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Dave Hyde: Dolphins must slow Bills QB Josh Allen — for once — to save No. 2 seed

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Through the years against the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins have absorbed season-defining body blows, angry retaliatory shots and random street heckling. And that’s just from Josh Allen.

This is the added worry of this next Game of the Year. If you thought Lamar Jackson was unique, if you thought what the Baltimore quarterback did in beating the Dolphins 56-19 last Sunday was surprising, now comes the quarterback who has made such days commonplace against the Dolphins.

“Different body types, different running types, but the same problems,’’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Jackson and Allen’s twin terrors of passing and running.

Jackson is a Ferrari. Allen is an SUV.

“Allen is a beast of a guy, a physical specimen like (Hall of Famer) John Elway from the mid-80s to the mid-90s,’’ Fangio said. “He’s John Elway on steroids — I don’t mean he takes steroids. I mean, he’s bigger, faster, cannon for an arm. Tough.”

Allen’s record is 10-2 against the Dolphins. Both losses came on last-play passes where he barely underthrew the game-winner, too. He’s that close to 12-0.

He’s not just along for the ride for some of those games, too. He’s always the show. He’s had an average collection of playmakers around him, and he’s thrown 34 touchdowns against seven interceptions with a 109.2 rating. For reference, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa leads the league this year with a 103 rating.

The challenge of Allen isn’t just his arm. It’s the 15 touchdowns and 49 first downs he’s run for this season (Tagovailoa, who the Dolphins don’t want to run, has no rushing touchdowns and four first downs).

“He’s a dude,’’ Fangio said.

There are season-deciding matchups across the field to decide if the Dolphins open the playoffs at home (probably against Buffalo) or are banished to Kansas City. There are in-the-mud matchups like the Dolphins interior line against Buffalo’s star tackle Daquan Jones, who played his first game in three months last Sunday.

There’s the head-coach matchup of Buffalo’s Sean McDermott calling the fourth-ranked defense against the Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel calling the offense. Can McDaniel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa kick-start what’s been an ordinary offense against good defenses?

Then there’s Fangio against Allen. Sure, on some level, it’s Fangio against new Buffalo coordinator Joe Brady, who has gone 5-1 since taking over from Ken Dorsey. Brady also has done the one thing to help Allen: He’s taken more off his plate. Buffalo is running the ball 12 more times a game since he took over. That’s smart, as the receiving corps has little speed and running back in James Cook is the best Buffalo back, “since Thurman Thomas,” Fangio said.

Somewhere Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy raised an eyebrow. But it’s a good time for Fangio to overpraise an opponent, because even if you think the Dolphins have a good system and top coordinator (as I do), you wonder about this defense after last Sunday.

It’s not just the 56 points Baltimore scored. It’s the loss of pass rusher Bradley Chubb and the injury of cornerback Xavien Howard. The Dolphins are down to Andrew Van Ginkel as an edge pass rusher and cornerback is one of the places they don’t have any depth. That’s why Eli Apple was signed on the edge of the season.

And here comes Allen. His Buffalo offense is hot and cold. That’s for everyone focused too hard on the Dolphins last Sunday. Allen has completed fewer than 60% of his passes in five of his past seven games (Tua was under 60% just once this year). Just last week against New England, Allen started 2-of-11 passing for 5 yards and it was the Bills’ five interceptions on defense that carried the day.

But Allen plays against the Dolphins like no other star quarterback has. Tom Brady won seven Super Bowl but his worst matchup was the Dolphins for whatever reason. Maybe Allen is motivated, since the Dolphins had no interest in the 2018 draft. That wouldn’t be a first. Dolphins legend Dan Marino watched teams pass him in the 1983 draft as his father said, “You’ll get a chance at each of them.”

Buffalo built around Allen without tanking like the Dolphins did. It made the playoffs his second season, lost a heart-breaker playoff game in Kansas City in 2021 and now are a mystery team that’s got hot this past month. Now they want the No. 2 playoff seed that a few weeks ago seemed to be the Dolphins’ consolation prize. Now they’d love it.

Allen bobbed and weaved and answered in clichés when asked this week why he plays so well against the Dolphins.

“Each game has its specific flow,” he told Buffalo media. “I’ve played well against them in the past, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to play well against them this week, unless I prepare well and work hard in practice and get on the same page as receivers.

“And the five guys up front do their job and the receivers catch the ball, so it takes everybody to do that. We’re looking forward to having a good week of practice and putting our best foot forward.”

The Dolphins have this next Game of the Year against a villain for the ages. Fangio has the mind to slow him. The question is if he has the players and, beyond that, if Allen can be stopped against the Dolphins.