Anatomy of a Choke: Bills at Dolphins Week 3 

Miami Dolphins safety Jevon Holland (8) sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) causing a fumble during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Before I begin with this solo output of sodium chloride, I must first explain what’s going on here. Why wasn’t this game covered in my usual recap, you might be wondering. Allow me to explain. This game was so bonkers that I still have no place in my head for what on earth transpired. Plus, it involved the Bills losing, so throw in some undiluted (and unnecessary) rage as well. This will serve as an in-depth breakdown and longer recap of sorts over the key points of what happened, hence the title. Without further ado, let’s begin this next volume of pain and misery.  

As mentioned in the Week 3 recap, this game was a marquee injury bowl. We will get into the in-game injuries as we go on, but for now we can go over who was out to begin the game. For Buffalo, their huge win over the Titans on Monday came at a staggering cost. Micah Hyde out for the year. Dane Jackson was carted off in an ambulance. Jordan Poyer out with a foot injury. Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips sidelined. Add that to an already injured Ed Oliver and the Bills’ defense for this game would be a glorified practice squad. Their starting secondary would consist of Benford and Elam at corner, and two backup 6th round picks at the safety positions who are mostly used during garbage time.  

Miami Dolphins punter Thomas Morstead (4) sees the ball go backwards after attempting a punt during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sept. 25, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The play resulted in a safety for the Buffalo Bills. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo)

Enough about the pregame injuries, let’s get into the actual game. Before the game, in an outstanding display of sportsmanship, Miami decided to wear white uniforms, forcing the Bills into their dark blue jerseys. They also chose the sideline that was in the shade, forcing the Bills into the sun for the entire game. In 100-degree heat. Peak sportsmanship.  

The game started out like a lot of people expected it to. The Bills marched down the field in 10 plays to score on their opening drive for the 8th straight game. The drive was capped off by Josh Allen exposing a blitz package and finding a wide-open Devin Singletary for a touchdown on 4th and goal. This led to a Dolphins 3-and-out. Bills fans were understandably optimistic at this point. The defense held the line. “The Bills are going to the Super bowl” their fans proclaimed. They would march right back down the field and take a 2-score lead – or so I thought.  

Instead, Allen decided that it was the perfect time to develop butterfingers and fumbled the ball on his own 12-yard line. This led to an easy Dolphins touchdown to tie the game. As the first quarter ended, Buffalo was moving the ball down the field, and were in another goal-to-go situation. They were able to convert. They punched it in on 3rd down with a dart to Knox to go back up by 7. This is when we realize that the Bills defense consists of a bunch of wet plywood and Miami marched all over them to tie the game. You can thank the penalties for making it easier for them. The Bills promptly do nothing with the ball and punt it back to the Dolphins.  

On the next drive, though, Tua was sent to the locker room after a big hit by Matt Milano, and Teddy Bridgewater came in to lead the Dolphins to absolutely nowhere. Buffalo still has a chance. They got into field goal range and grossly mismanaged the clock before halftime and missed out on 3 points. 

At halftime, I wasn’t too concerned, except that the turnovers and the heat were starting to get to the Bills. The second half would start with a 3-and-out for the Dolphins, with Tua back in the game. Miami punted the ball back to Buffalo, and so began the longest drive of the game. This was also when most of the injuries happened. On this 20-play, 10-minute-long drive, Xavien Howard, Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox, Gabe Davis, and Reggie Gilliam all left with cramps. In addition, the Bills center Charlie Van Roten also went down with injury, meaning that they would be stuck with a third stringer converted from guard for the rest of the game. On this drive, the withered remains of the Bills offense stalled out in the red zone and were forced to kick a field goal.  

This was Miami’s chance to break the game open. They instead went 3 and out and gave the ball back to Buffalo. The Bills marched down the field, and once again failed to get anything going once they got in the red zone and again settled for a field goal. On comes the kicking unit once again, as Tyler Bass malfunctions and misses a chip-shot 31 yarder. Maybe it had something to do with the heat. Who knows? Now Miami has another chance. They slowly pushed down the field, but the Bills defense looked to have held firm. That was until they gave up a 3rd and 22 to set up Miami on the goal line. And gave up a touchdown to relinquish the hard-earned lead.  

Now trailing for the first time this season, the Bills offense would have to respond in kind. Josh Allen put the team on his back and marched down the field and got it to first and goal from the 1. Four tries, and Dorsey goes for some of the most predictable plays called Run-Run-Pass. Even the Dolphins can see through that. Now it’s 4th down. Allen had an open receiver but chose to revert to rookie form and miss what would have been an easy touchdown.  

Now Miami has the ball back with a minute left, but they’re on their own 1. They needed a first down to seal the game. This is where the defense finally shows up. They forced a 3-and-out, forcing Miami to punt from their own endzone. This is where the true magic begins. The Dolphins punter lines up to punt and hits the ball into his own lineman’s posterior for a safety. The Butt Punt has now been relegated to instant memedom and will be a hallmark of the Buffalo-Miami rivalry for years to come.  

Now down by only two at 21-19, the Bills could win with a field goal. Josh Allen does his thing and gets the Bills into field goal range, but a holding penalty backs them up. They have one last chance to get into range and spike it. Allen pulls off some heroics, dumps the ball to McKenzie, who is tackled inbounds. The Bills ran out of time and lost the game in heartbreaking fashion. Miami goes to 3-0 and looks like the class of the AFC. As for Buffalo, lamentation.  

Even now, days after the game, I still have no idea how on earth the game ended in the way it did. I had a feeling the Bills would somehow lose this game, but never in my wildest dreams did I think the ending would be that much of a rollercoaster. The loss can be blamed on two things: The injuries and awful play calling in the red zone. Let me put the latter into context. They had the ball for twice as long as the Dolphins and outgained them by over 350 yards, and still lost.  

The injuries on defense speak for themselves, but the rookies in the secondary held their own for the most part. What on earth happened to that offense? The group that looked borderline unstoppable the past two weeks suddenly decided to imitate The Hack and did absolutely nothing in the red zone. Josh Allen threw for 400 yards and that offense still only put up 17 points against a team without that great of a defense.  

Next week, they go to Baltimore. It is not going to get any easier from this point out. That defense isn’t getting any healthier either. Poyer will be back, thank God, but everyone else will be out for a while. At least they get Tre White back in a few weeks, so the rookies aren’t taking all the burden at corner. With how banged up they are on defense; the Bills could theoretically start the season 4-4. That is alarming. They’ll still probably win the division, but their #1 seed hopes are significantly decreased by this loss.  

I will now return to my regularly scheduled misery.  


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