By Abraham Gutierrez
Even though the Miami Dolphins haven’t been mathematically disqualified from playoff contention, Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills very likely brings any postseason hopes to a screeching halt.
After dominating the New England Patriots Monday night, the Fins went back to their old ways and could not get anything going on either side of the rock until it was too late. Miami lost the always-crucial turnover battle 3-0, making it almost impossible to win games away from home in the NFL.
“We fought till the end, tried to kind of get ourselves back in it, it was too late,” said Dolphins head coach Adam Gase after the game. “We get that three and then at least give ourselves a chance to try to do something with not much time left. We have to come in tomorrow, fix or mistakes and reset for the next week.”
As a unit, the Dolphins offense tallied 18 first downs, with 13 coming through the air and five on the ground. They also mustered 355 yards of total offense, comprised of 100 rushing yards and 255 passing yards. Miami converted on 5-of-15 third down opportunities and were successful in their only fourth-down attempt of the game, but a good chunk of it came during garbage time.
The Fins got off to a decent start thanks in part to some old school, smash-mouth ground-and-pound. Running back Kenyan Drake (16 carries, 78 yards, TD) was unstoppable in the early going, and appeared to be well on his way to a third straight 100-yard rushing effort.
However, they simply could not find a way to get into the end zone, as Miami settled for field goals in its first two scoring opportunities.
“We were just trying to figure out ways to stay third-and-manageable,” Gase said. “We did a few times and we didn’t convert. The whole purpose to it inside of third-and-six is to give yourself a better chance to get a first downs… we just never really get in the rhythm we wanted to get into.”
Once Miami became a one-dimensional (passing) team, the Bills adjusted and capitalized. After being lights out against the Pats, quarterback Jay Cutler had a game to forget, going 28-of-49 from the field for 274 yards, no touchdowns and three picks for a dismal 47.5 passer rating.
On the receiving end, wide receivers Jarvis Landry (10 catches, 99 yards) and DeVante Parker (6 catches, 89 yards) led the way, as well as the aforementioned halfback Kenyan Drake (6 catches, 35 yards).
Defensively, it was the tale of two halves for the Dolphins defensive unit on Sunday. Miami’s “D” surrendered 21 points in the first half and only a field goal after the break. However, coming out of halftime with a comfortable 21-6 lead, Buffalo implement its game plan by pounding the rock and chewing the clock. That, coupled with the Fins’ unforced errors, certainly made the hill too tall to climb on the road for these Dolphins.
“They’re going to obviously have things that allow them to make plays and we have to be able to find ways to combat that and find ways to get off the football field,” said Fins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in his post-game presser. “We didn’t do a good enough job of that, especially earlier in the game. [We] made some adjustments and made some plays, but we have to find ways to turn that quicker.”
As a unit, Miami’s defense allowed Buffalo to rack up 20 first downs (10 passing, 8 rushing, 2 penalties), 328 yards of total offense (117 rushing yards, 211 passing yards) and the Bills went 6-for-13 in third-down scenarios.
Defensive leaders in Miami’s losing effort include linebacker Kiko Alonso (10 tackles), safety Reshad Jones (7 tackles) and Ndamukong Suh (7 tackles) in the tackles department, while defensive end Cameron Wake and cornerback Xavien Howard were responsible for the only two sacks, coming away with one apiece.
Special Teams: A
It was a relatively quiet day for the Dolphins special teams unit, but they certainly are not to blame for the outcome of the game. Jakeem Grant had a nice game with 43 yards on a pair of kickoff returns and 33 yards on two punt returns.
Punter Matt Haack (4 punts for an average of 46.8, 1 touchback, 1 inside Bills’ 20-yard line and a long boot of 58 yards) was his usual self, while kicker Cody Parkey (10 points: 3-for-3 on field goals, 1-for-1 on PATs) answered the call any time his number was called.
It is extremely difficult to issue a head coach a positive letter-grade on a performance like the one Miami put out in Week 15. Penalties (7 penalties: -60 yards) and turnovers were once again an issue, with all three of them coming on Cutler interceptions which, again, will drive people to question the play calling.
“Well, we started having negative plays,” Gase answered when asked why Miami got away from running the football with Kenyan Drake poised for a big game. “We were putting ourselves in third-and-long. That kind of caused us problems there in the second quarter. We had some success early, and really it was all on him.”
Up Next: Fins Head To Arrowhead Stadium to Face The Chiefs
After a disappointing loss in Buffalo, the Miami Dolphins will head home to regroup before having to make the trip to one of the toughest places to play in the National Football League. Arrowhead Stadium in The City of a Thousand Nicknames will be rocking Sunday, as Miami tries to derail the Kansas City Chiefs’ hopes of winning the 2017 AFC West divisional crown. Opening kickoff for this Week 16 showdown is slated for 1 p.m. ET Christmas Eve.
“Any time you’re in this league, every week is an evaluation, it doesn’t matter what week of the season it is,” Gase stated when asked what Miami will play for in the remaining two weeks of the season. “Guys are going to come back to work and find a way to get better and we’re going to play another week.”