ORCHARD PARK — Josh Allen had another breakout performance for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. It wasn't enough to overcome a lack of discipline and self-inflicted miscues in a 21-17 defeat.
Sloppiness and mistakes spoiled a fine performance by the rookie quarterback, who took another step forward against Miami. Allen threw for 231 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while adding a franchise-record for a quarterback of 135 yards on the ground, topping the mark he established one week earlier against Jacksonville.
Penalties proved to be especially costly. The Bills had 13 for 130 yards compared to Miami's eight penalties for 89 yards. It continued a disturbing trend for Buffalo, which has the second-highest penalty total in the NFL behind only Kansas City.
One week earlier, the Bills had 13 penalties for 80 yards in a game that saw defensive end Shaq Lawson and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette ejected for their roles in a brawl. In Week 10 against Chicago, the Bills set a franchise record for penalty yards with 163.
Two flags in particular were pivotal against Miami. On the Dolphins' winning drive, linebacker Matt Milano was called for a 25-yard pass interference penalty. Two plays later, the Bills stuffed running back Kenyan Drake for a 4-yard loss but were penalized 15 yards after defensive tackle Jordan Phillips received a taunting penalty.
Two plays later, Ryan Tannehill connected with Kenny Stills on the winning touchdown pass.
"We always take ownership of all of it," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "That's where we start. And you try and peel back the layers and say, OK, if it's pre-snap or post-whistle, those are the ones you've heard me talk about before — they're non-negotiable. Those are the ones that hurt. The ones that happen during the course of the play, which ones were aggressive penalties, which ones were technique-based ... certainly that's an area we must improve moving forward."
Penalties on the offensive line have been an issue all season for a revamped unit missing three key starters from a year ago: Eric Wood, Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn. The line had six penalties against Miami, with two fouls declined. Rookie guard Wyatt Teller had three of those penalties (two holding calls, one false start).
"You look at false starts and holding, up front our offensive line, it's gone way past the point of where we need to have it to win games," McDermott said. "We've got to get that corrected."
Things won't get any easier up front with starting center Russell Bodine out for the remainder of the season. Bodine broke his leg against Miami and underwent surgery on Monday, McDermott said.
It wasn't all bad for the Bills.
Buffalo's 415 yards of offense were the most with Allen at QB and the most in a Bills loss since a 425-yard performance in a 31-25 defeat at Seattle on Nov. 7, 2016. Twenty-four first downs against Miami were a season-best and the most in regulation since Buffalo had 29 first downs in a 33-13 win over Cleveland on Dec. 18, 2016. And with 391 yards passing and 234 yards rushing, Allen has accounted for 625 of Buffalo's 742 yards of offense over the past two games — showing he very well could be the team's long-term answer at quarterback.
"I thought he grew for sure," McDermott said. "It looked like as the game went on he got more and more comfortable. ... It was nice to see him settle in."