Josh Allen was well aware of the stakes as the Bills offense took the field for the opening drive of the second half at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
The Bills took a 14-0 lead into halftime thanks in large part to a dominant effort from their defense. The offense had never quite established a rhythm despite reaching the end zone twice.
Extending the lead to 21-0 right out of the gate, Allen sensed, would give the Bills a stranglehold on the game and allow them to play freely for the rest of the afternoon.
"We knew we needed to get six there," Allen said. "We had a couple of plays early on in that first quarter that helped us get a couple scores. We wanted to put something together that was long, sustaining."
Allen opened the drive with a pass to Cole Beasley, who turned up the middle for a 22-yard gain. The next play was a strike to Emmanuel Sanders for 13 yards, sending the Bills into Dolphins territory. When it appeared the drive might stall in the red zone, Allen threw against his body to a well-covered Stefon Diggs to convert on third-and-6 at the Miami 15.
The eight-play, 75-yard drive had eaten 3:12 on the clock by the time Allen delivered his second touchdown pass of the afternoon to tight end Dawson Knox in the back of the end zone. The Bills never squandered momentum from that point forward in a 35-0 rout of their AFC East rival.
"I thought there was good communication leading into halftime by our offensive staff," head coach Sean McDermott said. "(We) came out and got into a better rhythm in the second half there. (Offensive coordinator) Brian (Daboll) did a really good job with that, and Josh seemed to find his rhythm as well.
"I didn't think we were really into a rhythm in the first half, even though we scored 14. So, it was good to see that in the second half."
The victory was Buffalo's sixth straight against Miami, tying a franchise record that was set from 1987 to 1989. Allen improved to 6-1 in his career against the Dolphins, against whom he passed for a career-high 415 yards and four touchdowns during Week 2 of last season.
This game was not that. Allen, as he is prone to do most weeks, focused on the things he could have done better following a performance that saw him pass for two touchdowns, one interception, and 179 yards. Namely, he felt he could have strung together the sort of rhythm-establishing drive that opened the second half earlier in the game.
That the Bills still managed to put up 35 points on a less-than-perfect afternoon for the offense was a testament to its potential, particularly against a talented Dolphins defense that has ranked first in turnovers and sixth in points allowed over the past two seasons.
Devin Singletary dashed untouched for 46 yards to give Buffalo its first touchdown. The second was vintage Allen. The quarterback sidestepped Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah on a sack attempt, rolled to his right, and threw against his body to Diggs in the middle of the end zone.
Allen leaned on his connection with Diggs for another big play during the second half, a 41-yard heave down the left sideline that set up a jump ball between two All-Pros in Diggs and Miami cornerback Xavien Howard. Diggs came down with it.
"We call those, 'attaboys,'" Allen said.
The "attaboy" moved Allen into fifth place on the Bills' all-time list for passing yards, surpassing Drew Bledsoe. He hit the 10,000-yard mark earlier in the afternoon, doing so in 45 starts– the same number it took Bills Legend Jim Kelly to hit five digits. (Kelly's 45th game, coincidentally, was also a September win in Miami that came during Buffalo's previous six-game win streak against the Dolphins in 1989.)
Howard did manage to get the best of Allen once in the game, taking advantage of a ball thrown slightly behind Diggs for his first interception of the season.
A perfect performance? Never. But it was enough.
"Our guys made some plays," Allen said. "To feel the way we feel, knowing we could have played better, winning 35 to zero, I think that's a good problem to have."