Adversity comes for every team, even teams that score 10 touchdowns in a single game.
A week after scoring 70 points against the hapless Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins flew up to Buffalo and got their butts kicked in a game that was concerning as far as their chances to win the Super Bowl go. The Dolphins’ supercharged offense turned into a shell of itself for the majority of their game against the Bills, scoring just six points over the final 43 minutes of the AFC East battle after going blow-for-blow with Buffalo in the first quarter.
The Dolphins learned a tough lesson that they need to develop the part of their offense that can generate a comeback.
Tua Tagovailoa got off to a fast start, completing 14 of his first 18 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, but the Dolphins struggled to generate explosive plays when they really needed to start zooming down the field. The Dolphins were able to move the ball, but most of their yards ended up being empty calories.
Josh Allen and the Bills had the game that spectators have come to expect from Mike McDaniel’s Dolphins, scoring on eight of their offensive possessions en route to 48 points. Allen threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns, and ran in a fifth. It put the Dolphins in a 31-14 halftime hole, and they couldn’t recover in the second half.
“First off, I think the Buffalo Bills proved why they are the team that our whole division is trying to beat,” McDaniel said. “They’ve won it for how many years in a row now? They made some adjustments, and we didn’t, so to speak. I think it was kind of compounding.”
(For the record: It’s three straight AFC East crowns, Coach.)
The next evolution of the Dolphins’ offense is figuring out how to be explosive when the game script makes them one-dimensional. By the end of the game, they didn’t have much outside of handing the ball off to rookie running back De’Von Achane. A dropback game is necessary in the NFL. That’s what the Dolphins have to develop to fulfill their highest goals for the season.
The Bills thwarted the Dolphins’ big-play ability and held Miami to its lowest scoring output of the season at 20 points.
One area that hurt the Dolphins within this game was turnovers. They had two, which is not an alarming number, but it’s a figure that becomes accentuated when the other team’s quarterback has the game of a lifetime.
“You don’t just go down the field and score at will in the National Football League over and over and over,” McDaniel said. “You have two drives, that’s cool, but you have to — you’re going to punt, and they’re going to make plays, too. What you can’t do is have self-inflicted wounds.”
Turnovers were a struggle point for the offense, as well as losing left tackle Terron Armstead to a knee injury. Backup left tackle Kendall Lamm struggled mightily in his absence — according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the Bills’ defensive ends accounted for 10 pressures and two sacks. That’s a style of football that the Dolphins hadn’t really played up to this point.
Prior to this past game, Tagovailoa had the fastest time to throw in the NFL at 2.34 seconds from snap to pass. This week, Tagovailoa had 45.7% of his attempts thrown more than 2.5 seconds after the ball was snapped. Tagovailoa had a passer rating of 81.3 on passes of more than 2.5 seconds compared to 96.9 on passes under 2.5 seconds.
“Off of the [first] two drives that we had, I thought that we did really well with our communication in and out of the huddle, getting guys where they needed to be and lining up and executing,” Tagovailoa said. “Then with the other drives, there were a lot of communication errors on my part. I’ve got to be better with that aspect of the game for our guys and not put the guys into those situations, and that’s really what the game turned out to be.”
The concerning part is that this offense should be able to play from behind and even within the harsh conditions of losing linemen. The Dolphins have too much firepower to have a game like this and, frankly, it’s unlikely they get shut down like this again until they play the Bills again — and they hope to have a healthy Armstead for that game.
The roof is not falling. There’s no need to panic here. The Dolphins still have arguably the best offense in football and they’re eight days removed from scoring 70 points. They just ran into another team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, but if they can get healthy or mitigate some of the issues they have when their quick-hitters aren’t working, McDaniel and his team will be better equipped for the Bills in the final week of the regular season. Time to see how the latest brilliant offensive mind adjusts to what happened against Buffalo.