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Bills-Dolphins Report Card: Pass defense slips up in Buffalo loss

Grading the Buffalo Bills


Quarterback Josh Allen’s running ability continues to impress. He broke the franchise record he set last week with 135 yards on just nine attempts. Allen showed good judgement, too, in knowing when to slide or duck out of bounds. Running back LeSean McCoy had 52 yards, but needed 15 carries to get that total – an average of just 3.5 yards per rush. McCoy is on pace to finish with a career low in rushing yards and average. No. 2 running back Chris Ivory had just 4 yards on six carries, and nearly lost a fumble. It was his worst game with the Bills.



Oh, what could have been. Tight end Charles Clay couldn’t come up with a desperation heave on the Bills’ final offensive play. It wasn’t a great throw from Allen, but it was one the team’s $9 million tight end probably has to catch. Allen also missed a wide-open Zay Jones in the end zone in the second half, leaving the offense to settle for a field goal. Allen started the game with minus-6 passing yards in the first quarter, but bounced back to finish 18 of 33 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Jones had both of the touchdown catches. He, too, narrowly missed making a big play late in the fourth quarter when he couldn’t quite haul in a pass at the Miami 6-yard line. The play was overturned on a video review after originally being called a catch.


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The Dolphins were bottled up all day, rushing for just 60 yards on 23 carries. Matt Milano led the way with eight tackles, two of which went for loss. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips played an inspired game against his former team, finishing with three tackles. Defensive end Eddie Yarbrough also had three tackles. That’s good production from the backups. Jerry Hughes’ only tackle of the game went for a loss.



The Bills came into the game having allowed 15 passing touchdowns this season, tied for second in the NFL. They gave up three Sunday in the loss. Lorenzo Alexander, Trent Murphy and safety Rafael Bush got sacks. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier used some exotic blitzes to pressure quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was hit nine times. Phillips and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds batted down balls at the line of scrimmage.


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Just about nothing went right. Stephen Hauschka missed an extra point and 55-yard field. Isaiah McKenzie muffed a punt after his teammate bumped into him, leading to a costly turnover. Andre Holmes took a penalty on the second-half kickoff that backed the team up. New punter Matt Darr was the only bright spot. He punted four times for a net average of 44.3 yards. His protection nearly let him down on one of those, but he was able to get the punt off.



Penalties continue to be a huge problem. Coach Sean McDermott has talked about how they can’t keep happening, but they do. He has to shoulder some of the blame for that. McDermott made a bad challenge in the first half that cost the team a timeout. That mattered because the team nearly got into field-goal range at the end of the second quarter, but couldn’t run another play after using its last timeout. I would have liked to see McDermott go for it on fourth and 2 from the 50-yard line instead of trying the “draw them offsides” play that rarely works.


Grading the Dolphins


Frank Gore looked all of 35 years old, gaining just 21 yards on eight carries. Kenyan Drake popped off a 20-yard run, but finished the day with just seven carries for 31 yards. Tannehill lost 5 yards on three ugly attempts. Kalen Ballage gained just 3 yards on four carries. The offensive line failed to open much running room.



Tannehill didn’t have a great statistical performance, but his three touchdown passes made up for it. The last one, which went to Kenny Stills, covered 13 yards and was an absolute beauty. That put Miami up with 8:42 remaining. DeVante Parker had an 11-yard touchdown catch that came on a throw Tannehill fit into a tight window. Tannehill was intercepted by Micah Hyde after underthrowing Stills, who had a step.


Quarterly Report: Shawn Hoculi's crew leaves a lot to chew on


Just like the Jaguars last week, the Dolphins did a solid job against McCoy and Ivory, but had no answers for Allen on the ground. “We just got to do a better job of making sure the quarterback can’t run for that much on us and that’s a couple weeks away, next time we play them,” coach Adam Gase said. Old friend Kiko Alonso led the defense with 11 tackles, including one that went for a loss. Miami had eight tackles for loss, only two of which were sacks.



Xavien Howard had two interceptions, one on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half and another in the third quarter in front of Kelvin Benjamin. Howard now has 11 interceptions in his last 17 games. Minkah Fitzpatrick had the coverage on the late throw to Jones that hit the ground – a pivotal moment in the game. Cornerback Bobby McCain was beat by Jones for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Dolphins got two sacks.



Senorise Perry recovered the muffed punt by McKenzie, setting the Dolphins up with a short field. Punter Matt Haack had an excellent game, averaging 45.7 net yards on seven punts. The best of those came with the Dolphins backed up on their 1-yard line. Only one of Haack’s punts was returned, and that went for 0 yards. The coverage units deserve credit for that, too.



The Dolphins won a game they were outgained, 415-175. “I’m not frustrated about anything right now. We won. That’s all we cared about this week. We’ll correct the things we need to correct,” Gase said. The play that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown catch by Drake was creative. Gase has been criticized for coaching not to lose lately, but showed some aggressiveness in the fourth quarter, throwing on second down.


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