The Miami Dolphins, purveyors of nonsense plays and weird gaffes all season, were at it again Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
They were at the Bills’ 12-yard line with 24 seconds left in the first half because of a late defensive stop — and perhaps a favorable swallowed whistle on Buffalo’s failed fourth-down play — and had a chance to go into halftime with a lead when confusion, panic and discombobulation left the Dolphins’ with a costly turnover at Highmark Stadium.
On one side of the field, Mike Gesicki jumped up and down, and signaled for Jaylen Waddle to motion to the other side of the field. On the other side, the rookie wide receiver was slow to notice the tight end and Brian Flores wandered over to the referee in case he needed to call a timeout. Waddle did eventually motion and then so did Gesicki, only the timing was all messed up by then. Austin Reiter’s third-and-5 snap hit Gesicki in the chest and Micah Hyde jumped on the fumble. Miami remained tied at halftime and eventually lost 26-11 in Orchard Park, New York.
“It’s not on one person. It’s just an offensive mistake there,” Reiter said, “and it’s something that can’t happen especially down in the red zone.”
After halftime, another strange play gifted the Bills 12 yards — this one wasn’t the Dolphins’ fault — and set them up for their go-ahead drive.
Buffalo wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie muffed a punt at the 8-yard line and the loose ball rolled into the end zone. The Bills landed on it and, by a quirk of the NFL rulebook, the call was a touchback.
Between a missed 36-yard field goal in the first quarter, the bizarre fumble in the second and the muffed punt it couldn’t capitalize on, Miami (1-7) left anywhere from 8-17 points on the field at Buffalo.
“That’s kind of been the story so far,” Gesicki said. “We all have talent, we’ve got a good football team and I say it every week to you guys: We’re that close and that’s how close we are.”
The missed kick in the first quarter cost the Dolphins a chance to take an early lead. Kicker Jason Sanders, who missed three field goals all of last season, missed his fourth of the year Sunday and let the Bills (5-2) land the first blow when they answered to take a 3-0 lead.
Still, the defense did plenty to keep Miami within range at halftime. Superstar quarterback Josh Allen threw for only 80 yards in the first half and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel — after seemingly jumping into the neutral zone — forced him into an intentional grounding on fourth down to give the Dolphins the ball at Buffalo’s 40 with 41 seconds left in the first half. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got Miami into the red zone before the Dolphins blew another chance.
No one gave a thorough explanation as to what exactly happened — Flores, Tagovailoa, Gesicki and Reiter all said it was a “miscommunication” — but Waddle was seemingly lined up wrong, Gesicki tried to correct it and a silent snap call, signaled to Reiter by fellow offensive lineman Robert Hunt, came too early.
“We were supposed to get guys set, but obviously just a miscommunication of, ‘This is what I heard, this is what I heard’ from me,” Tagovailoa said. “I’ve got to do a better job communicating that out to the tight ends, so that they can communicate it out to the receivers.
“That was just bad football there.”
Flores opted not to call his last timeout. Hunt, who was lined up at right guard, signaled for Reiter to snap the ball with three seconds left on the play clock. The ball hit Gesicki in the chest and bounced to the Bills.
Miami never recovered. The Dolphins went three-and-out on their first three drives of the second half and missed out on an extra possession when McKenzie’s muff gave Buffalo 12 yards rather than Miami two — or even seven — points.
“It remains a kick until it’s possessed,” referee Shawn Smith explained.
For the Dolphins, it was just another missed chance and one they couldn’t afford if they wanted to upset a Super Bowl contender.