There are two peripheral points noteworthy from the Dolphins’ 26-11 loss at Buffalo on Sunday, extending the Dolphins’ losing streak to seven games.
One is Bills coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen’s classlessness and defiance of custom in the closing moments of the game. With a two-score lead over their AFC East rival with just over a minute left, and Miami with no timeouts, the home team should have taken a knee. Instead Allen scored on a last-minute run — and then went for two.
Allen then jawed with and waved bye-bye to Dolphins defensive lineman Christian Wilkins as time expired. It was a mind-boggling slap at an opponent already laid low.
The other side point is that Miami packed last year’s defense on this trip. Where has this defense been in this 1-7 season? Buffalo had to work for this win. After that 35-0 Bills’ rout in Miami earlier this season, the Dolphins showed fight and, at time, reasons to be encouraged.
But those are micro thoughts from yet another loss as Miami, after last year’s 10-6 record, continues as perhaps the NFL’s most disappointing team.
Now here is the macro thought, and it hasn’t changed. It has become all that this sour season has become about.
It Tua Tagovailoa their guy? Or might Miami actually make the most controversial trade in franchise history by dealing for Deshaun Watson?
ESPN is reporting Houston will not trade Watson prior to Tuesday’s league deadline. The CBS broadcast team on Sunday said that when they asked Fins coach Brian Flores if he would be “relieved” when Wednesday came with no deal, he said yes.
“Like I said. Tua is our quarterback Tua is our quarterback,” Flores repeated afterward.
No deal by Wednesday, however, does not mean no interest by Miami in the deal still happening at some point before next season begins.
So here we are.
At 1-7 all playoff hope is realistically nonexistent.
That means the balance of this season may be summarized in two words:
Tagovailoa has nine more games to prove himself the the guy to lead this franchise out of its 20-year abyss and into the franchise. His first 14 career NFL starts evidently have failed to do so (even though CBS showed a fun graphic Sunday indicating Tua’s stats through his first 13 pro starts were across the board better than Josh Allen’s).
Sunday was not an argument in Tagovailoa’s favor.
In the previous two starts, against the inferior defenses of Jacksonville and Atlanta, he had completed 65-of-87 passes for 620 yards and six TDs, though with three interceptions.
On Sunday against a really good defense he was 21 of 39 for 205 yards and a late interception, though he scored Miami’s only TD himself.
The result, though, was not a verdict on Tagovailao as much as it was a reminder all the ways Miami is finding to lose that have nothing to do with the young QB.
“If we would have done this, this and this it would have been a different outcome,” said Flores afterward.
It was 3-3 at the half Sunday, an encouraging effort by Miami but for the reasons the Dolphins were tied, not leading.
The Fins missed a 36-yard field goal.
An illegal shift penalty negated a first down completion in Buffalo territory, a punt soon following.
Then, in the closing seconds of the half, at the Buffalo 12-yard line, there was pre-snap confusion by Miami and tight end Mike Gesicki, in motion right-to-left, ran into the shotgun snap, the Bills recovering the muff.
Inexcusable. Anytime. But specially at midseason.
“It was just bad football there. Bad operation,” said Tagovailoa.
It is the accumulation of self-inflicted wounds that kill bad teams.
Here was another:
Buffalo’s TD pass for a 10-3 lead in the third quarter was abetted first by Elandon Roberts missing a third-down sack that likely would have led to a punt. And later by Andrew Van Ginkel’s pass interference penalty that gave the Bills a first-and-goal.
Later a hold by cornerback Xavien Howard gifted Buffalo a first down en route to a 20-11 lead.
DeVante Parker returned from injury with a solid game but his late dropped pass was crucial.
Miami had nine penalties, tied for a season high.
This was a winnable game thanks largely to the defensive effort; instead it‘s the latest autopsy.
Instead, after the New York Jets upset Cincinnati on Sunday, Miami is now alone in last place in its division.
Nobody gave Miami a real shot in this one, and rightly. The Dolphins had been embarrassed at home by Buffalo 35-0 earlier this season. That was the Fins’ sixth straight loss in the rivalry. And Miami had lost eight of the past nine trips to Orchard Park in western New York.
Well, all of those sad trends continued — which wouldn’t be so bad if Buffalo weren’t the AFC East rival that now looms as Miami’s roadblock to success in much the same way as New England was seemingly forever.
Flores is now 0-6 in his third Dolphins season vs. the one team he’d better find a way to beat.
His job will depend on that.
How Tagovailoa performs the balance of this season will have a role in everything.
The Miami Dolphins are a franchise drifting, in flux. Looking for a rudder. Looking for something to believe in.