71 degrees/ 9 MPH wind
Key Decision #1:
- Pulling Jay Cutler after one series was a key moment in the game. In Cutler’s place, the Dolphins played a reserve QB, David Fales who has only been on the roster since late October. Fales has familiarity with Gase as Fales was a 2014 draft pick of the Bears when Gase was their offensive coordinator. The Dolphins didn’t score a point in the first half of the game.
- Fales threw for 265 yard on 29-for-42 passing and threw and ran for a touchdown. However, the most productive part of his afternoon came after the game appeared to be out of hand.
- Fales threw an interception late in the game after the Dolphins had recovered an onside kick when Miami did claw their way back in the game. Had the Dolphins played Cutler, it is entirely possible that they would have won the game and prevented the Bills from making their first post-season since 1999.
Key Decision #2: (MIA trail 7-0/ 4th and 3/ BUF 15 4:41 Q1)
- Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase attempted a fourth-down conversion. David Fales passed to tight end AJ Derby but failed. Miami could have made this a 7-3 game early on. Buffalo would make this a 10-0 game on the ensuing possession.
Key Decision #3:
- Buffalo sped up the tempo on their first two drives. The Bills scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the second time this season. Both times it was against the Dolphins. This is good coaching. Clearly the Bills offensive coaching staff recognized something that makes it hard for the Dolphins to adjust to speed and tempo. Buffalo got off to a 10-0 start and held the lead. In this case, the rabbit never was caught.
Key Decision #4:
- Similarly, the Bills identified that they could find their tight ends against the Dolphins. Buffalo was able to get the ball early to their tight ends, specifically former Dolphin, Charles Clay who had five catches for 56 yards in the first half. Bills tight end Nick O’Leary was wide open in the end zone for the game’s first score.
Key Decision #5: (BUF lead 19-0/ 2pt attempt/ 7:08 Q3)
- The Bills were thinking they could make it a three-touchdown game. However, there is value in just taking the PAT attempt. The weather wasn’t bad and the Bills kicker had not shown signs that he was not going to be able to hit a PAT. 20 points is greater than 19 points. The Dolphins could miss their PAT too, thus eliminating the need to try a two-point conversion. There was still plenty of game remaining to be attempting a two-point conversion in a shutout to that point.
Key Decision #6:
- The Dolphins scored a touchdown with 6:16 remaining in the game to make it a 22-9 game. They attempted a 2-pt conversion to make it a 22-11 game. An 11-point deficit would leave them needing two scores to tie or win the game. They could use a field goal to tie the game. If they had kicked the PAT, and down 12, the Dolphins could not have tied the game with a field goal and touchdown. It is understandable why they elected to go for two here. The conversion not succeeding made the Dolphins need two touchdowns anyways. It was a worthwhile gamble this late in the game.
Key Decision #7:
- Miami made it a game at the end, especially after recovering an onside kick with under two minutes to play. However, the game was over after Jordan Poyer intercepted David Fales.
- Buffalo scored when defensive lineman Kyle Williams lined up at fullback and ran for a TD to put them up three scores.
- The Bills lost running back LeSean McCoy early in the third quarter (13:47) with an ankle injury. He was carted off the field.
- The Dolphins did not score until 2:30 remaining in the third quarter. It’s hard to win games with long droughts of offensive production.
- Miami successfully challenged a Bills completion on second down in the third quarter. The play was overturned and ruled incomplete. However, the value in challenging this play was eliminated when Miami committed pass interference on the next play to extend the Bills drive. The Bills later scored (Kyle Williams touchdown) on the drive.