ORCHARD PARK, NY – Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills were intent on not easing into the playoffs, while ending the Miami Dolphins’ hopes.
In a season-ending game in which the Dolphins had far more riding on the outcome, the Bills put an empathic stamp on their breakthrough year with a 56-26 rout.
In clinching the AFC’s second seed, Buffalo will host its first playoff game in 24 years by facing the the Frank Reich-coached Indianapolis Colts next weekend.
For Miami, the loss left coach Brian Flores and the Dolphins on the outside looking in by squandering an opportunity to clinch just their first postseason berth in 18 years.
Allen threw three touchdown passes and Isaiah McKenzie scored three times, including returning a punt return 84 yards, in a game Buffalo blew open by scoring on four consecutive second-quarter possessions.
Allen finished 18 of 25 for 224 yards passing in playing just the first half before being replaced by Matt Barkley to start the third quarter. Allen upped his total to 4,544 yards passing, to eclipse the team’s single-season record of 4,359 set by Drew Bledsoe in 2002.
Buffalo’s 56 points were the second-most in team history, and two shy of the record set in a 58-24 win over Miami on Sept. 18, 1966, when the two were members of the American Football League. The Bills also finished the season with 501 points, a franchise-best in topping the record of 445 set in 1991.
Nothing went right for the Dolphins in what proved to be an utter collapse in all three phases.
Rookie Tua Tagovailoa finished 35 of 58 for 361 and three interceptions, the first of which Josh Norman returned 16 yards for a touchdown to put Buffalo up 35-13 midway through the third quarter. He was also intercepted twice by Dean Marlowe.
The Dolphins’ rookie closed the season with a 6-3 record, and didn’t have Ryan Fitzpatrick to bail him out as the veteran backup did in rallying Miami to a last-second 26-25 win at Las Vegas last weekend. Fitzpatrick didn’t travel with the team after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
After Myles Gaskin capped the Dolphins’ opening drive of the third quarter with a 1-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 28-13, Miami’s next four drives ended with Tagovailoa throwing three interceptions — one more than his season total — and turning the ball over on downs.
The Dolphins’ usually stout defense, which entered the game leading the NFL in allowing just 18.8 points per game, instead allowed the fourth-most points in franchise history, including the playoffs.
Miami opened the scoring with Jason Sanders’ 49-yard field goal, which came after Byron Jones intercepted Allen’s pass at the Buffalo 41.
The Bills went ahead on Allen’s 7-yard TD pass to McKenzie with 12:09 remaining in the second quarter, sparking a stretch in which they scored three times in a span of 6:47. Allen then completed the first half with a perfectly placed 32-yard pass to John Brown, who returned after missing five games.
Rookie running back Antonio Williams scored two TDs rushing in his NFL debut, a day after being called up from Buffalo’s practice squad.
Barkley went 6 of 13 for 164 yards, including a 56-yard TD pass to Gabriel Davis, and an interception.
Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard matched a single-season franchise record with his 10th interception by picking off Barkley in the third quarter. Howard matched the team record set by Dick Westmoreland in 1967, and became the NFL’s first player to have 10 interceptions in one season since Antonio Cromartie had that many with the Chargers in 2007.