Dolphins Lose 34-31 in Thrilling AFC Wildcard Matchup against the Buffalo Bills

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Sunday afternoon, the shorthanded Miami Dolphins were dealt with a heartbreaking 34-31 loss against their division rival, the Buffalo Bills. 

Prior to the wildcard matchup, the Dolphins had many players listed as inactive with their star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa headlining the report. Alongside Tagovailoa was cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, running back Raheem Mostert, offensive tackle Kendall Lamm, offensive linemen Brandon Shell & Liam Eichenberg, and tight end Tanner Conner. As for the Bills, they were without outside linebacker Von Miller, wide receiver Jake Kumerow, offensive tackle Tommy Doyle, and safety Damar Hamlin who was able to support his team from the comfort of his house after making a steady recovery from his medical scare Jan. 2nd against the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Starting off the game, it appeared as if the Dolphins were going to roll over for the Bills amassing a potential blowout loss similar to their last playoff appearance in the 2016 wildcard matchup against the Steelers. The Bills were the first to score as they took an early 7-0 lead resulting from a 73-yard drive with quarterback Josh Allen dishing it to receiver Dawson Knox for the finishing touch. The Dolphins response came up short quite literally as their drive lasted for only 27 seconds capping it off with quarterback Skylar Thompson’s pass being intercepted from Bills’ safety Dean Marlowe. The Bills capitalized on that interception with another touchdown stemming from a 2-yard rush by running back Devin Singletary. Thompson had another chance to redeem himself from the last time out however, the drive came up short when both Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill were unable to complete their catches. The Bills found themselves with a perfect opportunity to extend their lead. The Dolphins were able to hold the Bills to a field goal and finally were able to get one of their own bringing the lead back to a two score game, 17-3. 

After garnering a stop against the red hot Bills, the Dolphins were able to score another field goal bringing the score closer, 17-6. When all had seemed to be lost, the Dolphins went on to compile a few more defensive stops with an awe-inspiring performance as they were able to pick off two interceptions from Allen and converted on each one which subsequently, led to a tie game 17-17. Just for reference, Allen has only had 1 interception in his postseason career before throwing back to back picks on the following drives. The Bills were only able to respond with a field goal to conclude the half with a 20-17 lead.

Opening the second half, the Dolphins continued their level of activity on the defensive side of the football as safety Eric Rowe forced a fumble on Allen in which defensive tackle Zach Sieler was able to recover for a touchdown (24-20). It was only after a few more missed opportunities on the offensive end and another Thompson interception which cornerback Kaiir Elam picked off were the Bills able to regain their ground. Allen was able to find his groove once again when he found receiver Cole Beasely for his second touchdown in an effort to take back the lead (27-24). With another failed attempt for the Dolphins to put some points on the board, the Bills converted as Allen was able to find receiver Gabe Davis for a 23-yard touchdown (34-24). To begin the fourth quarter of play, the Dolphins were able to come up with a response of their own as Jaylen Waddle took it upon himself for an 8-yard rush touchdown (34-31). From that point on, the game was all defensive as neither team was able to score within the final minutes. The Dolphins had one last opportunity to do the impossible and shock the world with a potential game winning drive but ultimately came up short with a delay of game penalty on 4th & 1. 

From a tough game against the New York Jets in the last outing, Skylar Thompson had improved upon his performance significantly as he totaled 220-yards and 1 touchdown (18/45) with 2 interceptions. The rush game for the Dolphins struggled going up against the Bills as the team amounted to 42-yards with Jeff Wilson Jr. responsible for 23 of them. As for the receiving yards, it was distributed quite evenly with Tyreek Hill leading the way with 69-yards, Salvon Ahmed with 45-yards, and Jaylen Waddle with 44-yards. Despite the fact that the Dolphins have struggled defensively all season long, they came up huge in today’s game as Jevon Holland and Xavien Howard each picked off an interception while Eric Rowe forced the fumble.

As for the Bills, Josh Allen erupted for 352-yards and 3 touchdowns (23/39) with 2 interceptions and 1 fumble. The rush game for Buffalo went relatively well as the team combined for 107-yard with Devin Singletary’s 48 yards leading the way. Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis had an extraordinary amount of receiving yards as they notched up 114-yards (Diggs) and 113-yards (Davis) respectively. 

Closing Remark

To say the least, what the Dolphins were able to accomplish against the Bills is best described as a miracle. In a way, this game between the two division rivals played out in a similar fashion to what occurred in the very first Rocky movie. Despite the fact that many outlets and betting books were looking past the Dolphins going into this matchup, they were able to go the distance against a juggernaut of a Bills team. With the season having wrapped up, it may be disappointing at first however it should be mentioned that the future is bright as ever in Miami as this game could be the turning point for this franchise. Just look back as to what this organization and its players have accomplished this past season: from their record, to milestones, to a playoff appearance. It’s safe to say that with the many players being able to have a full offseason to recover from their injuries as well as improve upon their conditioning and chemistry, the Dolphins will be back and better than ever.

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