ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Josh Allen is a mutant, and we might have finally found the source of his powers Saturday night. The worse the elements, the bigger he seemed to grow.
The Buffalo Bills beat the Miami Dolphins 32-29 in an instant classic here Saturday to clinch their fourth straight playoff appearance and fifth in six years. And they did so on a national stage playing in a winter wonderland that gave the NFL its best visuals of its 103rd season.
Josh Allen Goes Beast Mode vs. Miami Dolphins
The Bills (11-3) were down a touchdown and on red alert when they took over with 12 minutes left in regulation. An eight-point halftime lead gave way to an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit after Buffalo went punt-punt-punt-punt-fumble to open the second half.
That’s when the heavy lake effect snow — which had to that point had largely held off — really got churning. And call it what you want — causation, correlation, or coincidence — but as soon as the white stuff really started to fall, the Bills’ performance rose.
“It was almost like it was all supposed to happen,” safety Jordan Poyer said. “We didn’t see much snow. We thought we were going to see a lot more snow than we did. Josh goes down, takes the offense down and scores, and it starts coming down. It was actually kind of surreal. It was a fun atmosphere.”
Allen orchestrated a seven-play, 71-yard touchdown drive — which featured a 44-yard “Forrest Gump” (his words, not ours) scramble by Allen — that tied the game. Then Buffalo’s defense, which had been on its heels for most of the second half, found its footing and made a stop.
What happened next was almost inevitable: A methodical, clock-draining drive that ended with a 25-yard Tyler Bass field goal on the game’s final play.
So was it the snow that got the Bills juiced?
“No, it was just coincidence,” said Allen, who went 25 of 40 for 304 yards and four passing touchdowns — giving him 27 with just five picks in 10 games against the Dolphins. “We kind of hit a lull there in the third quarter. Credit to them. That’s a really good football team. Who knows if we’ll see them again. I’m pretty confident we will.”
Miami Dolphins-Buffalo Bills III?
For that to happen, the Dolphins will need to start winning games again. They’ve lost three straight for the second time this season, and Saturday’s loss dropped them to the sixth seed at 8-6.
The good news? They’re past the hardest part of their schedule. Their final three opponents — the Packers, Patriots, and Jets — are a combined 19-20, and Miami gets two of those games at home.
And if the Dolphins and Bills do meet again — which could happen as early as Wild Card Weekend — Miami should fear neither the opponent nor the elements.
The Dolphins lost, yes, but Tua Tagovailoa seemed to get over the mental hurdle of playing cold weather games. He went 17 of 30 for 234 yards and two touchdowns — by far the best game of his career in crappy weather. And the Dolphins’ offense put up 29 points, scoring on six of their 10 offensive possessions.
“I thought we as a team handled the elements pretty well for a team that comes from 80 degree weather,” Tagovailoa said. “I think for our team, after this performance, we’re able to put that to rest that we can’t play cold-weather teams, that we can’t compete against cold-weather teams. Their fans are electric. Thank God I wasn’t hit by a snowball but there were some near-misses on the sidelines.”
Not every Dolphins player was so lucky. The Dolphins’ locker room wasn’t happy at all with how out of control the crowd was most of the night.
The Bills stadium ops left literally tons of freshly fallen snow in the stands when they opened the gates, and the result — snowballs thrown at players and coaches before, after, and even during plays — was a foregone conclusion.
When you mix snow, along with large amounts of alcohol and a division rival, you’re going to have some problems. The only surprise was how widespread it was.
“The officials did a great job,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I was more concerned with the safety of the team. There was ice balls flying at people’s heads and that’s what they were concerned with as well. There were several people that got hit.”
It’s something that the Dolphins surely didn’t think to prepare for. But they won’t make that same mistake if these teams meet back here in a month.
“I would say I’m a very optimistic person,” Tagovailoa said. “I like to look at all the goods that we displayed today against a team that’s a really tough divisional opponent. I’ve said this in many, many interviews and I’ll continue to say it: We’ll look at the film. We’ll hope to get better at the things that we may have made mistakes at and hopefully we can turn the page quick.”