Instant analysis, recap of the Bills’ win over the Dolphins

The Buffalo Bills ended their 2023 campaign with a 21-14 win/loss at Miami. Buffalo’s victory gives the Bills their fourth consecutive AFC East crown.

Multiple turnovers slowed both high-powered offenses over a scoreless first quarter. Tua Tagovailoa’s opening drive was cut short by a Christian Benford interception. Tagovailoa tried to hit Tyreek Hill deep, but Benford cut underneath Hill on the slightly underthrown ball.

The Bills offense responded with a solid 12-play drive. However, confusion and chaos occurred as Josh Allen tried to beat the Dolphins pass rush. As Allen retreated, he tossed an ill-advised pass into the end zone. Eli Apple cradled the pass and Buffalo’s initial drive was instantly stopped.

Allen tossed his second interception of the quarter on the Bills next offensive drive. Buffalo moved into Miami territory but stalled out at the 35-yard line. The Bills took a gamble and went for the fourth-down conversion. Under duress, Allen rolled to his right and chucked a pass into the end zone. DeShon Elliott came away with the ball.

The offenses settled in over the course of the next few drives.

First, Miami scored on an 11-play drive. Miami utilized the ground game a bit more in this drive. De’Von Achane ran for a 25-yard touchdown. Miami used misdirection and fakes to get the Bills defense off-balance. Achane’s speed and change-of-direction earned him additional yards for his carries.

Buffalo responded with a seven-play scoring drive. The Bills finally saw a big play head toward Stefon Diggs’ way, as he caught a spectacular 36-yard pass to bring the Bills within a shadow of the goalline. Allen throw a pass that was deflected. Trent Sherfield tracked the ball and toe-tapped as the ball fluttered toward the back of the end zone.

The Dolphins motored back down the field on a nine-play series. Tyreek Hill scored on a three-yard touchdown reception. Hill was matched one-on-one against Benford, and Tagovailoa hit the wide receiver on a quick-timing route to give the Dolphins the lead 14-7.

With under two minutes in the half, the Bills moved quickly down the field. Allen was decisive with his passes on the drive. James Cook, however, dropped a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone. On the final play of the half, Allen hit Ty Johnson, who was stopped at the one-yard line. The Dolphins entered the half up by a touchdown.

The second half started in a similar way as the start of the game. The defenses locked down the offenses. Both teams were forced to punt on the initial drives of the second half.

Buffalo’s offense seemed to have something great on their second series of the half. The Bills had a nice mix of play calls by coordinator Joe Brady. Allen had the offense moving methodically down the field. On the 13th play of the drive, Christian Wilkins forced an Allen fumble. The Bills came away with zero points on the long drive.

Deonte Harty added some juice to the defensive stalemate with an electrifying 96-yard punt return to tie the game.

Buffalo’s defense continued to slow the Miami offense, once again forcing a fumble. The Bills responded with their first lead of the game. Allen led the Bills on an eight-play scoring drive, culminating with a five-yard reception by tight end Dawson Knox. The drive was aided by two big pass plays: a 26-yard tumbling-backward reception by Dalton Kincaid and a 28-yard Khalil Shakir reception on the sideline. With seven minutes remaining, the Bills lead 21-14.

Buffalo’s defense forced another three-and-out. With the offense driving, Buffalo looked to ice the game with just over six minutes remaining.

The Bills were forced into a fourth down on the first set of downs in the series. In a gutsy call, Buffalo called a quarterback dive at their 35-yard line. The successful try kept the ball in Buffalo’s hands, allowing more time to come off the clock. On third-and-long, Allen made a spectacular run to gain a first down and continue the drive. The Bills were eventually stopped on fourth-and-one at Miami’s 37-yard-line. The Dolphins took possession with 1:53 remaining in regulation.

Miami moved the ball into Buffalo’s territory. Safety Taylor Rapp jumped an off-target pass to intercept the ball and seal the game for the Bills.



Keys to the game

Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)
Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)
  • Miami’s initial defensive gameplan to blitz at a high rate worked for the first part of the game. Allen struggled to find the correct hot reads early in the game. When he did extend plays, he was overly aggressive in the red zone. As the game progressed, Allen did a better job at beating the blitz. When the Dolphins dropped off, Allen picked apart the Miami secondary.

  • Buffalo’s defense was stellar all night. They completely stymied the Dolphins in the second half, forcing four punts and an interception.

  • Miami’s offensive strategy was not sustainable. The Dolphins were stellar when they used their speed-skill players, especially getting the ball into De’Von Achane’s and Tyreek Hill’s hands. Achane was largely neutralized in the second half.

  • Miami’s misdirection plays, which the offense relied upon early in the game, were unavailable as the game progressed. The Bills forced the Dolphins into longer down-and-distances, which prevented Miami from calling slower-developing plays.

  • Baylon Spector and Dane Jackson did well in reserve duties. There was little drop-off when Rasul Douglas and Tyrel Dodson left the field. On the offensive side of the ball, Khalil Shakir and Trent Sherfield performed admirably with additional snaps due to Gabe Davis’s injury

  • Buffalo overcame a slew of first-half mistakes. Josh Allen threw two interceptions. Allen also struggled to hit Stefon Diggs on deep routes. In addition, the final drive of the half was full of miscues, as James Cook dropped a touchdown. Then, the Bills completed a pass but time expired in the half. Allen’s rough first half. everything came together in the second half

  • Josh Allen showed why he is a perennial MVP candidate. In the second half, Allen was precise with his passes. More importantly, his decision-making was on point. When necessary, Allen bulled through the defense with his running.

  • Buffalo forced two interceptions: one on the Dolphins’ opening drive and one on Miami’s final drive.

Quick hits

(Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)
  • Deonte Harty’s 96-yard punt return was the longest in Buffalo Bills team history. It was also the turning point for the game.

  • Trent Sherfield scored his touchdown as a Buffalo Bill against his former team.

  • Interestingly enough, the Bills only sack came when running back De’Von Achane attempted a pass. Tyrel Dodson was credited with the sack.

  • Allen was responsible for over 400 yards of total offense. Allen had another spectacular game against Miami, going 30-of-38 for 359 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and two interceptions. Allen added 67 yards on 15 carries.

  • Stefon Diggs and Dalton Kincaid led the Bills with seven receptions. Khalil Shakir led Buffalo with 105 receiving yards.

  • Terrel Bernard and Taron Johnson led Buffalo with nine tackles each.

  • Buffalo dominated the time of possession, holding onto the ball for just over 38 minutes.


What's next?

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Buffalo moved up to the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff standings. The Bills will host the No. 7 seed, Pittsburgh Steelers, on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Highmark Stadium during Super Wild Card weekend.

Story originally appeared on Bills Wire