MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – It was a horror show on special teams Sunday for the Buffalo Bills.
Starting with a missed extra point by the usually reliable Stephen Hauschka, continuing with a Matt Darr punt that appeared to be tipped and following with a muffed punt by Isaiah McKenzie, the Bills shot themselves in the foot over and over again in a 21-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
Hauschka missed an extra point in the second quarter after the Bills had cut their deficit to 7-6 on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones. Later in the quarter, McKenzie muffed a punt, which was recovered by Miami running back Senorise Perry. That set up Miami with a short field, which they turned into a touchdown when Ryan Tannehill hit Kenyan Drake with a 3-yard pass.
“You talk about beating yourself,” coach Sean McDermott said. “The short field we gave their offense right there, you can’t do that. We’ve got to make sure we communicate.”
McKenzie was bumped into by teammate Siran Neal as he was attempting to make a fair catch.
The errors continued in the second half. McKenzie tripped on the opening kickoff, and wide receiver Andre Holmes was penalized on the play, backing the Bills up inside their 10-yard line.
Hauschka also missed a 55-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. That’s not an easy kick, but it was another example of the special teams failing to come through.
The miss snapped Hauschka's streak at 17 consecutive field goals, which was the longest streak for a Bills kicker since Rian Lindell made 18 in a row in 2007.
Hauschka worked with his third different holder this season in new punter Matt Darr.
“We’re just trying to get in rhythm here,” Hauschka said. “We’ve only been working together three days now. It’s a good challenge.”
The Bills nearly pulled out the victory despite the many missteps on the special teams.
“I mean, our quarterback is making some ridiculous plays,” Hauschka said of rookie Josh Allen. “It’s hard not to rally around that. We’ve just got to play better football all around, and it starts with me today.”
2. Penalties continue to be a huge issue. The Bills were flagged 13 times for 120 yards. Three of those penalties went against rookie guard Wyatt Teller, including two for holding.
“You know, it's easy to say have a short-term memory and just move on to the next play, but it's hard, man,” Teller said. “There's plays in the past couple games that weren't called, and they were called this game. That's the way it goes.
"I mean, you're striving for perfect technique, head in the right place, hands in the right place, but sometimes, I mean, you are going against the best of the best. It's hard. For me, it's hard to just be like, 'next play.' You're upset. You're disappointed in yourself because you know you're better than that. It's just tough to deal with.”
As for how he thought the game was officiated overall, Teller said, “That's probably a better question for coach. I don't want to say anything. It was on both sides. ... They're just doing their job.”
On the Dolphins’ go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, the Bills were penalized twice for 36 yards, including a questionable 25-yard pass interference against linebacker Matt Milano.
“The two penalties were pretty much what gave them the yardage, the chunk yardage, at least on that drive,” McDermott said.
3. Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was fired up to face his former team. On several occasions, Phillips was clapping in the direction of the Miami bench, while also trying to rile up the crowd by waving his arms for more noise. Eventually, it caught up to him.
He was called for taunting after a tackle for loss against Kenyan Drake in the fourth quarter. Phillips was taken out of the game shortly thereafter, and McDermott had something to say to him as he came to the sideline.
“Just play smart,” McDermott said after the game. “You know, he’s playing emotional football. He made a great play in the backfield, but at the same time you can’t beat yourself.”
Miami scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays after Phillips was penalized when Tannehill hit Kenny Stills with a 13-yard touchdown pass with 8:42 remaining.
“I've never seen anybody get a penalty for a fist pump,” Phillips said. “I hit someone's foot and that's an unsportsmanlike conduct? All right. Yeah, OK.”
Phillips was a second-round pick of Miami in 2015 who was released this season after four games.
“I played the same as I normally play. I play with a lot of emotion,” he said. “I felt like I played a good game. Made some plays. I'll leave it at that. I don't care what the refs were saying, I don't care what the refs were doing. They want to do what they did and I did what I do.”
4. It might be time for McDermott to revamp his challenge process. The Bills’ coach is now 0 for 6 this season and 1 for 10 in his time as a head coach. McDermott lost a challenge in the first quarter in attempting to get a sack of Tannehill ruled a safety. Replays showed Tannehill clearly got the ball out of the end zone, so it’s puzzling why McDermott threw the flag in that spot.
In case you are wondering, McDermott has lost his last nine challenges. His lone win was his first, against the Denver Broncos in Week 3 last season.
5. Bills center Russell Bodine suffered a leg injury on the third offensive play of the game. He was replaced by Ryan Groy. Bodine was ruled out for the remainder of the game at the end of the first quarter. Groy started the first two games of the season before being benched for Bodine.
With starting right guard John Miller out because of an oblique injury, Jeremiah Sirles made his first start of the season.
6. The Bills avoided a potentially devastating injury when rookie middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds went down in the third quarter. Edmunds’ teammates took a knee while trainers examined his right leg. After being down for a few minutes, Edmunds was able to walk off the field under his own power. After going through a couple of drills with trainers on the sideline, he quickly returned to the lineup.
"I'm doing all right,” he said after the game. “Just got to continue to treat my body and get ready to play next week."
7. With starting tight end Charles Clay back in the lineup, the Bills made Logan Thomas a healthy inactive. Thomas missed a day of practice earlier in the week as his wife gave birth to the couple’s fifth child, but he was with the team Sunday.
8. Here are two statistical oddities: McKenzie’s muffed punt was the Bills’ first turnover against Miami since Dec. 22, 2013, when Thad Lewis – remember him? – was intercepted by Nolan Carroll. The Bills had gone eight consecutive games against the Dolphins without committing a turnover. The Dolphins had 13 turnovers during that stretch.
Zay Jones’ two-point conversion in the fourth quarter was the Bills’ first successful conversion since LeSean McCoy ran one in against Jacksonville on Nov. 27, 2016.
9. In addition to Miller and Thomas, the Bills’ other inactive players were quarterback Derek Anderson (concussion), wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, offensive tackle Conor McDermott, guard Vlad Ducasse and cornerback Ryan Lewis.