The Buffalo Bills are making a strong run to be the most penalized team in the NFL in 2018.
The Bills entered Sunday’s game in Miami ranked second in the league in total penalties with 87, behind only Kansas City's 97. Buffalo was third in penalty yards with 752, which was a full 130 more than the league average.
You could argue their penchant for flags has cost them two wins this year. They made 10 penalties for 104 yards in the loss at Houston. They made 13 for 120 in in the 21-17 loss to the Dolphins.
The mistakes overshadowed all the big plays the Bills made. A closer look at the plays that shaped the game:
1. On the move. You want to see Josh Allen make accurate throws on the run. He did it on the 15-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones in the second quarter.
Jones ran a seam route from the left slot on the play against zone coverage. Jones saw Allen rolling to the right and kept tracking to the right along the back line of the end zone.
Defensive backs are supposed to adopt “plaster technique” when the quarterback goes into scramble mode. That means they follow their man across the field. Miami cornerback Bobby McCain didn’t do it.
2. On the move with a rifle. One of the key plays of the third quarter came with the Bills backed up at their own 2, facing a third-and-12 situation and trailing, 14-9. An incompletion there almost guarantees Miami a field goal.
Allen got good pass protection because the Bills kept seven men into block. The QB rolled to his left and threw across his body to the left sideline to Jones for for 22 yards. It was a rope and on target.
The Bills wound up punting, but the play allowed them to flip the field. Miami took over at its 23.
3. Elite elusiveness. Allen started the Bills’ second TD drive with a 28-yard scramble up the middle, slipping defensive tackle Sylvester Williams at the line of scrimmage with a nifty ball-handling move and outrunning linebacker Kiko Alonso to the left sideline.
4. Winning from the pocket. While Allen scrambled eight times, he did hang in the pocket enough to show he was trying to keep his eyes downfield.
The fourth-quarter TD pass was the kind of play you want to see a young QB make from a tightening pocket. Allen had to wait for Jones to cross the field to get open.
The Bills ran double crossing routes against zone coverage, with Kelvin Benjamin and Jones stacked on the left of the formation and running across the end zone. Benjamin effectively cleared out space. Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick passed Benjamin off to middle safety T.J. McDonald. That left linebacker Raekwon McMillan to chase Jones.
Allen threw a dart from a flat-footed stance for a 25-yard TD.
5. Accurate TD strike. If you’re counting up elite QB plays – a subjective exercise - Miami’s QB Ryan Tannehill lost the battle with Allen, 8-2. But Tannehill made two excellent TD throws. He fit an 18-yard pass into a zone at the goal line, over the head of Bills linebacker Matt Milano and just in front of safety Micah Hyde. DeVante Parker’s catch made it 7-0.
6. Bullseye in the corner. Tannehill’s best throw was to the back left pylon for Kenny Stills. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer both were trying to get there but the throw was too good.
7. Beating the blitz. Miami’s second TD was an easy throw for Tannehill, a 3-yard flare to the left flat to Kenyan Drake. It was the perfect call against the defense. The Bills blitzed six men, including Poyer from the left. Drake was wide open.
8. Worst play call. On a third-and-1 situation from the Buffalo with 3:24 to go, Miami went to the Wildcat and got stuffed for a 3-yard loss. Why signal a sure run and put the ball in the hands of the third-best runner on the team?
9. Jones hits turf. The Bills needed a superb catch on one of the last two plays to overcome all their penalties and other miscues. Jones could not hang onto a good throw against tight coverage at the Miami 6 with 1:05 left. We can’t argue with the fact the completion was overturned on video review.
10. Clay hits turf. Allen made a superb play to elude pass rushers on fourth and 10 from the Miami 30. His throw slipped and wobbled to the end zone. But tight end Charles Clay had a chance to catch it. Call it a drop.