So, that was some Christmas Eve, wasn’t it?
The Buffalo Bills took their fans on an absolute roller coaster Saturday against the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field – until the car careened off the tracks.
If the decision on whether to bring Rex Ryan back or not truly hasn’t been made yet, Saturday’s showing will not help matters.
Simply put, he should be fired for his call to punt with just over 4 minutes left in overtime. The scenario was this: The Bills faced a fourth-and-2 from their 40-yard line. A tie would eliminate them from playoff contention. Knowing that, Ryan simply can not punt the ball there.
He did, though, and it backfired. Badly. The defense gave up a 57-yard rush to Jay Ajayi, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Andrew Franks that officially eliminated the Bills from playoff contention and gave the Dolphins a 34-31 overtime victory that will go down in Buffalo history as one of the worst losses in a 17-year playoff drought.
For a time in the second half, it looked like all the same old narratives about the Bills were going to be put to rest for a day.
The team quit. The defense can’t get it done. Most importantly, Tyrod Taylor doesn’t have what it takes in the fourth quarter.
All of that changed when the Bills went ahead, 31-28, with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to tight end Charles Clay. It looked like the moment Bills fans had been waiting for from their quarterback.
But the Dolphins fought back to tie the game when Franks hit a 55-yard field goal with 6 seconds left. Ryan attempted to call a timeout on the sideline – but was late getting it in.
That was not the coach's only misstep. He hit for the cycle in the first quarter alone. An ill-advised challenge. A miscommunication that led to a blown timeout. A gutless decision to pass up going for it on fourth-and-2 from inside Miami territory – in order to try a 46-yard field goal – that missed badly.
All of it looked bad for the Bills’ coach. To be fair, though, his defense did him absolutely no favors. There were an embarrassing amount of missed tackles. Ryan can get the players in the right place, but he can’t make them complete the play.
The Bills had a chance to overcome all that, but couldn't. Plenty of blame can be given to Dan Carpenter, too. The Bills' kicker missed another field goal in overtime – this one wide right from 45 yards (ouch!) – and should get his resume ready.
The larger issue, though, is the troubling fact that the same issues keep happening for the Bills. Players shouldn’t be running onto the field late in Week 16. Timeouts shouldn’t be wasted.
Things got better, but the Bills gave the Dolphins too much of a head start and even though they caught up, they couldn't win the race.