Miami Dolphins: On a day when Brian Flores said the entire team didn’t play well, the defense was particularly disappointing
By now, the game was slipping away, and potentially the season with it. But Buffalo Bills rookie receiver Gabriel Davis, a fourth-round pick out of UCF, was about to make a bad day even worse for the Miami Dolphins.
First, Davis outfought Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Xavien Howard, for the ball and a 51-yard gain early in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a demoralized Dolphins defense allowing an easy 18-yard score in which Antonio Williams was not touched until he was shoved in the end zone.
That gave the Bills what seemed like a triple-digit lead. But they, and Davis, were not done. With 6:18 remaining Davis punctuated Buffalo’s 56-26 win with another 50-plus reception, this one for 56 yards and a touchdown with Nik Needham several steps behind.
The Dolphins (10-6) entered the game with the No. 1 scoring defense in the league, allowing 18.8 per game. They exited allowing about 20 percent of what they had given up in the previous 15 games.
The most points Miami had surrendered in the previous 15 games — 33 to the Chiefs.
“Nobody wants to get beat like that,” said Howard, who recorded his league-leading 10th interception of the season. “We came here we were trying to win a game, it didn’t happen.”
The Bills torched the highest-paid secondary in the league. Josh Allen threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns before sitting out the entire second half. Two of those TD passes were to Isaiah McKenzie, who added an 84-yard punt return for a score.
Backup Matt Barkley threw for 164 yards in the second half as the Bills scored four more touchdowns, one on Tua Tagovailoa’s first pick-6 of his career, with Josh Norman taking the interception back 16 yards.
Both of Davis’ 50-plus receptions came in the fourth quarter. Until then, the Dolphins had allowed only five plays of at least 50 yards from scrimmage all season. Davis, who entered with 492 receiving yards, had 107 for the game.
Coach Brian Flores refused to place the blame on the defense or any one aspect of the team.
“We didn’t play well enough in any phase to win the game,” Flores said. “We didn’t play well against a good football team. We’re all disappointed. Didn’t do enough. It’s a team effort. I didn’t do a good enough job of getting them ready to go. We win as a team we lose as a team we didn’t play well enough across the board.”
The defense got little help from the offense or special teams with each allowing a score. Tagovailoa tossed a career-high three interceptions — one more than he had thrown in his first nine NFL games — and lamented how he could not punch the ball in the end zone on the Dolphins' first series, which started in Buffalo territory after Byron Jones’ interception.
Miami settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
“I don’t think I put us in a really good situation with the defense giving us a turnover in the first series,” the rookie quarterback said. “Not going down and punching it in, we need to be better in that aspect of opening up games. We got to do down and give our team some spark.”
Buffalo scored the next 21 points.
“We let them guys get the lead,” Howard said. “It’s a powerful offense. They got a lot of weapons. Josh Allen is a great quarterback doing some great things this year, the guys they got around him. ...”
Howard is the first NFL player in 13 years with at least 10 interceptions. His interception, which came off Barkley in the third quarter, ties a team season record.
Still, he wasn’t in a mood to celebrate following a disappointing day.
“It was hard to get happy,” he said. “I didn’t get to feel the 10th interception. It wasn’t good enough.”