It’s not going to do anything for them in the standings, but the Miami Dolphins proved Saturday night they can compete with anybody in the AFC.
The Dolphins rebounded from their two disappointing performances in California to play a very good game against the heavily favored Buffalo Bills, but let a potentially gigantic victory slip away.
The Dolphins suffered a heartbreaking 32-29 loss at Highmark Stadium when Tyler Bass kicked a 25-yard field goal on the final play of the game to cap a game-winning 86-yard drive that began at the Buffalo 7-yard line.
Buffalo converted three third downs on the drive, including the most critical play of the game — a 21-yard defensive pass interference penalty against Kader Kohou on a third-and-6 from the Miami 34-yard line.
Maybe more frustrating for the Dolphins is that they had the ball in Buffalo territory in a 29-29 game, but their drive stalled after a second-down screen pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill lost 3 yards and Tua threw a third-down incompletion.
The Dolphins also wasted another great opportunity earlier in the fourth quarter after Jaelan Phillips forced a fumble while sacking Josh Allen from behind and Christian Wilkins recovered the fumble at the Buffalo 47.
Miami was forced to settle for a field goal after a third-and-1 pass to Durham Smythe with Tua under pressure ended up losing 2 yards.
STRONG PERFORMANCE BY TUA TAGOVAILOA
Tagovailoa rebounded from the two mediocre performances in California with an impressive outing — he completed 17 of 30 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 104.0.
The Dolphins also got a big boost from their running game, with Raheem Mostert rushing for a season-high 136 yards.
The highlight was a 67-yard run that helped him reach the 100-yard mark before the end of the first quarter.
The Dolphins also got a 67-yard play in the passing game, Tua’s touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle in the third quarter that made the score 21-19 after a two-point conversion failed.
The Dolphins took their first lead of the second half on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tua to Tyreek Hill late in the third quarter.
FOR EVEN MORE COVERAGE ON THE MIAMI DOLPHINS, CHECK OUT SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S MIAMI DOLPHINS PAGE ON SI.COM
DOLPHINS DEFENSE HAS HIGHS AND LOWS
The defense had some moments in this game, but ultimately Allen got the better of it.
Allen passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 77 yards, in addition to scoring the two-point conversion that tied the score 29-29.
The Dolphins looked like they were in trouble after Buffalo scored a touchdown on the final play of the first half, with Allen throwing a 4-yard pass to running back James Cook to make it 21-13.
But the defense stiffened early in the second half and shut down Allen and the Buffalo offense long enough to take that 29-21 lead.
But Allen turned things around with a 44-yard run that set up his 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox.
The Dolphins finished with 405 total yards on offense, showing great balance with 188 yards rushing and 217 yards passing, but they gave up 446 yards and allowed Buffalo to convert 8 of 14 third-down situations.
Buffalo also had much better success in the red zone, going 4-for-5 against the Dolphins’ 1-for-3.
In the end, the difference in this game was very small, which says something about the Dolphins considering Buffalo entered the game as the top seed in the AFC.
But the bottom line was a third consecutive loss for the Dolphins, who now stand at 8-6 heading into their Christmas Day home game against the Green Bay Packers.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Dolphins news and analysis year-round. Also, you can follow me on Twitter at @PoupartNFL, and that’s where you can ask questions for the regular All Dolphins mailbags. You also can ask questions via email at email@example.com.