5 takeaways from the Bills’ 56-26 win over the Dolphins

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Nick Wojton
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The Buffalo Bills had no intensions of slowing down heading into the postseason.

With the AFC East title already wrapped up and likely having the No. 2 seed secured even prior to Week 17’s kickoff against the Miami Dolphins (10-6)… nothing stopped Buffalo. The Bills (13-3) absolutely beat down the Dolphins in their regular season finale, 56-26.

Take about ending the year on a high note.

Following that blowout, here are five takeaways from the Bills’ win:

Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Starters play till half

It was an unknown and then later an uneasy situation the Bills put everyone in. Throughout the week, Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott was a man of his word. You’ve got to give him that. The entire time he said he wouldn’t reveal who would play and start for his team against the Dolphins. Even the night before the season finale, reports on what Buffalo would do were flimsy at best.

Well, as it turns out, the starters for the Bills would play till roughly halftime. The name at the top of this list was quarterback Josh Allen, who played all the way till the end of first half kneel down. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs played just about the same amount of time. Guys like QB Matt Barkley and others came in on offense at the start of the third quarter.

On defense, the Bills had a mixed bag. Some starters actually were left inactive for the game. That grouping included cornerback Tre’Davious White and pass rushers Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. Probably a smart play. Others, like starting linebacker duo Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano saw playing time up until the first series in the second half.

All-in-all, the Bills still came to play even with their personnel question marks. Allen was 18-for-25 passing for 224 yards and three touchdowns. He also had an interception, as did Barkley in relief (Barkley also had a score.) Practice squad rusher Antonio Williams turned some heads with his first-career touchdowns. Wide receiver John Brown did get back in the lineup him and he looked good as usual. He caught a touchdown pass.

But there was one guy who stood out above the rest for the Bills…

Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Have a day, Isaiah

Paging Kenny Stills… we’ve had second thoughts…

Well truthfully it remains to be seen what happens in regard to Stills now, seriously.

The Bills and Stills rumors began to grow throughout the past week. Slot wide receiver Cole Beasley suffered a “week-to-week” injury in Week 16 against the New England Patriots late… and soon after the Stills rumors began.

A guy that can play both inside and outside wide receiver, the connections to the Beasley injury were obvious with the free agent playmaker potentially signing with Buffalo.

Boy did Isaiah McKenzie have something to say about that.

McKenzie, the likely backup slot receiver for the Bills if Beasley can’t go, had a ridiculous game. McKenzie scored twice on offense, both while with the starting offensive unit a.k.a. including Allen, and McKenzie even did it on special teams. McKenzie recorded Buffalo’s first punt return touchdown since 2014 as well.

Naturally McKenzie didn’t finish the day as Buffalo’s leading receiver. That was Stefon Diggs (7 catches, 76 yards), but he was their best scorer. McKenzie finished with six catches for 65 yards and those three total touchdowns.

Even if the Bills do bring Stills into the fold in the coming week, McKenzie, who’s a younger option than Beasley, certainly displayed he might have it in him to be a viable option in the future. Not a bad problem for the Bills to have right now.

Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries avoided

The Bills played their starters in this game longer than most were comfortable with. Naturally the biggest concern here had to do with health. First and foremost heading into the postseason, the Bills wanted to escape this season-ending game with the the Dolphins in a safe manner. Do not get anyone hurt in a game that is mostly meaningless.

At the top of that list is Allen. While he was sacked in this one and been hit a time or two, he remained intact. But others weren’t so healthy. A couple of guys appeared to be dinged up, even briefly.

Those included:

  • WR Stefon Diggs

  • OL John Feliciano

  • CB Taron Johnson

  • LB Matt Milano

  • CB Siran Neal

In the case of all five, no one missed much playing time. Johnson and Milano went down on the same play, but trainers only attended to Johnson… who later went on to return to the game himself. Neal was the only guy injured in the second half, but he returned as well.

Like Milano, both Diggs and Feliciano looked to just have a stinger or something of that nature. Both didn’t miss a snap.

Mission accomplished in terms of health for Buffalo.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is sacked by Bills middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Dolphins aren’t the Bills

While we typically focus our takeaways on the Bills, we’re going to bring the Dolphins into the picture on this one… and the idea is simple: The No. 2 team in the AFC East is not Buffalo. Not even close.

Following this one, the Bills ended the year with a 13-3 record. It’s a tie for the Bills’ best single-season record ever. The Dolphins will end the year at a pretty solid 10-6 themselves. But it was very apparent that the Bills have a couple of years worth of experience on this Miami team.

The carousel the Dolphins have had at the quarterback position all season is a bad sign. Ryan Fitzpatrick is their backup QB and if he had not contracted COVID-19 this week, you bet he would have replaced rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa at some point in Week 17.

In fact, the Dolphins looked much like a team similar to the 2017 Bills. In McDermott’s first year at the helm, that team was not supposed to go to the playoffs. Tyrod Taylor was the quarterback still and no one saw that coming, but it happened with some massive help from the Bengals. The group, like the current Dolphins, were led by the defense.

That’s not to say the ’17 Bills weren’t a good team, they just were not close to this Bills team, and neither are the Dolphins. Miami entered this game as the one team that could, maybe… had tried to… stake a claim as a team that could be a thorn in the Bills’ side as they try to become the AFC East’s next dynasty.

Miami looked nothing like that, rather, a distant second. Buffalo’s starters beat up the Dolphins… and then the Bills’ backups did, too. Buffalo won in all three phases.

Bills wide receiver John Brown (15) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass thrown by quarterback Josh Allen. (AP Photo/John Munson)

The hottest team in the NFL

There’s no debate. Did keeping their starters in the game for awhile leave many feeling unsettled? Curious as to why? Yeah, that was what crossed everyone’s mind at some point here.

But in the end, things finished in a perfect way for Buffalo.

Their offense kept rolling. Allen couldn’t stop scoring. Diggs wouldn’t stop putting up first down. Another guy, McKenzie, came out of nowhere to produce. All that happened against one of the NFL’s top defensive units, too.

On defense for Buffalo, just look at quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s stat line…. 300 yards? Sure. Three interceptions via guys like Josh Norman weren’t very promising, though. The Dolphins were playing for their season. Tagovailoa struggled, as did the entire Miami offense. Almost nothing went right.

The case many hoped for in this one was that the Bills would come out of the game healthy. They did. Check.

The ideal case scenario is that Buffalo kept on rolling while remaining healthy. The Bills kept on firing on all cylinders and carried the recent momentum they’ve built into the postseason. Not only did the Bills do that, they might have even added to it by involving their offense, defense and special teams in the fun.

Thanks to teams like the Chiefs and Steelers, the No. 1 and 3 seeds in the AFC, respectively, resting their starting units in Week 17… the Bills might be the second seed, but they’re certainly the hottest team in the conference, or even the NFL now. Confirmed. No one will want to play this team… your Bills.

Related

Isaiah McKenzie gives Bills first punt return TD since 2014 (video)

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OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Buffalo
+135+3.5O 54.5
Kansas City
-162-3.5U 54.5