There are no division titles handed out in Week 3 — and sure, the Miami Dolphins didn’t get the Buffalo Bills at full strength.
But with everything lined up for the Dolphins to finally take down their AFC East rivals — from the myriad Bills injuries to having them swelter in early-season South Florida heat and humidity — Miami handled its business, even as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was momentarily forced to exit the game, and a late safety put the outcome in doubt.
Overcoming remarkable play form Bills quarterback Josh Allen until he short-armed a late throw for a potential go-ahead touchdown and ran out of time on Buffalo’s final chance, the Dolphins topped the division behemoth Bills, 21-19, on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
And Miami, off to its first 3-0 start since 2018, is in first place in the AFC East through three weeks.
The Dolphins snapped a seven-game losing streak to the division-rival Bills (2-1). Miami also extended its home winning streak to eight games, the franchise’s longest since a 10-game stretch from Dec. 17, 1984 to Sept. 14, 1986 at the Orange Bowl.
Allen, who was 42 of 63 for 400 yards and two touchdowns, plus 47 yards rushing, bounced a pass to Isaiah McKenzie in the end zone on fourth down with his team trailing by 4, 21-17.
It proved to be far from over for the Dolphins, though. Having to punt backed up after the turnover on downs, Thomas Morstead’s boot went into the back of upback Trent Sherfield, going out of bounds for a safety.
With both teams out of timeouts, Allen completed a pass over the middle to McKenzie, who could not get out of bounds vying for extra yardage. Time ran out on the Bills as somehow the Dolphins overcome a 90-39 disparity in plays run and roughly 40-20 split in time of possession.
Tagovailoa, who left momentarily toward the end of the first half after a late hit that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty, returned to action at the start of the second half and finished 13 of 18 for 186 yards and a touchdown.
Tagovailoa made his throw of the day early in the fourth quarter on third-and-22, hitting an open Jaylen Waddle deep over the middle for 45 yards. After two timeouts, two plays and an unnecessary roughness penalty by Bills safety Jaquan Johnson on a pass to running back Chase Edmonds, Edmonds ran in a 3-yard score to give Miami a lead, 21-17, with 10:05 remaining.
Tagovailoa escaped pressure on a third-and-3 play right before the two-minute warning, threw a pass that was completed to Waddle, and was pushed to the ground after the throw by linebacker Matt Milano. The back of Tagovailoa’s head banged against the ground in a whiplash effect.
Tagovailoa was walked off the field and into the locker room, under his own power, with trainers alongside him. He was originally questionable to return with what was initially called a head injury, but Tagovailoa cleared concussion protocol at halftime, according to the CBS broadcast.
The Dolphins and Bills were tied at 14 at the time of the injury and going into halftime. Tagovailoa was 8 of 10 for 76 yards with a touchdown pass when he exited. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater then entered for Miami’s third-year signal-caller to finish off Miami’s final series of the first half. Tagovailoa then entered for the opening drive of the second half, completing his first pass for 22 yards to Tyreek Hill.
It’s the third consecutive time Tagovailoa has gotten hurt in a meeting with the Bills. In last year’s Week 2 meeting in Miami Gardens, an A.J. Epenesa hit sidelined Tagovailoa with fractured ribs and put him on short-term injured reserve to miss the ensuing three weeks. In the 2021 Oct. 31 game in Orchard Park, Tagovailoa finished the game but came away with a finger injury on his throwing hand that cost him the next one and a half games.
With the teams tied at 14 at the half, Buffalo ate up 9:22 on one third-quarter drive that resulted in a 30-yard field goal by Tyler Bass. The Bills went up, 17-14, covering 87 yards on 20 plays as Allen connected on a series and short passes and scrambled for a 19-yard gain.
The Bills missed an opportunity to extend the lead with their defense as Milano dropped an interception he could’ve scored on. Then, Bass missed a low field-goal attempt wide left to start the fourth quarter.
The Bills struck first on their opening drive Sunday that was capped by a fourth-down 1-yard pass from Allen to an open Devin Singletary in the end zone. Allen was 6 of 6 for 70 yards on the opening series after his first completion, a 28-yard strike over the middle to Stefon Diggs, was nearly a fumble lost with Diggs losing the ball. It was ruled that cornerback Xavien Howard barely contacted the receiver.
The Dolphins defense set the offense up to tie later in the first quarter. Jevon Holland broke free on a safety blitz for a strip-sack on Allen, and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram recovered the fumble at the Buffalo 6-yard line. Miami scored on an Edmonds plunge from a yard away after a pass to Sherfield got the team to the 1-yard line.
Buffalo responded early in the second quarter with Allen again finding McKenzie, a South Florida product, wide open for a short touchdown pass. The Bills picked up the Dolphins blitz on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, with Singletary blocking Holland in the backfield.
Tagovailoa responded with a nine-play, 83-yard drive yard that was capped by a touchdown pass to practice-squad elevation River Cracraft, his second touchdown in as many weeks up from the practice squad. Tagovailoa threw a dart to Cracraft for the 11-yard scoring strike after also completing chunk plays to Waddle and Hill earlier in the drive.
The Dolphins have a quick turnaround for Thursday Night Football, facing the Bengals on the road in Cincinnati.
This story will be updated.