MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Buffalo Bills are going to the playoffs. Take a second, read that again and let it sink in. Here are my 10 observations from their 22-16 win over the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
1. If Tyrod Taylor played every game like he does against the Dolphins, he’d be an All-Pro. He went 8 of 9 for 111 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter alone. Taylor, who has played some of his best football against Miami, put the Bills up with a 26-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Nick O’Leary in the first quarter. Taylor did what he does when he’s at his best, scrambling out of trouble and making the throws he needed to. If this was Taylor’s final game with the Bills, he went out on a good note.
2. The right ankle injury suffered to running back LeSean McCoy in the third quarter is devastating for the Bills’ offense. McCoy has been the Bills’ best offensive player all season. He was hurt at the end of a 3-yard run, and had to be carted off the field after attempting to put weight on his right ankle and nearly collapsing. McCoy was replaced by the combination of Marcus Murphy and Mike Tolbert. Obviously, if the injury is long term, losing McCoy hurts the Bills' chances in the postseason.
3. Kyle Williams takes the carry and … he’s in the end zone. Wait, what? You have to love the veteran defensive tackle getting a 1-yard carry in the third quarter for his first career touchdown. If Williams does retire after this season, what an awesome memory that will be for him. Bonus points for an awesome celebration, too. If you had any idea about how much Williams means to the Bills — which you shouldn’t have — they were put to rest when the entire bench exploded.
4. Preston Brown's 99-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown that got overturned in the fourth quarter was an absolutely surreal play all around. After a lengthy video review, it was determined that receiver Jarvis Landry was out of bounds before fumbling. Brown, however, heard the announcement wrong and started celebrating on the Bills' sideline, leading to a funny moment when he realized he had to go back out on the field. As far as exciting 99-yard returns go, it was one of the least exciting in history as more attention in the Dolphins' press box was being paid to the TV broadcast of the Ravens-Bengals game. Just a surreal sequence of events.
5. Jarvis Landry is a good player for the Dolphins, but he's a hot head. On the play following the review, Landry took a big hit at the goal line. He immediately got in Bills safety Jordan Poyer's face and appeared to throw a bunch, earning an ejection. A massive fight ensued, leading to another ejection when Miami running back Kenyan Drake threw a Bills helmet. It seems like every time the Bills play the Dolphins, Landry does something questionable.
6. Give Ramon Humber credit. After being benched for rookie Matt Milano, Humber came through with a pair of big-time plays in the first half. After stopping Jakeem Grant for a 2-yard gain on a completion, Humber registered a third-down sack on the next play that led to a Miami punt.
7. Penalties on special teams were a big issue. There were three of them alone in the first half, two of which came on solid punt returns by Brandon Tate and erased good field position. The Bills have been much better in that department this year, but Sunday was a step back.
8. It’s telling that midseason acquisition Deonte Thompson being active for the Bills qualified as good news. Here’s a sobering stat: Coming into the game, the Bills did not have a wide receiver in the top 100 in receiving yards. Tight end Charles Clay ranked 77th with 494 yards. Receiver is a big, big need in the offseason.
9. You have to love the gamesmanship of the NFL. If you missed it Friday, the Dolphins claimed safety Trae Elston off waivers … from the Bills. Elston was released after the Bills activated Colt Anderson off injured reserve during the week. By bringing Elston in now, the Dolphins will get a look at him as part of their offseason program since he’s under contract for one more year. Of course, the other, sexier idea is he could hand over the Bills’ defensive game plan. He didn’t get a chance to face his former team, though, as he was one of Miami’s inactive players.
10. If you’re looking ahead to next year, here are the 16 Bills scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2018: Kyle Williams, Jordan Matthews, Shareece Wright, Brandon Tate, Mike Tolbert, Ramon Humber, Joe Webb, Leonard Johnson, Cedric Thornton, Taiwan Jones, Shamarko Thomas, Travaris Cadet, Deonte Thompson, Preston Brown, E.J. Gaines and Seantrel Henderson.
Just kidding – you’re looking ahead to next weekend. Enjoy the playoffs, Bills fans.