ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills opened the season with a Super Bowl drive.
A week into the playoffs, their goal is still in sight – but hardly.
Allen ignored a three-turn exit, and the three-time defending AFC East Bills champion avoided a major crash by rallying to a 34–31 victory over the seventh seeded and injury-weary AFC Miami Dolphins in the playoff game. On Sunday.
While admitting that he was hardly at his best, Allen said that all that mattered was the final score.
“Weekly seasons, man, that’s it,” he said. “All that matters is to survive and develop. It doesn’t matter how we win, it matters if we win.”
Part of the “if” equation hung in the balance until the final minutes of the game, in which the Bills squandered a 17-0 lead against an opponent who had limped into the playoffs, losing five of their last six and falling to third. quarterback, rookie Skylar Thompson.
Only after Allen’s fumbling was returned 5 yards per touchdown from Zach Zieler At 61 seconds into the third quarter, the Dolphins went 24–20 up, finally awakening the Bills offense.
“For the most part, it’s just the playoffs. In all the games I’ve played in the playoffs, I don’t even know if we’ve had a breakthrough,” Beasley said. “The thing is, you have to keep your foot on the gas. You will never be able to calm down. You must play consistently. We’ve been a little inconsistent tonight. We cannot do this in the future.”
The game was not decided until the Buffalo defense, which forced six punts and two turnovers, stopped Miami by flipping the ball on down on the last possession.
Thompson’s pass on counts 4 and 6 went past tight end Mike Gesicki’s fingertips with 2:22 left.
Buffalo ran out of time as Devin Singletery fought his way to a 7-yard win to convert third and 7th.
It was a sloppy game and a long saga lasting nearly four hours between the two division rivals, and the result matched how the two teams split their regular season streak in games decided on five points. In September, the Dolphins beat Buffalo 21–19 in Miami, and last month the Bills beat Miami 32–29.
Allen finished 23 of 39 for 352 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions to give the Dolphins 11 points.
Buffalo will host the third-seeded Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday in the divisional round. Three weeks earlier, the Bills’ game against the Bengals in Cincinnati was called off when Buffalo guard Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field. Hamlin is recovering and watched the Sunday game at home.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Dolphins played tough in a game that they entered as underdogs with 13 1/2 points without numerous offensive starters, including quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is still on concussion protocol, and backup Teddy Bridgewater. which deals with dislocation of the little finger.
“It was a hand and it was part of the story that we wanted to wrap up,” coach Mike McDaniel said. “I’m heartbroken for the guys because they didn’t want their season to end and they did everything they could.”
The Dolphins extended their playoff losing streak to five. Miami’s last playoff victory was a 23-17 overtime victory over Indianapolis on December 30, 2000 in the wild-card round.
Miami’s defense and special teams made up for the offense, which had just 16 first downs and 231 yards. Interceptions by Jevon Holland and Xavien Howard, and a 50-yard punt return by Cedric Wilson saw the Dolphins take advantage of short fields to tie with Gesicki’s 17-yard catch late in the second quarter.
Making just his third career start, Thompson finished 18 of 45 for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“Dude, our defense played so well today. It’s hard. Because these guys gave us every chance to win,” said Thompson. “I feel like this is a game that we definitely had a chance to win. I will take (responsibility for) the loss, take it upon myself and move forward.”
Buffalo didn’t look like the team that closed the season with seven straight wins.
Instead, the Billies looked like they had run out of adrenaline after an emotionally draining week and a season full of breakdowns.
Hamlin was at the heart of the team, tweeting live during the game from home, where he continues to recover. The message, which Hamlin posted on his Twitter account about an hour before kick-off, read: “My heart goes out to my boys as they compete today! … I want nothing more than to be there with them.”
Hamlin, 24, was released from a Buffalo hospital on Wednesday and visited his teammates at the Bills facility on Saturday.
Cornerback Tre’Davius White said that Hamlin’s visit “gave us a lot of energy”. for this game. “It definitely lifted our spirits,” he added.
Dolphins: Zieler had two of Miami’s record-breaking seven sacks in the playoffs. Jeff Wilson closed the scoring with a 1-yard run to complete 11 plays and 75 yards with 10:53 left. Jason Sanders made all three field goals, including a 48-yard one. Tyreke Hill led Miami with seven catches for 69 yards.
Scores: LB Matt Milano, freshly selected All-Pro, received two sacks. Dawson Knox also scored on a 6-yard catch for Buffalo and James Cook scored on a 12-yard run. Buss scored both field attempts, including a 39-yard one. WR Stephon Diggs had seven catches for 114 yards and Davis finished with six catches for 113 yards.
Accounts: Take Cincinnati next Sunday at 3:00 pm EST.