News & Analysis

NFL Week 17 PFF ReFocused: Buffalo Bills 56, Miami Dolphins 26

Jan 3, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills cornerback Josh Norman (29) reacts to his interception return for a touchdown with teammate outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With a 2020 playoff berth on the line, the Miami Dolphins could not unseat the No. 2-seed Buffalo Bills, falling to their division foes 56-26. 

Despite throwing the most yards in his young career, Tua Tagovailoa endured by far his worst performance of his rookie campaign.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

STORY OF THE GAME

Tagovailoa was tossed to the wolves in the final game of the season, as he attempted the second-most passes by a rookie QB this year (58). He completed 35 passes for 362 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions — one of which was a pick-six.

Much like the rest of his season, Tua struggled throwing downfield, connecting on just five of 17 deep passes. He was similarly ineffective on third downs (5-of-12 attempts for 51-scoreless yards and one interception) and even worse in the red zone (2-of-7 for 11 yards, zero touchdowns and one pick).

Although both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed recorded a rushing touchdown, the ground game was dropped in favor of airing it out after the Bills took an early lead and kept their foot on the gas. The only other offensive player of note was DeVante Parker, who hauled in seven receptions for 116 yards and a couple of highlight reel catches along the sideline.

The defense did allow 49 points, but Xavien Howard snatched his NFL-leading 10th interception of the season — the most by a defender since 2007. Byron Jones notched his second INT in a Dolphins uniform. 

Jan 3, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter at Bills Stadium. Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Allen needed just one half of football to secure a 28-6 lead and effectively lock up the second seed in the AFC. He threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns before being pulled at the half for Matt Barkley. Allen was 5-of-7 for 108 yards and two scores on targets 10-plus yards downfield, torching the Miami defense on multiple occasions. 

Undrafted free agent Antonio Williams received the bulk of the work in the backfield, taking 12 carries for 63 yards and two-end zone plunges. Fellow rookie Gabriel Davis only caught two passes but both went for over 50 yards and one was a touchdown. 

Stefon Diggs maintained his stellar play, reeling in seven of eight targets for 76 yards. John Brown burst onto the scene after missing the last six weeks due to injury, hauling in four receptions for 72 yards with a 32-yard touchdown. The real story of the Bills’ offense was receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who made six receptions for 65 yards and two touchdowns while adding a 84-yard punt return TD to boot.

The Bills finish the season with a 13-3 record, the best they have produced since Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed led them to the same record in 1991.  

ROOKIE WATCH

Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Lynn Bowden Jr. and Raekwon Davis all saw significant playing time for the Dolphins. Jackson and Hunt saw 62 reps in pass protection, and both players stood their ground, allowing just two and three QB pressures, respectively.

Bowden Jr. was utilized all over the field, catching eight passes for 44 yards, losing seven yards on a carry and throwing a perfect 32-yard pass off a trick play. Davis generated only one QB pressure on 30 pass-rush snaps and recorded one tackle and one missed tackle against the run.

For Buffalo, Dane Jackson and A.J. Epenesa were on the gridiron more often than not. Jackson allowed three receptions for 44 yards and three first downs on six targets, though he did force two incompletions. Epenesa was unable to make much of an impact with his snaps, creating just two QB pressures on 42 pass-rush reps.

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