By Joe Buscaglia, Tim Graham and Austin Mock
The Bills won a snowy Saturday night thriller over the Dolphins 32-29 to clinch their fourth straight playoff berth. Here’s what you need to know:
- After taking a 21-13 halftime lead, Buffalo allowed 16 unanswered points to fall behind 29-21 with 11:56 remaining.
- Josh Allen tossed a touchdown on the Bills’ next drive and narrowly broke the plane on a diving two-point conversion to tie the game at 29.
- Tyler Bass kicked a 25-yard field goal as time expired to clinch the victory.
- Buffalo improves to 11-3 and becomes the first AFC team to book a spot in the postseason, while Miami falls to 8-6.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
A snowy win in Buffalo
The heavy snow that was supposed to fall inside Highmark Stadium didn’t really come until the fourth quarter — unless you want to count all the snowballs fans scooped and threw onto the field all night.
So instead, the Bills and Dolphins shoveled a heap of points in a sensational AFC East matchup that exceeded expectations. Many expected the Dolphins to freeze up. Hawaii native Tua Tagovailoa was an ugly 0-3 in games played at 50 degrees or colder, but he slung it around well enough to make Bills fans nervous.
After a month-plus of game-managing Buffalo to victories, Allen played like an MVP candidate again. The Bills required every bit of his derring-do because their defense was short on stops and big on errors. The Dolphins led by eight with 12 minutes to go. That’s when the snow started to turn the field white. Allen, who has played in these conditions before in Laramie and the northeast, seemed to find another gear as a runner and continued to connect with an array of targets despite the conditions.
In the snow-free first half, Allen got unusual conspirators involved: backup tight end Quintin Morris’ first NFL touchdown, Nyheim Hines first receiving touchdown as a Bill and rookie running back James Cook’s first touchdown in 10 weeks.
Buffalo’s secondary needs to solve problems with coverage and missed tackles. Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White struggled. An awful breakdown led to a 67-yard Jaylen Waddle touchdown in the third quarter, but Allen and the offense were too much to keep up with at a time when just such an all-purpose, all-weather outing was needed. — Graham
Josh Allen delivered in the clutch
With a stagnant offense in the second half, Allen attempted to go into hero mode in the fourth quarter. Down 29-21, Allen accounted for 52 rushing yards on one drive and the game-tying two-point conversion by a matter of inches. With the Bills down two starting offensive linemen, Allen could only depend on himself from that point forward. He then came back and engineered the game-winning drive, with several key throws.
In total, Allen accounted for 381 yards and four touchdowns. An incredible performance in a humongous game when the team needed it most. — Buscaglia
Bills’ O-line injuries piling up
Bills starting center Mitch Morse left the game early in the third quarter after being evaluated for a head injury, which was a humongous blow to the offensive synergy the Bills created in the first half. Morse has been the team’s best offensive lineman all season, and already without starting right guard Ryan Bates, the Bills were left with two reserves protecting quarterback Allen every play.
Greg Van Roten shifted to center and David Quessenberry, normally a tackle, subbed in at right guard. The Bills offensive line and their injuries will be a major focus over the next several days. — Buscaglia
Buffalo’s run defense leaves room for improvement
The Bills have spent much of the last month fixing their run defense to great results, but the Dolphins caught them napping all game long. Raheem Mostert and Saivon Ahmed helped put together the best rushing attack the Bills have seen since their Week 9 loss to the New York Jets. Mostert popped a 67-yard gain and averaged eight yards per carry. The Dolphins running backs totaled 181 yards, which opened things up for Tua Tagovailoa even against a tough Bills defense. — Buscaglia
What went wrong for Miami?
The Dolphins fought tooth and nail only to fall in the final minute on the road in Buffalo. The Dolphins actually outgained the Bills on a yards-per-play basis but the result of this game came down to scoring opportunities.
The Dolphins crossed the 50-yard line on seven drives, scoring on six. The problem, though, is that they had to settle for field goals on three of those drives (including one inside the Buffalo 5-yard line). Buffalo managed to cross the 50-yard line just six times, scoring on five, but only settling for a field goal on the game-clinching drive in the final seconds. — Mock
What’s next for the Dolphins?
The result isn’t what the Dolphins wanted, as their AFC East chances are almost non-existent at this point. But the offense getting back on track against a stout Buffalo defense on the road is a positive sign after struggling the past two weeks. — Mock
Highlights of night
?: @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/9r2aS8g7Wa
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 18, 2022
Allen broke the plane and then the ball broke free ?
?: #MIAvsBUF on @NFLNetwork
?: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/OppdDaKY2o pic.twitter.com/2E72fjbb2d
— NFL (@NFL) December 18, 2022
Ice in his veins! ?#MIAvsBUF | #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/FacJadbh8f
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 18, 2022
Only 2 QBs in NFL history with 50+ wins and 130+ pass TD over their first 5 seasons:
– Patrick Mahomes
– Josh Allen (reached both milestones tonight)@Chiefs @BuffaloBills
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 18, 2022
(Photo: Mark Konezny / USA Today)