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Bills-Dolphins: The Biggest Takeaways From Hard-Fought AFC East Playoff Duel

Bills

The Bills and Dolphins duked it out in a surprisingly competitive AFC East playoff matchup. Although the Dolphins made it extremely

Josh Allen’s Turnovers Are A Problem, But He’s Also Making Championship Level Throws

He was incredible, yet, he could have, should have, and needed to play better. For a quarterback of Allen’s caliber, both these things can be true, and today they were. Josh made some throws today that only he can, while on the run, or backpedaling, or with pressure in his face. He had two 100-yard receivers in Diggs and Davis, and what would have been a third had Khalil Shakir caught a 56-yard bomb by Allen.

In his usual elite fashion, he threw for 352 yards (372 total), three touchdowns, created 16 first downs for the Bills. He targeted eight different pass catchers, completing passes to seven of them. Most importantly, after squandering a sizeable 17-0 lead to go down 24-20, Allen led two key touchdown drives to put the Bills up for good in what could be the first of many playoff moments for him.

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However, a slip up like what happened to the Bills in the second and third quarters will end the Bills’ journey in the divisional round. Allen’s two interceptions and the scoop-and-score that ultimately led to the Dolphins’ comeback were part of a pattern of turnovers that has affected Allen in the past 10 games, where he has had a total of 12 interceptions.

His quest for increased aggression and riskier, tighter throws obviously started in an attempt to bring the Bills to a championship level, but also has the potential to lead to disastrous results. In the end, the Dolphins were a team so hampered by injuries that they shouldn’t have been competitive today, yet were let back in by careless turnovers, something that cannot continue if the Bills want to make a real run here.

Of course, credit certainly needs to be given to the Dolphins’ defense. They pulled off an excellent game plan and made Allen extremely uncomfortable in the pocket, sacking him a whopping seven times, and it was that pressure, which in large parts, led to Allen’s mistakes. For a defense that was only able to grab eight interceptions all of the regular season, getting two here is promising and this performance definitely brings something to build on.

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The Dolphins’ Offense Has Potential For Next Year, But Needs To Cut The Mistakes

It was certainly impressive, that given Skylar Thompson’s lack of effectiveness, the Dolphins were able to put 24 offensive points on the board and really make a game of this. The wideouts, especially Tyreek Hill with his seven catches, were really able to take some of the burden off Thompson with excellent route running, athleticism and first downs generated off their legs.

Salvon Ahmed and Jaylen Waddle added some important receptions of their own, and despite the rushing attack floundering without Raheem Mostert, Thompson was able to at least keep the team within striking distance. It’s very possible, with the level that the skill positions were playing at, that the Dolphins could have won this game with Tagovailoa or Bridgewater under center, and to play on equal footing against the Bills in Buffalo is not an easy thing to do even fully healthy.

However, as encouraging as aspects of this game were for the Dolphins, they could have and perhaps should have won this game irrespective of the quarterback. This is where some of the naivete in play calling and general command of the offense really hurt the Dolphins. Most fans must have lost track of the number of times the Dolphins ran out or nearly ran out the play clock, and they had to spend two timeouts to save themselves from delay of game penalties.

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When they could get the ball off, even when using every millisecond of the playcall, the decisions were rushed and lacked harmony. A myriad of dropped passes, which hampered the confidenc of an already struggling Thompson even more, was just the tip of the iceberg. Particularly disturbing from the Dolphins fan perspective was the decision to have the struggling and inexperienced Skylar Thompson air the ball out under pressure on a third-and-long from the eight-yard line with a 24-20 lead. The resulting interception led to the last lead change of the game.

Regardless of who’s under center, McDaniel will need to keep a tighter ship on offense in the bigger moments next season for the Dolphins to be able to be more than a stop on the road to a super bowl for top teams like the Bills.

The Bottom Line

The Bills will now face Cincinnati and will need to bring a high level to beat a team that riding in with a lot of momentum and executing well on both sides of the ball. If they can play their own game and cut down on the mistakes, they can still beat any team in the league.

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The Dolphins end a season of ups and downs with a game that was truly a mixed bag. While they will be disappointed with the outcome, there’s a lot to build on heading into the offseason, and if they can stay healthy and improve schematically on offense, they can seriously contend next season.


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Written By

I am a scientist at a pharmaceutical company in the boston area, and have a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering from MIT. I am a huge fan of all things Boston sports, from the Patriots to the Red Sox to the Celtics, and can't wait to keep writing about my favorite team! On the side, I also love to sing, play tennis, and rock climb!

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