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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills at Dolphins | Week 18


The Buffalo Bills are AFC East champions once again. Buffalo rallied from down 14-7 in the second half to win 21-14 in a dramatic finish.

Here's the top 3 things we learned from the win:

Week 18 encapsulates wild, wild season for Buffalo

The 60 minutes of football played at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday night encapsulated just about everything from the Bills 2023-24 season into one night. 

There were mistakes out of the gate and chances the Bills couldn't capitalize on. There were more injuries to the defense, turnovers by the offense. Buffalo stared down a touchdown deficit going into the fourth quarter.

But when it mattered most, the team hung together for their biggest win yet. Josh Allen was clutch in the fourth quarter, an unsung hero in Deonte Harty stepped up and the defense slammed the door shut with a minute to go thanks to an INT by Taylor Rapp.

In the end, the Bills are AFC East champions for the fourth consecutive year. But Allen knows tonight only means the Bills earned a chance to accomplish their main goal they set at the beginning of the year.

"It means that we punched our ticket to go try to win a Super Bowl," Allen said with the team huddled around him in his postgame victory speech. "We got one game at a time, starting at 1 o'clock on Sunday."

The Bills are now the first team since NFL playoff seeding began in 1975 to earn a top 2 seed in their conference after being at .500 or below with five games remaining in the regular season.

"We didn't blink. We came in at halftime and understood what was going on. We didn't feel like we're playing up to our potential. So the second half, all three phases. That's who we are," Allen said.

Down 14-7 going into the fourth quarter, the Bills rallied with a Harty 96-yard punt return TD to tie the game. With momentum back on their side, Allen found TE Dawson Knox for the go-ahead score with 7:16 remaining.

Buffalo's defense played lights out in the second half, holding Miami to just 57 yards of total offense on 17 plays. They forced four consecutive punts in the third and fourth quarter before sealing the victory on the final drive.

"The defense really stood up in the second half, made some adjustments and those guys came back and reset in the second half," head coach Sean McDermott said. "And then the big takeaway at the end by T-Rapp, what a great play."

Miami entered the game with the highest scoring offense in the league, marking the third time the Bills have beaten the NFL's top scoring offense at specific junctures of the season (Miami twice, Dallas Week 15),

The Bills are now 10-2 in the regular season against the Dolphins since drafting Josh Allen.

Bills unsung heroes seize the spotlight

Among the many Bills offseason additions going into 2023 were WRs Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty along with safety Taylor Rapp. Rapp has championship pedigree to his name, winning a Super Bowl with the Rams, though Harty and Sherfield (a former Dolphin) are hoping they can gets rings of their own.

"When I was in New Orleans. I was looking at this team, like I want to be a part of (Buffalo)," Harty said from the postgame podium. "So to be able to actually be a part of it. It's a surreal feeling."

The Bills have been in postseason mode since being 6-6 at the bye week. And it's in times like these where heroes are born in the unlikeliest of places.

Harty entered the game without a special teams touchdown since his All-Pro season in 2019. Daringly fielding a punt from his own 4-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Harty found a crease and bolted 96-yards to the house. A sea of blue and red can be seen behind the Bills bench erupting as Harty raced home for a game-tying score.

"Definitely a blessing to be able to go out there and make a play. Especially given the situation," he said.

Harty said he set up at the 12 yard line and thought he had only taken two steps back to field the ball from the 10 yard line. It wasn't until he scored that his teammates told him he actually was only a few yards away from being in his own end zone.

"Imagine if I didn't make a play?" he laughed.

Sherfield had 11 catches with no touchdowns on the season coming into the night. When Gabe Davis injured his knee in the first half and couldn't return, it was Sherfield who filled in and became 'Big Play Trent' with a toe drag touchdown grab in the back of the endzone for Buffalo's first TD.

"It says a lot about the depth that we have, but it says a lot about the type of character that we have in this locker room," Allen said. "Guys that haven't been asked to do a whole lot. And maybe at times, being frustrated or not happy with, you know the role that they have on this team. But not complaining, not getting upset and finding a way to help the team."

Last but certainly not least, it was Taylor Rapp recording his first interception as a Buffalo Bill on the final drive to preserve the division title.

"He deserves a moment like that. I'm so proud," Allen said.

Added Harty: "Just shows you what this team is all about. One close group. It's a family here."

Allen puts early miscues behind him

It was one of those games for Josh Allen. The ones where he'll admit he needs to be smarter with the ball, but in the same vein he's got the mental fortitude to move onto the next play and be at his best when it matters most.

"You could just tell his will to win, he would not be denied," McDermott said of his quarterback.

Allen turned the ball over three times Sunday; he was 0-2 this season when he had three or more giveaways. The quarterback praised his teammates for keeping their heads up and staying with it after his mistakes.

"Turn the ball over too many times, but what a resilient group so proud of our guys man they battled their tails off," Allen said.

Turnovers notwithstanding, Allen was a machine with 426 total yards and two passing touchdowns. Allen said he felt at his best in the second half, particularly on the drive when Buffalo took the lead.

"Those final couple of drives I feel like we found a groove on the offensive side of the ball. I feel like the ball was coming out of my hands the best all year so that's a good thing," he said.

Late in the fourth quarter, Allen helped pick up a couple huge third down conversions, including one where he scrambled for 15 yards, taking on contact from multiple Dolphins defenders to gain extra yards.

"That's who he is," McDermott said.

Allen and the Bills now get to come back to Orchard Park for the Wild Card round; they are 7-1 at Highmark Stadium this season.

"(Tonight) doesn't mean anything if we go out there next week and don't do our job," he said.

"So we gotta find a way to put our best foot forward and go get a victory next week."

Allen will finish his sixth season leading the NFL in total touchdowns with 44, six more than any other quarterback.

The Bills defeated Miami 21-14 to claim their fourth consecutive AFC East title. Check out the best photos from inside the locker room and on the field at Hard Rock Stadium.

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