Josh Allen threw three touchdown passes and overcame three turnovers as the Buffalo Bills outlasted the Miami Dolphins 34-31 during their AFC wild-card playoff game on Sunday at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.
Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson, a rookie starting in place of Tua Tagovailoa, was unable to lead Miami to a comeback win late in the fourth quarter.
A delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1 with 2:29 remaining at the Miami 48 ended the Dolphins’ hopes of an upset win in Buffalo.
The Bills entered this game as a double-digit favorite, but the Dolphins – their heated AFC East rival – gave them a run for their money in a game that lasted nearly four hours.
The game’s length even caused the NFL to push back the start of the Giants-Vikings game 20 minutes.
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What this means for the Bills
Survive and advance.
Allen was both electric and frustrating in the win, helping the Bills jump out to an early 17-0 lead in the second quarter and 34-24 in the third quarte. He threw for 352 yards and rushed for 20 more. He was sacked seven times.
In the final minutes after Miami’s final possession, Bills running back Devin Singletary rushed for 7 yards to secure a first down to put the game away.
It is unclear who the Bills will face in the divisional around. The last game of the AFC’s wild-card weekend slate will be played Sunday night (Bengals vs. Ravens at 8:15 p.m. ET.)
What this means for the Dolphins
The Dolphins won’t be happy about this loss, but it was arguably one of their best games played this season considering their odds.
Still, coach Mike McDaniel’s first season ends with a heartbreaking loss.
The Dolphins must quickly turn to the offseason where the future of Tagovailoa, who did not play while recovering from his second documented concussion, will be evaluated. Tagovailoa will enter his fourth season, and he is eligible for a fifth-year option as a first round pick.
The Dolphins might also address their defensive situation before next season.
Josh Allen turnovers kept game close
After the Bills took a 17-0 lead, Allen’s turnovers became a major problem.
Allen threw two interceptions in the second quarter, his last helping Miami tie the game at 17-17 with 33 seconds in the half. Buffalo would score on a field goal heading into halftime.
Allen was also trip-sacked by Dolphins safety Eric Rowe on the Bills’ first play of the second half, allowing defensive tackle Zach Sieler to scoop the fumble and score a touchdown to help Miami take a 24-20 lead early in the third quarter.
Allen, despite his excellence at times, has been careless with the football this season. Including this playoff game, Allen has 22 giveaways (16 interceptions, six fumbles) this season.
Allen’s first interception was to cornerback Xavien Howard, on a pass intended for veteran receiver John Brown, who stopped running during his route.
Allen’s second interception was tipped by Bills receiver Cole Beasley into the hands of Dolphins safety Jevon Holland.
The Dolphins scored 18 points off Allen’s turnovers.
Dolphins comeback falls short
On their final drive, Thompson completed a 25-yard pass to receiver Jaylen Waddle, and Waddle caught a 14-yard pass on second-and-15 to set up two decisive plays.
On third-and-1, the Dolphins were short of a first down after a run.
And on fourth-and-1, the Dolphins had a delay of game penalty because they took too long to snap the football.
Their comeback ended one play later on fourth-and-6 as Thompson threw incomplete to tight end Mike Gesicki as Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam broke up the pass with 2:22 left
Dolphins get only score in fourth quarter
The Dolphins desperately needed a great offensive drive during this game, and they got it early in the fourth quarter.
Waddle, who had several drops and no receptions most of the game, had an 8-yard carry down to the 1-yard line. And one play later, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. scored a touchdown to help the Dolphins pull within three points.
Thompson had three big completions during the drive, including a 20-yard throw to Salvon Ahmed on a second-and-18 play to keep Miami in it.
The Dolphins’ 11-play, 75-yard drive was the best of the day, and made the score 34-31 with 10:53 left.
Bills, Dolphins players tussle in second quarter
Things got chippy during the second quarter following Allen’s first interception as he engaged in a shoving match with Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins during the return.
Allen pushed Wilkins, and Wilkins pushed Allen in return as Howard returned the interception.
Bills offensive lineman Mitch Morse came to Allen’s defense, as did several other Bills players, resulting in Wilkins being brought to the ground.
Wilkins and Morse were dealt offsetting personal foul penalties, and play continued.