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Home » Three Takeaways from Bills vs. Dolphins Wild Card Game

Three Takeaways from Bills vs. Dolphins Wild Card Game

16 January 2023, Monday
The Buffalo Bills pulled off a tight victory in the AFC Wild Card round, managing to hold off the Miami Dolphins with a 34-31 win. From this game, it was clear that the Bills have what it takes to get through the post-season.

Josh Allen showed why he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for another touchdown. The Bills defense also accounted for two interceptions and held the Dolphins to just 28 rushing yards.

The Bills also showed great resilience, coming from behind at the start of the second half and displaying a great degree of mental toughness to finish the game with the lead. Moreover, their ability to miniaturize mistakes and come up with crucial plays in critical moments was highlighted.

This game was a testament to the Bills' determination and quality, and with the continuation of this form, they will be hopeful of more success in the playoffs.

Josh Allen began the game strongly, completing 9 of 11 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in the opening quarter as the Buffalo Bills raced to a 17-0 lead. However, mistakes by the offense eventually started to mount, some of which were the fault of the QB, whilst some were not. Allen was reflective after the game, exclaiming "I thought we did some good things today, but I also made some bad mistakes so there's some things to learn from and clean up".

In the second quarter, Allen attempted to throw a deep pass to John Brown, just like he did the week prior to score, but Allen's throw was off-target and intercepted by Miami's Xavien Howard. The ball bounced off the chest of Cole Beasley, who couldn't make the catch, and it was then grabbed by a Dolphins' defender.

In the third quarter, the Dolphins came out with a free rusher against Allen, and the quarterback lost control of the ball, which was then scooped up for a touchdown by Miami. The Dolphins took a 24-20 lead as a result of this play.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a unique day, with both head-scratching moments and top-notch performance. Allen commented on the pressure from the opponents, noting that they had been playing press man defense, spying him, and doubling his teammate Stef. He thought the defense did a good job blocking lanes for the running game. Nonetheless, Allen showed why he's one of the best in the business with two consecutive touchdown drives in the third quarter; the first being a 6-yard pass to Cole Beasley and the second a 23-yard catch to Davis.

Allen praised Davis for his reliability and said that he gave him an opportunity to make some plays which he capitalized on, as his perfectly placed ball in the corner of the end zone gave the Bills a two score lead. He came up with some big ones tonight, Allen said.

Despite an inconsistent performance, Josh Allen set a new Buffalo Bills franchise record with four consecutive playoff games where he threw for 300+ yards, surpassing the former record of three held by Jim Kelly. Allen is one of two quarterbacks to ever record at least 300 passing yards and three touchdown passes in three consecutive postseason games, the other being Matt Ryan.

The scoreboard may show that the Bills conceded 31 points, but that does not reflect the entire performance of the Buffalo defense, given the context of the game.

Digging into the stats, Buffalo's defense was impressive, proving to be a strong asset.

The Bills defence succeeded in limiting the Dolphins to just 3.3 yards per play, 231 total yards and a disappointing 25% conversion rate on third downs (4 out of 16). Matt Milano, Boogie Basham and Ed Oliver each registered one sack, making it the most by the team in a playoff game since the Divisional game of the 2020 NFL season against the Baltimore Ravens. Additionally, both Kaiir Elam and Dean Marlowe were able to pick off replacements for Tua Tagovailoa - who left due to a concussion - Skylar Thompson, helping their team gain two turnovers in the process.

The Dolphins' offensive attack was stifled by the opposing defense, as their only drive of more than 50 yards was not enough to get the ball downfield to wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The duo were both held to under 70 yards receiving, as several chances were thwarted by drops from Waddle or pass breakups from the defensive backs.

McDermott commented that the Bills secondary did a good job in limiting their opponent's big plays to one or two. Despite this, they were still put in difficult situations due to Allen's propensity for turnovers.

Allen's second interception resulted in Miami gaining the ball at the Buffalo 18-yard line, and eventually scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 17-17 late in the second quarter. Notably, this was the third consecutive time that the Dolphins started in Buffalo territory and managed to contain the opposition, allowing no more than one touchdown.

Kaiir Elam's interception during the second half put the Bills ahead and they didn't relinquish the lead. Allen expressed his gratitude for the play, saying, "I can't thank our defense enough for playing the way that they did." Miami's offensive drives in the second half saw them have one touchdown, two punts, an interception and a turnover on downs.

The playoffs can be a time when unforeseen players deliver when it matters most, and that was definitely the case for the Buffalo Bills' rookie class. Running back James Cook, cornerback Kaiir Elam, and wide receiver Khalil Shakir all had key plays that helped to shape the outcome of the game. Cook ran the ball well in critical moments, Elam made a crucial interception, and Shakir had some key catches that reenergized the offense. As a unit, the rookie class stepped up when it counted and proved to be an invaluable asset to the Bills as they advanced in the playoffs.

McDermott stated that, in the modern NFL, young players are expected to make an immediate impact and contribute, something that was not as common in the past. Cook went on to prove this point by scoring a 12 yard touchdown in his playoff debut, which was followed by a joyous celebration with the stands. This was the first time since 1995 that a Bills rookie had accomplished this feat.

When the Dolphins had taken the lead and Buffalo's offense was in decline, Elam stepped up in his first-ever postseason game and made a play to remember as he intercepted Thompson, thus setting Buffalo's offense up at Miami's 33-yard line. To put the icing on the cake, Shakir came through in the clutch late in the fourth quarter. With the Bills barely holding onto a 34-31 lead and facing a crucial 3rd down play, he took a 31-yard laser from Allen and held on for the reception. McDermott noted afterwards, "That was a big catch. We have faith in him, evidenced by his sure hands."

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