ORCHARD PARK, NY — The Dolphins believed they could win and they almost did.
Miami went into the Buffalo area with a plan to play physically and run the ball and they did.
Of course the Bills have Josh Allen and he led the game-winning field goal drive in a 32-29 victory on Saturday night.
It wasn’t quite as cold or treacherous as predicted by local weather experts.
But we are all glad to be back in Florida after a tiring three-game road trip.
“I was very, very proud of the effort and the lack of excuses that were made in the locker room,” coach Mike McDaniel said Monday. “Now that I can talk about it, yeah that was difficult.”
Joe Schad’s Snap Conclusions Bills defeated Dolphins
More good than badDolphins go toe-to-toe with Bills in the Buffalo snow | Shad
Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa We ain’t afraid of no cold
The Dolphins were 0-3 on that swing. But they should not feel terrible about their visit to Western New York.
Many coaches believe “The Tape Don’t Lie,” and that list includes Mike McDaniel.
“The game tape survives time,” McDaniel says.
Here are some things we noticed in Miami’s loss at Buffalo:
Strong run game blocking
Terron Armstead, Brandon Shell, Connor Williams and Robert Hunt, in particular, all did a really strong job in the run game on Saturday night. They were physical, aggressive and decisive.
Miami came to Buffalo with a plan to be everything but soft and they were successful in that area.
All credit to Armstead for playing through injuries to his toe, pectoral and knee, and playing well.
The Dolphins certainly seem set at left tackle, center and right guard for the next few seasons.
Raheem Mostert was outstanding and Salvon Ahmed was very good on Saturday night. But improved run-blocking in recent weeks by the line have been a critical factor.
Outstanding Raheem Mostert effort
Mostert is the NFL’s 33rd-highest paid running back this season, according to Spotrac.
Mostert’s salary demands could not be too high because he was coming off an injury-marred season. But signing a 1-year “prove it” deal was smart.
Mostert has been proving it.
Mostert ran with utter determination on Saturday night. When one combines that effort with his speed, he can be as good as anyone in this offense.
Mostert’s first-quarter run, in which he broke four Buffalo tackles, was a flashback to the power of one Jay Ajayi. Miami has lacked a back who could power through opponents for a while.
That they may have that in one of the fastest players in the league is impressive.
Obviously the Dolphins will look to bring Mostert back in 2023. Perhaps a 2- or 3-year deal would be best for both parties this time around.
Tua and Josh
Josh Allen’s ability to extend plays, use creativity and fearlessness to make things happen was on display Saturday.
With time expiring in the first half, Allen ran all the way across the field towards the right sideline and completed a touchdown pass while off-balance, and with Bradley Chubb in pursuit and breathing down his neck.
This is what can, at times, separate players like Allen and Patrick Mahomes from Tua Tagovailoa.
What happens when plays break down, or timing is off, and things are off-schedule or even chaotic?
Those players have athleticism and instincts and hutzpah. Tua’s strengths are in rhythm and timing and taking advance of a very detailed scheme.
It doesn’t mean that Miami can’t capitalize on Tua’s strengths, as they have throughout almost all of this season. It just means that Tua can’t be expected to produce as many of those thrilling, broken-play highlights.
As an analyst on the game broadcast noted, Allen makes plays that can’t be taught or practiced.
It will be interesting to see how this AFC East quarterback rivalry develops. It seems clear anyone would take Josh and Tua over Zach Wilson and Mac Jones at this point.
Allen is tall and wide and athletic and rocket-armed.
Tua is small and pocket-oriented and focused on pin-point accuracy.
Entirely different players, with entirely different styles. But both are very talented.
Let’s shine on Waddle
It’s too easy to overlook the massive leap forward that Jaylen Waddle has made in his second season because of the impact of newcomer Tyreek Hill.
But we shouldn’t.
Waddle averaged 9.8 yards per catch as a rookie.
Waddle is averaging 18.0 yards per catch this season.
Waddle has six touchdowns as a rookie.
Waddle already has seven this season.
Waddle had four catches of 30+ yards as a rookie.
Waddle already has 10 catches of 30+ yards this season, including a 67-yard touchdown on Saturday.
Waddle is 7th in the NFL with 1,117 receiving yards. Despite playing in an offense with Hill, who is second in the NFL in receiving yards, Waddle is among the best in the game at his position.
More Phillips-type turnovers
Jaelan Phillips tomahawk-chopped a forced fumble of Josh Allen that for all the world looked like a critical turnover at the start of the fourth quarter.
“That’s something that we’ve got to work on for sure,” Phillips said in the locker room after Saturday’s game, when I asked about the importance of forcing even more turnovers down the stretch.
“We need to give the offense as many opportunities as possible,” Phillips said. “It’s got to be a point of emphasis that we continue to drill and execute.”
Phillips played with relentlessness, passion and energy on Saturday. He donned war paint on his face and lived up to his plan. He wore shorts and no shirt in pregame, vowing to take on the cold and the Bills without fear.
Miami needs Xavien Howard (1 interception) and Bradley Chubb (1 forced fumble in 6 games with the Dolphins) to create multiple turnovers against Green Bay, New England and the Jets.
Why are the Dolphins tied for 29th in the NFL in takeaways? That’s unacceptable.
This & That
Tyreek Hill was a bit tough on himself, promising Dolphins fans in a social media post that he won’t play as poorly as he did on Saturday again. But there have been a few balls that Hill almost always hauls in that he just hasn’t the last few games, including a potential touchdown… Trent Sherfield also failed to haul in what could very well have been a touchdown… The Dolphins are tied for 13th in the NFL with 18 fourth-down attempts. Miami is tied for 15th with a 50 percent success rate. The Eagles are an insane 20-for-27… Salvon Ahmed seems to have figured out some things about the best way to run in this zone scheme offense. Ahmed’s eye-opening effort leads one to wonder if he could be Miami’s No. 2 or No. 3 running back solution in 2023… Tua Tagovailoa has only 4 fumbles this season, which is nowhere near the league leaders for quarterbacks. But he fumbled once Saturday and this is always going to be a point-of-emphasis for Tua… Zach Sieler is a free agent after next season. Miami should move now for a 2-year extension to that deal… Cedrick Wilson made his best catch as a Dolphin in the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 29. “We got the look we wanted and it would be a great catch with a different outcome,” Wilson told me after the game. “But now, it’s just a first down.”.
Joe Schad can be reached at email@example.com