RB Jordan Howard plunges into the end zone. September 20, 2020.
It has been a struggle to start the year for Miami Dolphins fans, as the team will be coming out of week two with a fat goose egg in the win column after suffering their second straight loss at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, 31-28. Let’s recap what transpired, and breakdown What Went Right, What Went Wrong, and WTF. Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter! – @Donny_Diablo7
Week Two Recap: Diggs buries the Fins
Bills WR Stefon Diggs celebrates after a 22 yard TD Reception against Miami. September 20, 2020.
On a wild day marred by a power outage and a lightning delay, the real electricity was felt on the field between the connection of Bills quarterback Josh Allen and wideout Stefon Diggs. The Miami Dolphins routinely allowed Diggs to bully them on the back end, and he had a monster day- finishing with 8 receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown.
On the first possession of the game Buffalo made it a point to attack the Fins secondary early, beginning the game with a deep ball attempt to Stefon Diggs on their first possession. Buffalo’s intent to throw deep only intensified after prized free agent acquisition CB Byron Jones left the game with a groin injury and never returned. After a Miami forced punt, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense effort was thwarted by Bills DT Ed Oliver accruing the first of three total sacks for the Buffalo defense.
Following an impressive 63-yard Matt Hack punt downed at the Bills three yard line, Josh Allen (24/35-417-4-0) orchestrated an 11 play, 97-yard scoring drive that saw the trio of Diggs, Cole Beasley and John “Smokey” Brown each catch a pass 15-yards or longer. Allen capped the drive with a one yard strike to FB/TE Reggie Gilliam, giving the Bills a 7-0 lead.
The Fins responded on their very next series with a scoring drive of their own spearheaded by a heavy dose of, you guessed it, super star running back Miles Gaskin. All jokes aside Gaskin has been the most productive Dolphins running back to this point, and he made the best with his opportunities averaging 6.5 YPC. After a 26-yard reception from WR Preston Williams to put Miami in striking distance, Fitzpatrick hit WR Devante Parker from two yards out to level the score at seven. Sadly, the only people that saw it were the 11,000 fans in attendance as a major power outage at Hard Rock Stadium disrupted the CBS broadcast, blacking out the game across the country.
During the twenty minute black out period, the tide began to rise for the Dolphins defensively. On the first play of the drive, the Bills offense coughed up the ball after OLB Kyle Van Noy knocked the ball out of TE Dawson Knox’s hands after 38-yard catch-and-run down the field. Miami rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene came up with the football giving the Fins their first and only turnover of the afternoon.
After a three-and-out for the Miami offense, Josh Allen went back to work hitting WR Isaiah McKenzie on a 46-yard bomb to set up Diggs’ first touchdown as a member of the Bills on the very next play to extend the Buffalo lead 14-7. Following a Miami punt on the ensuing drive, the teams traded field goals to send the clubs to the locker room with a score of 17-10, favoring Buffalo.
Just two plays into the start of third quarter Mother Nature struck again as the two teams were forced back to the locker room for thirty-six minutes due to a lightning delay, which actually bode well for Miami serving as a spark plug for the team. On the first series following the delay Miami accrued the only points of the third quarter behind a 45-yard Jason Saunders field goal. The drive was led by WR Devante Parker who accounted for over half of the teams offensive yards on the drive, with 35 receiving yards on two catches.
After a quick drive for the Buffalo offense, Fitz and the offense went back to work and they were humming. The Fins drove all the way down to the Buffalo one yard line with the largest contribution coming from TE Mike Gesicki on a 23-yard reception aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty. Unlike their last trip in the red zone Miami couldn’t cash in as WR Preston Williams dropped a would be touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the one.
The defense answered beautifully with a three and out, smothering Buffalo on their next possession. Miami than pieced together a 10 play, 44-yard drive scoring drive capitalized with a 2-yard rushing touchdown courtesy of Jordan Howard on an otherwise quiet afternoon. The score gave Miami their first lead of the game at 20-17 with a little over ten minutes left in the game.
This where the good times stopped rolling for the Dolphins. Buffalo reminded everyone why they are viewed as contenders in the AFC East on their next two drives. Buffalo began the first of two fourth quarter scoring drives with a 47-yard strike to Stefon Diggs to set up the go ahead score to WR Gabriel Davis.
Following a three-and-out from Miami, Buffalo quickly drove down inside Miami territory. The drive stalled, and on a critical 3rd & 9 Allen put the game on ice with a 46-yard touchdown toss to WR John Brown giving Buffalo a lead they would never relinquish.
In garbage time, trailing 31-20 with a little under two minutes left in the contest, Fitzpatrick (31/47-2-0) led an admirable effort to at least keep the game close hitting TE Mike Gesicki for a score, converting the two point conversion on the following play to round out a final score of 31-28.
|Stats||Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills|
|3rd/4th Down Conv.||5/12||5/10|
|Time of Possession||31:05||28:55|
What Went Right
Miami TE Mike Gesicki wins a jump ball over Bills DB Levi Wallace. September 20, 2020.
Despite their second loss in as many weeks, Miami displayed encouraging improvement in multiple aspects of their game in this performance. It starts with the quarterback position, following his three interception performance just a week ago Ryan Fitzpatrick made it a point to take better care of the football this week and he did just that, finishing the game with no turnovers.
Mike Gesicki showed out on offense finishing the contest with 8 receptions for 130 yards and touchdown. Keep in mind the touchdown occurred in garbage time, but Gesicki routinely made his presence felt all afternoon averaging 16.2 yards per catch. The third-year tight end has been on a tear since the second half of last season and Ryan Fitzpatrick sees more targets in his future.
“His confidence. He’s been going out there and working hard in practice and seeing results in games,” Fitzpatrick said. “We saw that the last half of last year with how much better and more confident he was playing, but this year he’s taken another step. After the first game, I thought I had to get him more targets. He does a good job of finding the spots. His confidence continues to rise and I think we’ll see him continue to get better.”
Wide Receiver Devante Parker (5-53-1) had a nice outing taking into account he entered the contest as a game time decision. The surprise production came from WR Isaiah Ford who regularly stood out to me this afternoon finishing with one more target than Parker and routinely extending drives for the Fins. Ford’s first four receptions each moved the chains, and kept drives alive.
The special teams unit played well today, headlined by Punter Mike Haack who routinely pinned Buffalo inside the 20, giving the defense great starting field position.
What Went Wrong
Bills WR John Brown shortly after his game sealing TD against Miami. September 20, 2020.
The failure today starts and ends with the Miami secondary. Entering the game it was crucial to limit the amount of damage Josh Allen did with his arm on deep passes. The Fins had no answers, particularly on deep crossing patterns, giving up an egregious 417 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. Byron Jones leaving the game early didn’t help prospects, but with a team boasting other players in their secondary such as Xavien Howard, this performance is just unacceptable. Coach Flores highlighted the issues in his post game press conference.
“We struggled to cover them. They’ve got good receivers,” Flores said. “They got open and had time to throw it. We didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback. We’ve got to do a better job of putting them in position to cover them better.”
Despite accruing the only turnover of the day, the defense must take advantage of opportunities for turnovers when they present themselves. Following the failed fourth down drop in the end zone from Preston Williams, Kyle Van Noy dropped a would-be pick six on the ensuing series that would have given Miami their first lead of the game, and swung the momentum of the game in their favor.
Some of this could be attributed to the game script favoring a pass happy attack when playing from behind, but offensively the Fins struggled to establish the run once again; failing to crack the century mark as a team on the ground finishing with 99 total rushing yards. The Buffalo defensive line man handled Miami in the trenches on run plays, giving the backs little to no room to operate. While Miles Gaskin has been a pleasant surprise to start the season, the fact that he has outplayed both Jordan Howard and Matt Breida to this point is extremely concerning.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick sacked by a herd of Bills. September 20, 2020.
Man oh man did Buffalo have a day at the expense of the Miami defense. The Bills had 342 total yards in the first half, the most in any game since December of 2000. If you couldn’t tell by now, Allen finished with a career day. Allen’s 417 yards were the most for a Bills quarterback since Drew Bledsoe coincidentally tossed 417 yards against the Raiders back in 2002.
It wasn’t just Diggs Miami had issues covering deep, Allen hit four separate receivers for at least one 20+ yard play (Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Isaiah McKenzie). Miami couldn’t key on one player as they could in the past against Buffalo teams with less fire power.
It’s looking more and more likely each week the Fins may have whiffed on one of their prized free agency signings in Jordan Howard. The ugliest stat of the day? Howard once again finished with more attempts than he did rushing yards (8 attempts, 7 yards, 1 TD).
The Dolphins have to forget about this loss quick as they will be playing again in just a few days, taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road in primetime on Thursday Night Football. Going into the season many thought the Jaguars would be among the worst teams in the NFL, what a difference two weeks makes.
Gardner Minshew has made Jacksonville one of the most entertaining teams in football, with an offense that can keep pace with any team offensively. It should be fun on Thursday night as the Fins look to gain that elusive first win. Be on the look out for my Week Three preview, and as always any comments ask me on Twitter! – @Donny_Diablo7
(Featured Image Credit: MiamiDolphins.com)