Bills clinch 4th straight playoff berth; beat Dolphins 32-29
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Once the snow began falling at the start of the fourth quarter, Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills found themselves in their element against the warm-weather Miami Dolphins.
The AFC-leading Bills (11-3) overcame an eight-point deficit with Allen overseeing scoring drives on the final two possessions, capped by Tyler Bass hitting a 25-yard field goal as time expired to propel Buffalo to a 32-29 victory Saturday night.
The Bills wrapped up their fourth consecutive playoff berth, and fifth in six seasons under coach Sean McDermott.
The decisive field goal sparked a raucous celebration before a snowball-throwing crowd, with Bass, receiver Stefon Diggs and left tackle Dion Dawkins diving head-first and sliding on their chests on the snow-slicked field.
“Almost like it was all supposed to happen, right?” said Poyer of a long-forecasted lake effect snowstorm finally making its arrival. “Josh takes the offense down and the snow starts falling down. It was actually kind of surreal. It was a fun, fun atmosphere, though.”
Allen, meantime, referred to Mother Nature’s arrival as a mere coincidence. He instead credited those around him for stepping up, especially when the offense had cooled during a third quarter in which Buffalo ended four consecutive drives with punts, and after Allen ended the fifth drive with a fumble.
“That third quarter is not where we wanted to be,” Allen said. “But I thought our defense played a heck of a game in the second half, especially, and then T-Bass at the end. He’s nails.”
Allen threw a 5-yard pass to Dawson Knox and the quarterback then leaped over the line for a 2-point conversion to tie it 29 with 9:02 left. Allen lost control of the ball, but a replay review showed he crossed the goal line before fumbling.
Allen then oversaw a 15-play, 86-yard drive that ate up the final 5:56 to set up Bass’ field goal.
Allen threw four touchdown passes to increase his career total to 171 (including one receiving), and tie former Miami quarterback Dan Marino for the most by an NFL player in the first five seasons of his career.
In winning its fifth straight, and third in three weeks over a divisional opponent, Buffalo also inched closer to clinching its third consecutive AFC East title by building a three-win lead over Miami.
“Can’t win a Super Bowl unless you make the playoffs. That’s goal No. 1 down,” Allen said of a team that entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations and, thanks to tiebreakers, has the inside track to finish first in the AFC standings.
The Dolphins (8-6) entered the weekend in second place and as the AFC’s sixth seed. They’ve now lost three in a row in their bid to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2016.
“We had a very good performance against a very, very good team,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I know a lot of people would like to make it about the weather, but our team never did.”
The conditions were much the opposite from the Dolphins’ 21-19 win over Buffalo in Miami in September, when the game-time temperature was 89 degrees.
This time, the Bills used the home-field elements to their advantage in an outing they nearly bobbled away.
The Dolphins took the lead on Tua Tagovailoa’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill with 2:30 left in the third quarter. Miami’s drive was extended by Buffalo’s Cam Lewis being flagged for roughing punter Thomas Morstead after the Bills stopped the Dolphins on a three-and-out at midfield.
Miami then capitalized on Allen being sacked and losing a fumble, which was forced by Jaelan Phillips and recovered by Christian Wilkins at midfield two plays into the fourth quarter. The turnover set up Jason Sanders hitting a 47-yard field goal.
Tagovailoa finished 17 of 30 for 234 yards and two touchdowns, including a 67-yarder to Jaylen Waddle. Raheem Mostert finished with 136 yards rushing, while backup Salvon Ahmed ran for 43 yards, including an 11-yard TD.
Despite the loss, the Dolphins offense showed signs of rediscovering its groove. After combining for 527 yards offense in losing to San Francisco and the Los Angeles Chargers on consecutive weekends on the West Coast, Miami finished with 405 yards against a Buffalo defense which entered the weekend ranked ninth in the NFL in yards allowed.
“I thought we as a team handled the elements pretty well for a team that comes from 80-degree weather,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m very proud of the way our team leaders stepped up in this game. I think our team is taking a step in the right direction.”
Allen finished 25 of 40 for 304 yards, and matched a career best with four touchdowns passing. Nyheim Hynes, Quintin Morris and James Cook each had TD catches.
Allen showed off his fearless ability on never giving up on a play with his 4-yard touchdown pass to Cook to put Buffalo up 21-13 to cap a 12-play, 82-yard drive as time expired.
Facing first-and-goal with eight seconds remaining, Allen waited in the pocket before being flushed to his right. Two steps from going out of bounds, and as time had expired, Allen found Cook alone in the back of the end zone.
Dolphins: DB Keion Crossen returned after hurting his knee in the first half, and then left with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
Bills: C Mitch Morse did not return after being evaluated for a head injury in the second half.
Dolphins: Host Green Bay on Christmas Day.
Bills: At Chicago on Saturday.
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