Here are my hot reads from the Buffalo Bills' 31-21 victory against the Miami Dolphins Sunday at New Era Field:
So much for the assumption the Bills would cruise to an easy win against the winless Dolphins.
There was far more sputtering than cruising for the team that oddsmakers had as a 17-point favorite. It was so bad in the first half that the crowd booed multiple times.
The Bills had too many penalties and too little precise execution. Josh Allen was off target, especially on long throws. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 111.4.
Former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting for the 0-6 Dolphins, was doing some of his "FitzMagic" routine as Buffalo's defense struggled against the pass and run. He had a beautiful, 35-yard over-the-shoulder connection to Preston Williams on the sideline in the first quarter. Fitzpatrick completed 23 of 35 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown, with one interception, and had a passer rating of 88.0.
Cornerback Tre'Davious White made the play that turned around the game when he made a diving sideline interception of a wobbly Fitzpatrick pass at the Bills' 2 with five minutes left in the third quarter. After that, Allen led a 98-yard touchdown drive – capped by his 20-yard scoring throw to John Brown – to put the Bills in front, 17-14, early in the fourth quarter.
Allen ran for a two-point conversion and then launched the ball five rows below the top of the second deck behind the end zone. That move will likely lead to a fine, but the fans loved it and the QB probably will pay it with a smile.
Micah Hyde's 45-yard return of an onside kick, after the Dolphins closed the gap to 24-21 with 1:45 left, to put the Bills up by the final margin.
That pretty much describes the Bills' entire first half as they slumbered their way to 14-9 deficit.
Three of their offensive linemen – tackles Cody Ford and Dion Dawkins, and guard Jon Feliciano – drew holding penalties in the first half. The Bills picked up a fourth holding penalty, on tight end Dawson Knox, early in the fourth quarter.
On back-to-back plays late in the second quarter, Josh Allen overthrew John Brown, who had a step on the defender, and then Allen held the ball too long and was sacked for a 10-yard loss. The crowd began to boo. At that point, Allen had completed six of 14 throws.
A false start on tight end Tyler Kroft, on third-and-14 from the Bills' 21, with 1:11 left in the first half drew more booing, as did the draw play that followed.
Setting the table
At 5-1, the Bills continue to look like contender, even if they didn't always play that way Sunday. They continue their homestand for the next two weeks against NFC East opponents, facing the Philadelphia Eagles Oct. 27 and the Washington Redskins Nov. 3.