Theme: Ryan Tannehill starts off in rhythm. The Miami QB was 4 of 5 for 43 yards on the Dolphins’ opening 75-yard drive to a TD, capped by an 18-yard score to DeVante Parker.
Lineup developments: The Bills started Jeremiah Sirles at right guard instead of Ryan Groy. Why? They know what they have in Groy and want to see more of Sirles. But center Russell Bodine was hurt early in the quarter and replaced by Groy.
Zebra report: Rafael Bush was flagged 15 yards for a personal foul on Tannehill on the opening drive. The hit forced an incompletion. It was a dubious call. Bush didn’t lead with crown of helmet, but he kind of slammed Tannehill to the ground simply from the force of the hit.
Challenge drought: Sean McDermott fell to 1 for 10 in his career and 0 for 6 this season on challenges when it was ruled Tannehill was downed at the 1, not in the end zone, on a sack by Trent Murphy. On one hand, we don’t normally mind burning a timeout in the first half. On the other, the Bills wound up needing that timeout.
Theme: Bumblin, stumblin, fumblin.
Foot faults: The Bills’ fourth drive was derailed when LeSean McCoy tripped on a lineman’s foot in the backfield and took a 3-yard loss. On the next play, Chris Ivory tripped as he took a handoff from Josh Allen and took a 4-yard loss.
Muffing: A poor, 38-yard punt by Miami punter Matt Haack turned out to be a break for the Dolphins when Bills blocker Siran Neal got in front of return man Isaiah McKenzie. The ball appeared to glance off Neal, then it hit McKenzie’s left arm. Miami recovered at the Buffalo 36 and turned it into a TD. McKenzie should have backed away.
Time mismanaged: The Bills blew a chance at a field-goal try to end the half. With 5 seconds left, the clock stopped and the ball on the Miami 41, the Bills didn’t get out of the huddle until 6 seconds remained on the play clock. They were forced to call their last time out, then left with no choice but to try a Hail Mary pass.
Rare miss: Stephen Hauschka’s missed extra point snapped his streak of 61 straight makes on FGs or PATs inside 50 yards.
Theme: Dueling interceptions. A poor Josh Allen pass late in the quarter was picked off by Xavien Howard. But on the next play Micah Hyde made a superb center-field pickoff against Tannehill.
Unsung player: Haack controlled field position in the quarter. He had a 56-yard punt with 5.2-second hang time downed at the Bills’ 4 and a 52-yarder with 4.66 hang time that was fair caught on the Bills sideline after the Bills had forced a three-and-out at the Miami 25.
Matchup watch: The battle between Miami guards and Bills DTs was a mismatch, as expected, in favor of the Bills. Miami rushed for only 2.6 yards a carry. Left guard Ted Larsen and right guard Jesse Davis each had long afternoons. Davis was beaten for sacks by Trent Murphy and Lorenzo Alexander. He also had a hold vs. Matt Milano and a false start. Larsen was called for a hold and got no push in the run game.
Zebra report: Miami’s Kiko Alonso was flagged 15 yards for leading with the helmet in tackling McKenzie on an underneath pass. It happened, but that kind of hit shouldn’t be a penalty.
Theme: It slipped through their grasp. On the last two Bills plays, Zay Jones couldn’t come up with a catch at the Miami 6 and Charles Clay could hang on in the end zone.
Zebra report: Rookie NFL referee Shawn Hochuli surpassed his quota. His crew was averaging 17 penalties a game, among the highest total among the NFL’s 17 crews. There were 21 penalties accepted in the game (13 on the Bills).
Dumb foul: Jordan Phillips correctly was called for taunting after tackling Kenyan Drake for a 4-yard loss. It wasn’t flagrant, but there was no need for him to “flip” Drake’s leg after making the tackle. Instead of putting Miami in a second-and-14 situation at the Buffalo 22, the Dolphins had first-and-10 at the Bills’ 11.
Second guess: On Miami’s TD drive, Matt Milano was in perfect position in coverage against tight end Mike Gesicki. Milano squeezed the receiver to the outside, made contact and drew a 25-yard pass interference. But Milano was farther downfield than Gesicki. Should have been a no-call.
Slow start trend: The Bills now are 0-8 when opponents score first.