The Buffalo Bills are your AFC East Champions and will host the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday in the Super Wild Card round of the 2023 NFL Playoffs after knocking off the Miami Dolphins 21-14 in the final game of the regular season.
As a pass from Tua Tagovailoa sailed into the arms of safety Taylor Rapp on the final drive, the Bills won their fourth consecutive division title.
The Bills defense forced the Dolphins to punt in all four of their second half possessions, outside of Rapp's division-clinching interception. The offense shook off a mistake-riddled first half performance and scored a go-ahead touchdown before chewing the clock to prevent Miami from having a chance to tie the game.
But what really seemed to turn the game in Buffalo's favor came from wide receiver and punt returner Deonte Harty.
After Allen fumbled deep in Miami territory, the Bills defense forced a three-and-out and the Miami punt unit took the field. The punt was strong, sailing 58 yards before Harty fielded it near the Buffalo end zone. Harty made a cut and wove through a sea of Dolphins for a 96-yard touchdown return to tie the game up in the fourth quarter.
From then on, the momentum was all Buffalo's. The defense forced another pair of three-and-outs and Allen led a clean drive, finding Kincaid and Shakir for big plays before tossing a 5-yard touchdown to Dawson Knox to take the lead.
Buffalo overcame a first half performance that, although the offense averaged 8.2 yards per play and made it inside the Dolphins' 15-yard line three times, produced just seven points. Allen threw two interceptions in the Miami end zone in the first half and missed Stefon Diggs on what would have been nearly a 90-yard touchdown pass.
Buffalo's first touchdown came on their third drive. Allen found Diggs for a 36-yard completion to set up Trent Sherfield's first touchdown reception of the season – although it did not come without dramatics.
Allen fired the ball towards Sherfield, but it hit the helmet of a Dolphin's defender and soared into the air. Sherfield kept his eyes on the ball while ensuring that his feet were in bounds and secured the catch to score against his former team.
The Bills defense, which suffered key injuries to starting linebacker Tyrel Dodson and Rasul Douglas, played lights out. On the Dolphins' first possession, Christian Benford intercepted a deep ball from Tagovailoa, the Bills offense drove all the way to the Miami 5-yard line before Allen threw an interception of his own after misreading Gabe Davis' route in the end zone.
Dane Jackson played well as the second cornerback after Douglas exited the game. On third down on the Dolphins' first drive of the second half, Jackson roped in Braxton Berrios to keep the Miami receiver from getting a first down. Two drives later, Jackson threw his arm up and broke up a pass to force another Miami fourth down.
When Allen's fourth-down effort fell short, the Bills defense held strong, preventing Miami's explosive offense from making an explosive play and tying the game late. Rapp, who made his first interception of the season at an opportune time, sealed the deal for a Buffalo Bills team that was the 11 seed after losing to Philadelphia.
Now, the Bills will play as the No. 2 seed, hosting Pittsburgh next Sunday at 1 p.m.
Key stats and facts to know
- Josh Allen tallied his fourth season with 4,000+ passing yards and logged his ninth career game with over 300 passing and 75 rushing yards, breaking Steve Young's NFL record
- Allen's 44 total touchdowns this season trail only his 2020 season (46) for the most total touchdowns in team history
- Dalton Kincaid set a new record for single-season receptions by a Bills tight end with 73, surpassing Pete Metzelaars
- Deonte Harty's 96-yard touchdown is the longest punt return in Bills' history, breaking a 46-year-old record of 91 yards set by Keith Moody in 1977 against Cleveland
- Benford's interception marked his second consecutive game with a takeaway after forcing and recovering a fumble against New England in Week 17
- With the win, the Bills improve to 19-2 in December and January regular season games since 2020. The Bills have lost just once in Week 17 or later during Sean McDermott's time as head coach
- The Bills have won four straight division titles for the first time since 1988-91 and the third time in team history. Their fourth-straight season with 11+ wins ties the longest streak in team history
8:51 2Q | BUF 0 MIA 7 | De'Von Achane rush right end for 25 yards, TOUCHDOWN
4:31 2Q | BUF 7 MIA 7 | Josh Allen pass short middle to Trent Sherfield for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN
1:43 2Q | BUF 7 MIA 14 | Tua Tagovailoa pass short left to Tyreek Hill for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN
13:42 4Q | BUF 14 MIA 14 | Deonte Harty 96-yard punt return, TOUCHDOWN
7:16 4Q | BUF 21 MIA 14 | Josh Allen pass short right to Dawson Knox for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN