5 takeaways from the Bills playoff-clinching 32-29 win over the Dolphins

Nyheim Hines scores for the Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills running back Nyheim Hines (20) is hoisted by offensive tackle Dion Dawkins (73) after scoring during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. It was the first of two first-half touchdown runs for Hines. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex )

The Buffalo Bills wanted the Miami Dolphins to come to play them in the cold and the snow. For three and a half quarters, they were getting outplayed in the cold, but with the snow flurries beginning midway through the fourth quarter, Buffalo mounted a game-winning 86-yard drive to beat Miami 32-29 and clinch their fourth straight playoff birth. 

Despite the victory, the Bills certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves. They missed numerous tackles, dropped far too many passes, and completely stalled out in the third quarter, watching a 21-13 lead slip through their fingers. 

But with 5:56 left in the game and the Bills backed up to their own seven-yard line, the offense came back to life. Josh Allen was 4-for-5 for 40 yards and Devin Singletary gained 36 yards on the ground as they burned all the time off the clock to set up a 27-yard field goal from Tyler Bass. 

Josh Allen was his typically dominant self against the Miami Dolphins, completing 25-of-40 for 304 yards and four touchdowns while adding 77 yards on the ground. He was almost matched on the other side by Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 17-of-30 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns, but Miami stalled on their only drive in the snow and went away from the run far too much during the contest. 

The game was a fun back-and-forth affair, and there were numerous instances where Buffalo had Miami on its heels and couldn’t capitalize. At the end of the first half, Josh Allen converted on a miraculous touchdown pass to James Cook to put the Bills up 21-13. The Bills then got the ball to start the second half and went three-and-out before a busted coverage allowed a Jaylen Waddle to make it 21-19. 

Later in the third quarter, Buffalo got a crucial three-and-out stop after Miami started their drive down 21-19 at the 50-yard-line. However, Cam Lewis assaulted the Miami punter, giving Miami 15 yards and allowing them to continue the drive, which they would cap off with a touchdown to take a 26-21 lead. 

These are just two examples of the sloppy and inconsistent football that has plagued Buffalo since their bye week early in the season. It’s also the type of football that is going to get them eliminated in the playoffs if they don’t clean it up. 

However, for now, they know they’ll be headed to the postseason, but the drive to have the AFC playoffs come through Buffalo continues. 


Now let’s get into my five key takeaways from the game

1. Josh Allen Continues His Success Against Miami

Let’s begin with a positive; Josh Allen just continues to torch Miami. Coming into this game, Josh Allen had a passer rating of 106.1 with 2,684 yards, 27 touchdowns, and five interceptions in 10 games versus the Dolphins in his career. He’s now at 2,999 yards, 31 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. 

He almost single-handedly willed his team back when it seemed like the offense couldn’t get anything going and the defense couldn’t make a tackle.

Allen’s play on the seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 29 was the perfect example of how he can put this team on his back. He rushed for 52 yards on the drive, including the two-point conversion where he dove over Miami defenders and got the tip of the ball to cross the line

Who knows how long he can keep this up, but there are few better in big moments than Josh Allen. 


2. Bills Continue to Hurt Themselves

It’s becoming repetitive, but this Buffalo Bills team cannot get out of its own way, and it’s eventually going to end its season in heartbreak. 

Buffalo came into the game leading the NFL in drops with 25. Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs were tied for second-most in the NFL with six drops apiece. Diggs dropped one on Saturday, and the issue continued for their teammates as well with Dawson Knox having two bad drops on the final drive of the first half, despite the Bills still driving down for a score. 

Even though it didn’t cost the team tonight, you can start to see why the organization brought in veterans like John Brown and Cole Beasley in recent weeks to try to shore up this receiving corps. 

Buffalo also came into this game 4th in the NFL with 69 missed tackles. That’s over five missed tackles a game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they led the league after their putrid tackling on Saturday night. 

The Bills missed far too many tackles on Saturday, and it’s hard to just blame one person, but Damar Hamlin is becoming a real problem for Buffalo. After taking a bad angle two weeks ago against the Patriots, Hamlin took another terrible angle on a 67-yard run by Raheem Mostert. He then missed another tackle on a touchdown run by Salvon Ahmed that allowed the Dolphins to make the score 14-13, and then took another awful angle on the touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle. 

Obviously, Hamlin was never going to replace all that Micah Hyde gave the Buffalo defense, but if he doesn’t clean up his tackling, the team is going to need to find somebody else to at least split some snaps.  

Lastly, Buffalo continues to take costly penalties like Cam Lewis’ roughing the punter penalty and the false start and holds on the offensive line that killed a crucial third-quarter drive. 

That’s on the coaching staff to clean up, and they simply haven’t done it. 


3. Bills’ run defense takes a massive step back

Part of this connects to the missed tackles above, but it was just a brutal performance by the Buffalo run defense on Saturday night. 

Coming into the game, I mentioned that Miami was 25th in the NFL in yards per carry at 4.1 and 29th in rushing yards per game with 89.8 yards on the ground per contest. They ranked 24th in expected points added by their rushing attack, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching this game. 

However, on Saturday, Miami rushed for 188 yards on 7.5 yards per carry. It seemed like nobody on Buffalo could tackle Mostert, but, perhaps worse, it sometimes seemed like nobody was even near him. 

Fortunately for the Bills, the Dolphins went away from the ground game too often in key situations, and the passing game simply wasn’t as effective. However, Buffalo needs to address the issues with the run defense over these final weeks. 


4. The Bills’ Offensive Line is a Problem – Again

After the Jets win, I wrote an entire article about how the Buffalo offensive line was an issue that could hold this team back. I could copy and paste that entire thing here because it remains as true as ever. 

The play of the offensive line has been average at best all season long and has been downright dreadful in a few instances. The second half of this game was one of those dreadful nights. Allen was flushed from the pocket constantly and clearly had no confidence in his line to protect him. 

They simply don’t have adequate depth, and the front office has done nothing to address those needs. As a result, the Bills were completely short-handed when Mitch Morse left this game with a concussion. With Ryan Bates also out to start the game, the team was forced to rely on multiple backup offensive linemen again. It crushed far too many drives, yet again, as Allen was strip-sacked on the first play of the fourth quarter in a play that could have solidified a win for the Dolphins if the defense hadn’t held them to a field goal. 

Since Morse has a long history of concussions, the injury is particularly troublesome because it’s possible he might miss an extended period of time. If that is the case, Buffalo’s front office simply dug itself a hole at the position, and the team may not be able to climb out of it. 


5. Buffalo Continues Two-Minute Drill Success

Buffalo came into the game leading the NFL with 62 points scored in the final two minutes of the first half. They extended that lead to 69 now, and those seven points couldn’t have been more crucial with the Bills taking a 21-13 lead before getting the ball back to start the second half. 

Now, you can argue that the final play of that two-minute drill was a huge risk and nobody would argue with you. 

The Bills had eight seconds on the clock and a timeout, which seemed like all day, but Josh Allen held onto the ball and then was flushed from the pocket as the clock expired. When he delivered the pass to James Cook in the back of the end zone, it was either a touchdown or the Bills would have given away a chance at three points in a close game.

But, when you have Josh Allen at quarterback you can take those chances. It worked for the Bills on Saturday night, just as it has in the final two minutes of the first half throughout the season. 

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Josh Allen Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) celebrates after diving for a two-point conversion during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)