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Sunday Night Football Takeaways

Bills win 4th consecutive AFC East Title

Playoff atmosphere is in the air! In a game that we expected to be a high-scoring affair, both defenses played better than expected. Which makes a ton of sense with the AFC East and the number two seed on the line. Each team threw an interception on their opening drive, and the first half was rather slow, but the second half drama didn’t disappoint.

Quarterbacks (against Bills: Unfavorable) | (against Dolphins: Favorable):

It was a wild night for Josh Allen. Allen threw an interception directly to the Dolphins' defender when they were inside the 10 yard line to open the game. Late in the first quarter, Stefon Diggs made a great move to make Jalen Ramsey miss, but Allen overthrew him for what would be a go-ahead touchdown. He did find Diggs later on a 37 yard deep pass. While the Bills were going for it on fourth down anyway before the first quarter ended, Allen was getting chased out of the pocket, never got his feet set, and threw up a deep ball to Gabe Davis, who fell on the route, and it was a bit short, so the ball was intercepted. Given that Allen was going down without picking up the line to gain, you can’t really blame him for throwing the ball up and hoping his man came down with it. You also shouldn’t be giving Allen credit for his first touchdown pass, either. The pass deflected off a defender’s helmet, rocketing the ball to the moon, and it came down close to the back of the end zone, where Trent Sherfield made an incredible toe-tapping catch. Allen delivered a perfect pass to James Cook that would tie them up going into the half, but Cook dropped the ball. Before the third quarter ended, the Bills were on a promising drive, but it ended with Allen getting the ball ripped from him. Tying his career high in rush attempts, Allen made some huge plays on the ground.

It was a quiet game for Tua Tagovailoa. With the Dolphins down two of their best players, it was certain that this would be an uphill battle for them. Having arguably his worst game of the season, there were only two noteworthy plays of the half through the air for the Dolphins. One was Tagovailoa underthrowing Tyreek Hill on a deep ball by maybe 8 yards, causing an interception. Another was a deep pass thrown on a rope to Cedrick Wilson. In the second half, the offense just could not get it going, and on their game-tying drive, Tagovailoa threw another interception that sealed their fate.

Running Backs (against Bills: Unfavorable) | (against Dolphins: Neutral):

James Cook was running strong, breaking arm tackles, catching balls out of the backfield, and making people miss with jump cuts. Cook also had a horrible drop on what would be a 23 yard touchdown to end the first half. Leonard Fournette made an appearance for the second time this season. Fournette got some important carries, one of which he converted on a 3 and 1 on the Bills' opening drive. Once they made it to the redzone, he also found himself getting a carry inside the 10 yard line. With the growing popularity of the “tush push", Fournette found himself oftentimes as the pusher to help Allen get the first down.

With the Dolphins playing without Raheem Mostert, who has been on the best running backs, De’Von Achane found himself as the next man up. Achane ran patiently behind the Dolphins' makeshift offensive line. On his sixth carry of the game, he found the end zone from 25 yards out without getting touched. He’s so incredibly fast and elusive. And for a smaller running back, he’s breaking arm tackles when defenders can actually put their hands on him. Jeff Wilson also got some work in this game, but overall, it was a quiet night for both running back groups.

Wide Receivers (against Bills: Unfavorable) | (against Dolphins: Neutral):

We expected players from the Dolphins to step up and make some plays, but it was the Bills that had multiple players step up. With his first reception of the day, Khalil Shakir took his catch for 46 yards down the sideline. He found another big catch to set the Bills up with first and goal. Shakir led the team in receiving yards and now has two 100 yard games on the season. Gabe Davis left with a knee injury. It’s unclear the severity of it, but it may be worth mentioning that Shakir has shown flashes and Davis is a free agent next season if they decide to move on. Davis’ injury happened midway through the first half, which opened the door to more snaps for the ex-Dolphin, Trent Sherfield too. Sherfield made a strong contested catch crossing the field and a highlight reel toe-tapping catch in the end zone off a deflection. On a punt return, Deonte Harty found the end zone on a 96 yard return. He’s shown a few flashes, but he’s mainly a special teams player.

It’s exciting to watch Tyreek Hill find the soft spots in zone coverage. Hill found himself against man coverage just before halftime, and there are very few cornerbacks that can cover him on a quick out. Sure enough, the Bills didn't, and Hill got his 13th receiving touchdown of the season. Hill also had a crucial drop with six minutes left in the game to keep a game-tying drive alive. He’s been banged up to end the season and left the field limping for what would be the Dolphins' final play. With Jaylen Waddle out, the Dolphins needed someone to step up, but no one really set themselves apart. There were a few short-yardage plays here and there, but overall, it was Hill.

Tight Ends (against Bills: Neutral) | (against Dolphins: Favorable):

The rookie Dalton Kincaid stepped up and made some plays in this game. This game puts him at four games with 75 receiving yards or more in his rookie season; that’s more than Lions rookie sensation Sam LaPorta. Dawson Knox was close to having a touchdown in the first half, but there was a questionable no-call of pass interference. That didn’t stop Allen from taking another shot at Knox to take the lead with just seven minutes in regulation.

Durham Smythe had some crucial catches but didn’t play a big part in the Dolphins game plan, even with some of their star players out. He hasn’t had any sort of relevance all season.

—Colt Williams

Williams is working towards a degree in economics and statistics at Sonoma State. A United States Air Force veteran, he’s been playing fantasy football since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @_ColtWilliams

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