggernaut for the better part of Three Quarters
Miami won double-digit games last season for a variety of reasons -- perhaps none more prominent than the defense's ability to generate pressure, take the football away and put the third-down clamps on the opposition. This formula was often developed by well-crafted blitzes and blanket coverage from a secondary loaded with talent.
Sunday, against a quarterback who has enjoyed his best career games inside of the Buffalo-Miami rivalry, the Dolphins had MVP candidate Josh Allen frustrated after a fourth consecutive drive without points. In total, through six possessions, Buffalo had just three points and five first downs.
The key, according to All-Pro Xavien Howard, was great calls and a game plan that took on the identity of the 2020 team.
"We had some great play-calling from the coaches," Howard said. "I think we were getting back a little bit to what we were doing last year with the coverage we were playing."
2. Taking Turns Making Mistakes
While Miami kept Buffalo in check in the first half, the Bills took advantage of their possessions in the back part of the contest. After the success through the first six drives, Buffalo scored each of the final four times they possessed the football. The scoring run began with a 13-play drive that covered 80 yards and chewed up 7:06 of game clock, giving the home side a 10-3 advantage with under four minutes to play in the third quarter.
On that series, Buffalo converted a first down on third-and-14. Later, on third-and-1 from the Dolphins' 41-yard-line, Elandon Roberts had Josh Allen dead to rights three yards behind the line-of-scrimmage, but the 240-pound quarterback made the linebacker miss and moved the sticks.
Five plays later, a zero-blitz got home forcing Allen to throw a fadeaway lob. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel tackled tight end Tommy Sweeney with the ball in the air for an obvious pass interference flag. Buffalo scored on the next play.
It was an unwelcomed return of the script that played out earlier in the season – a lack of complementary football in all three phases to take control of a game and a rotation of mistakes, causing self-inflicted wounds.
Miami committed nine penalties for 58 yards, including offensive fouls at critical times. Getting lined up was a problem for the Dolphins' offensive attack all game long, but a late second quarter gaffe forced them to pay the ultimate price. On third-and-5 from the Buffalo 12-yard-line, Mike Gesicki spent the majority of the play clock correctly aligning his fellow receivers, then went across the formation in motion. But before he could clear the quarterback, the ball was snapped square off of Gesicki's chest. Instead of a halftime lead and receiving the second-half kickoff, Miami committed a red zone turnover for the second straight week and went three-and-out on the ensuing possession in the third quarter.
False starts, protection breakdowns, dropped passes -- that's a recipe for an 11-point output.
3. Special Teams Struggles
Jason Sanders missed a field goal for the third consecutive week, giving him more misses (four) than the entire 2020 season (36-for-39). Losing the previous two games on the final play, those missed/blocked kicks had fans asking what-if. But the rarity of this miss is even more perplexing. Sanders has the streak for most consecutive extra points made with more than 60 dating back to 2019. Of course, PATs are 35-yard attempts, and this miss coming from 36 yards is a microcosm of the struggles Miami has endured this season.