Josh Allen gave the Buffalo Bills a chance to win. With the game on the line, he avoided a sack and spotted tight end Charles Clay wide open in the end zone. He made the throw, but Clay couldn't make the catch.
The Bills turned it over on downs, and the Miami Dolphins won Sunday's game 21-17.
The loss spoiled a tremendous effort by Allen, the Bills' rookie quarterback who made his second start after missing time with an elbow injury. He had 231 passing yards, 135 rushing yards and two touchdown passes.
Miscues and poor officiating hurt the Bills. A muffed punt set up a Dolphins' touchdown drive. Steven Hauschka missed an extra point and a field goal try. Allen threw two interceptions.
There were more than a few questionable calls. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jordan Phillips was terrible. There were other ticky-tack calls that went against both teams. This game was another example of the NFL's officiating problem. This crew isn't ready for the big leagues.
Ultimately, the Bills had a chance to win it. Clay should've made the catch, but didn't. There was another missed touchdown earlier in the game when Allen missed a wide open Zay Jones in the end zone. These are the types of games good teams win. The Bills didn't finish the job.
The Bills fall to 4-8. The Dolphins improve to 6-6.
Here is the Buffalo Bills Week 13 report card:
Josh Allen had a day. He showed off his arm with 231 passing yards and two touchdown passes to Zay Jones. The one touchdown pass to Jones in the back of the end zone was a beauty. Allen rolled to his right and threw that pass on the run. It was an impressive display of his athleticism. He once again showed off his running ability with 135 rushing yards. Having that dual threat is an asset to the Bills' offense.
LeSean McCoy was relatively quiet in this game. He led the team with 15 carries, but he finished with only 52 yards. Chris Ivory had six carries for 4 yards. It wasn't a great day for the running backs. They didn't play a huge role in the passing attack either. The exception was fullback Patrick DiMarco's 38-yard reception. Other than that, the running backs didn't make much of a splash in this one.
Tight end Charles Clay's drop on the Bills' final offensive play will overshadow the wide receiving corps overall performance. Clay should've made that catch. Was it the easiest play to make? No. But for $38 million, you expect him to make those plays. The ball hit him in the hands and chest. He had a good look at it. He needed to haul that in. Zay Jones had a good game with four catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He nearly had a third touchdown grab, but Allen misfired.
It was a solid game for the offensive line. They weren't overwhelmed by the Dolphins' pass rush. Of course, it helps to have Josh Allen running around and keeping plays alive. The run blocking wasn't great. LeSean McCoy and the other running backs didn't get a lot of holes against the Miami defense. There were some costly penalties committed by the line, too. The poor officiating had something to do with that. One example: Jordan Mills got called for holding even though replay showed he appears to slip while blocking and the defender falls with him. The officials considered that a hold. It was a bad call.
Offensive MVP: Josh Allen. Allen got off to a slow start, but got into a rhythm as the game went on. His 231 passing yards and 135 rushing yards showed Bills fans what they can expect, hopefully, for years to come. He gave the Bills a chance to win.
The Bills wreaked havoc against a weak Dolphins offensive line. The defense held Miami to 60 rushing yards, 20 of which came on one Kenyan Drake run. Trent Murphy sacked Ryan Tannehill and nearly had a safety. If he was a half-yard deeper it would've been two points. Jordan Phillips had three tackles (two solo) and a pass defended in his return to Miami. He was released by the Dolphins earlier this season.
Micah Hyde had an interception one play after Josh Allen threw an interception. That was a big play in the game. The Dolphins could've grabbed control of the game at that moment. Hyde had other ideas. Rafael Bush had three tackles (two solo), a sack and a tackle for a loss. There were some missed opportunities by the Bills' defensive backfield. Jordan Poyer had a play on Tannehill's touchdown pass to Kenny Stills. Poyer just missed the pass and Stills hauled it in for a touchdown. Poyer wants that one back. He needs to knock that down or intercept the pass.
Defensive MVP: Matt Milano. Milano led the team with eight tackles (four solo) and two tackles for a loss. He was active against the run and in pass coverage. He's one of the most athletic players on this team. He's a key player on the defensive side of the ball.
Kicking and punting
Kick coverage and returns
Isaiah McKenzie has been a nice addition, but he made a costly error. On a short punt, he ran up to field it and waved for a fair catch. He muffed the punt and the Dolphins recovered. Miami scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Those are the types of mistakes that will hurt you in close games. McKenzie also bobbled a kickoff return. It was a bad day for the returner.
The Bills' punt coverage was solid. Dolphins returner Kenny Stills was held to two returns for 6 yards. The Dolphins didn't have any kickoff returns in Sunday's game.
Special teams MVP: None. It was a poor showing by the special teams unit. The Bills need a new special teams coordinator. It's time to kick Danny Crossman to the curb. It was a bit surprising when Sean McDermott retained Crossman. It's time for a change.
OTHER GRADES AND FACTS
Overall team performance
There were bright spots. Josh Allen's play kept the Bills in the game. Zay Jones caught two touchdown passes. Matt Milano was a nuisance on defense. But the Bills made too many errors. Sean McDermott was out-coached in the first half. His 1-10 record on challenges is abysmal, and his clock management isn't much better. For all the good things he's done, those are two areas he needs to improve on as the team's head coach. It's encouraging that the Bills outplayed the Dolphins in the second half. The Bills should've won this game. The Dolphins didn't win it. The Bills lost it. It was a disappointing conclusion after Allen's great game and the solid defensive performance.
Stats of the game
135. Josh Allen's total rushing yards against the Dolphins. He was robbed of a 100-yard performance last week after taking a couple of knees at the end of the game, which lowered his total to 99 yards. This week, he eclipsed the 100-yard mark with room to spare. His mobility is an underrated skill, and it helps open up opportunities in the passing game. If teams think he'll take off, they will put more men in the box and try to contain him. That will free up receivers to make plays.
3. The number of turnovers committed by the Bills in Sunday's game. Allen threw two interceptions and McKenzie muffed a punt. The muffed punt proved costly. The Dolphins scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
2. Zay Jones caught two touchdown passes against the Dolphins. He now has four touchdown catches this season. He has improved in his second NFL season. He is becoming Allen's top receiving target.
The NFL's officiating is garbage. Instead of having these top-notch officials take TV jobs, the NFL should be paying one of them top dollar to oversee the officiating. It's time to dump Al Riveron, who wasn't a great referee when he was in an on-field role, and hire someone else. A good candidate would be Terry McAulay, who took one of those TV jobs. He was one of the top NFL referees before leaving to take a TV gig. The NFL should bring him back as its head of officiating.
The Bills (4-8) will play at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, against the New York Jets. The game will be televised on CBS.