1. Josh Allen dominates through the air... again
If anyone was wondering whether Josh Allen's Week 1 performance against a substandard Jets secondary was a fluke, Buffalo's quarterback provided convincing evidence on Sunday in Miami that he intends to put up big time production each and every week.
Allen, who rolled up the most passing yards in the first half by a Bills quarterback in 20 years, with 249 after two quarters had over 400 passing yards by the time the game was over. His 417 passing yards tied for third most in a game in Bills history with Drew Bledsoe, who was the last quarterback to do it on Oct. 2nd, 2002.
More importantly, Allen staged a successful fourth-quarter comeback after the Bills saw an early 10-point lead turn into a three-point deficit.
When crunch time arrived Allen delivered in a big way.
On the first play after the Dolphins went ahead with a 45-yard Jason Sanders field goal, Allen hit Stefon Diggs on a double move for a 47-yard gain. After an offensive penalty and a sack, Allen hit Cole Beasley for a 24-yard pass play moving Buffalo from their own 25-yard line to the Miami 18.
Allen then ended the drive with a six-yard strike to rookie Gabe Davis to put Buffalo in front for good 24-20.
But Allen's day wasn't done. After the defense got a much needed stop the Bills quarterback hit Diggs again on a deep crosser for 21 yards and after missing John Brown deep, he went right back to him for a 46-yard touchdown.
When the chips were down, Allen went 6-8 for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the team's last two scoring drives.
"I really think it starts with preparation. We had a great week of practice," said Allen. "Our scout team gave us a great look. We just happened to run those plays in practice and we felt good about them.
"The double move down the sideline, we were hoping that Stef could get it and the safety was to the field side, and I kept my eyes there and he had a heck of a route and got open caught the ball and made some plays. And then the next play I believe it was Beasley over the middle of field. So Stef catches that long pass. The next one he runs the short route takes two guys with him and we get it to Bease right behind him. So it's just selfless plays like that that really go a long way and that's team success right there."
The Bills passing game approach was in stark contrast to that of a week ago when Allen and company largely relied on short to intermediate passes to stay on schedule and finish drives with points.
On Sunday, they torched the Dolphins secondary making heavy use of deep crossing routes.
In Week 1, Buffalo averaged 9.45 yards per completion. On Sunday, they almost doubled it averaging 17.3. Long developing routes were possible because Buffalo's offensive line provided good protection for a second straight week.
"We believe in our playmakers here and Coach Daboll is not one to shy away from putting the ball in my hands," Allen said. "But our five did a great job in protection, our backs, our tight ends did a great job as well. Our guys got open, they made plays. Undrafted rookie free agent, Reggie (Gilliam), scoring a touchdown. We've got Gabe Davis on third down, fourth-round pick, rookie, making big plays when we needed it. So when you've got guys that can step up and fill roles and make plays the way that they did that's huge for team success. There are going to be games where the offense has got to step up and it was one of those days."
The Bills rolled up the most offensive yardage in the first half in 20 years on Sunday with 342 by halftime.
Allen's completion percentage was again flirting with 70 percent as he completed 68.5 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of 147, the third-highest single game total in team annals. His 739 passing yards in the first two games of a season is second only to Jim Kelly's 744 in 1991.
Bills safety, Micah Hyde, who had the one-word reaction of 'Geez' when he heard Allen's stat line expressed how the team as a whole feels about their quarterback.
"That's the confidence that we have in him. As a quarterback in this league if you get confidence it's a dangerous thing for opponents," Hyde said. "Josh has a lot of confidence. Seeing him make that many yards against defenses like that. It's remarkable how good he is. He knows it and a performance likely today signifies that."
2. No answer for Stefon Diggs
He was a problem for the Dolphins secondary from the beginning of the game. That's why Josh Allen targeted Stefon Diggs six times on his first eight throws. And though the dividends early in the game were mixed, by halftime the Bills top wideout had helped stake Buffalo to a touchdown lead with five receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Little did Miami's defensive backs know that Diggs would double his yardage total by game's end. Diggs' eight receptions for 153 yards and a score gave him eight catches or more in each of his first two games, making him the first Bills receiver to start a season that way since Peerless Price (20) and Eric Moulds (16) both did it to start the 2002 season.
Diggs' most critical plays came after Buffalo fell behind by three early in the fourth quarter.
He pulled in a 47-yard bomb off a double move to put the Bills deep in Miami territory. Then on the second scoring drive to essentially put the game on ice, Diggs provided a 21-yard pass play on a 2nd-and-7 to move the team into Dolphins territory again. He then helped to set up John Brown's clinching 46-yard touchdown by drawing double-team attention on a shorter route underneath.
"Stefon Diggs, the route that he ran, the safety ended up closing down on it," said Brown on his touchdown late. "So I took my route deep enough to get across the field and it was a great job by Josh and great job by the offensive linemen."
"Big time player," said head coach Sean McDermott of Diggs' performance. "They say big time players make big time plays in the game. He did that as well as Gabe Davis, John Brown, in terms of the last touchdown and, of course, Josh delivering the ball. He needed time and I just thought overall man just a really good offensive performance. We've got to continue to evolve and grow at the same time, though, right? But just real happy to see what we did offensively."
Allen, who spread the ball around with eight players making receptions for a second consecutive week, targeted Diggs (13) more than twice as often as the next most targeted players (Cole Beasley, John Brown, 6 each).
"We believe and we trust our guys outside and I don't think there are many teams that can keep up with all of them. That was just what was happening and what was working early on and we just kind of kept going back to it and had some success," said Allen of the crossing routes that went for big completions. "But again teams are going to see that now and they're going to try to figure out a way to stop that. So, again, we've got to figure out new ways to get our guys the ball."
Miami was largely a man coverage team under head coach Brian Flores last season, and that proved to be the case again on Sunday. When Byron Jones left in the first quarter with a groin injury, it left the Dolphins secondary down a key player and Buffalo exploited their opponent's deficiency for a second straight week.
3. Goal line stand proves critical
After seeing a 10-point lead shrink to four in the third quarter, Buffalo's defense was facing the prospect of surrendering the lead all together.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick in a good rhythm in the passing game Buffalo was facing a first-and-goal situation at the Buffalo one-yard line.
Ed Oliver made the first play of the series, stuffing Miami RB Jordan Howard for no gain.
On second-and-goal Ryan Fitzpatrick was stopped on a quarterback draw by Quinton Jefferson and Jordan Poyer for no gain.
On third-and-goal Fitzpatrick's pass attempt to TE Mike Gesicki in the back left corner of the end zone was broken up by Micah Hyde.
And on fourth-and-goal Preston Williams dropped Fitzpatrick's pass just shy of the goal line, but Levi Wallace appeared to be in position to keep him out of the end zone even if Williams did make the reception.
Though the goal line stand only preserved Buffalo's four-point lead temporarily (17-13), it ended up being a major factor in what was ultimately a three-point game (31-28).
"It was a huge series in the game," said Hyde. "It's a shame that we couldn't get off the field (sooner). In the second half they ended up driving on us. They drove us all the way down, but that's the sign of a good defense, staying strong and making it hard for them to try to score, and they couldn't get in. I wish I could have done better and came down with the ball on that third down play, but it was a big play and good stop by us."
Head coach Sean McDermott knew they were going into the game shorthanded without their two three-down linebackers in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano but was proud of the way his defensive unit persevered.
"I think that we saw the resiliency of the group," McDermott said. "We didn't play our best game defensively. Give the credit where credit's due to the Dolphins, but again they stood up when they needed to stand up, and they fought man. We came in a little bit beat up on the defense, but I'm real proud of the way that the linebackers stepped up and did a good job."
Tyrel Dodson and A.J. Klein, who stepped in for Edmunds and Milano combined for 12 tackles and a pair of pass breakups.