1 – A gutsy battle to the end
The Bills knew they were going into Sunday's game supremely shorthanded missing four starters on defense as well as their starting center on offense. But it didn't impact their effort and mettle in oppressively hot conditions in Miami on Sunday.
The steamy and humid conditions sapped the roster of any depth it had left as players left the game due to heat exhaustion or an injury as the game neared halftime.
Right tackle Spencer Brown was struggling with heat illness and exited the game in the first half as well with David Quessenberry coming on for him. TE Dawson Knox and WR Isaiah McKenzie also succumbed to the heat, though McKenzie was able to return to the game.
"It was so hot," said McKenzie, a south Florida native. "It was hot the whole game. I started throwing up, so I'm like, 'Okay, I'm going to just take a breather.' So, I came out and had to come back to the locker room and get an IV. I thought was used to this just coming from Miami, but I guess I'm more familiar with Buffalo at this moment."
Fellow south Florida native Greg Rousseau confirmed McKenzie's assessment of the weather.
"It was up there like top two top three hottest I'd say," said Rousseau who played his college ball in the same stadium for the University of Miami. "We had a real hot game against Georgia Tech, but even in college football, you don't always kick off at 1 pm. You get like four o'clock kick off. Sometimes it's a night game. Being out there at 1pm is different."
In addition to the players having to retire from the heat, there were other players leaving the game with injuries. WR Jake Kumerow sustained an ankle injury after making a reception in the first half and could not return to the game leaving Buffalo with just four receivers. Rookie CB Christian Benford sustained a hand injury, and though he returned to the game he could only play on special teams. It forced undrafted rookie practice squad call up Ja'Marcus Ingram to play at corner.
Come the second half the situation only got worse. On Buffalo's 20-play field goal drive in the third quarter Buffalo would also lose RG Ryan Bates to a head injury. In the latter stages of the fourth quarter, backup C Greg Van Roten had to be replaced by Greg Mancz.
Several other players on offense sustained muscle cramps, as the unit was on the field for 90 plays and had to step out briefly and then return to the game. But none of Sean McDermott's men who took the field ever gave up.
"I told them in the locker room after the game… I didn't even bring them up for a huddle because they all couldn't move, that that was a heck of an effort," said McDermott. "You never want to come up short. There are no ribbons for second place, and they know that. And so, we go back, we learn from this, and I think we'll learn things that were really good about this game. One of those is the guts and heart and the intangibles of our football team. And I think we've learned some things that weren't very good, which led to the result. We just didn't take care of the ball enough and come up with some takeaways but again, I liked the way we fought in all three phases until the end."
What made the result so difficult to take was Buffalo won in just about every statistical category of the game. They outgained Miami by more than a 2:1 margin with 497 total yards to the Dolphins 212.
Their offense was almost twice as effective converting third downs, but the difference in the game came in the red zone where Miami went a perfect 3-for-3 and the Bills went 2-for-4 in the two-point loss.
"That's sometimes the way the business goes," said Josh Allen, who threw for 400 yards on the day and a pair of touchdowns. "Guys go down. We only dressed so many guys. Guys have got to step up. I'm proud of the guys that played, obviously, injuries you hate to see him happen. You'd love to get them back as soon as possible and we'll figure that out later, but our guys stepped up. I was proud of how our team played. We obviously didn't make enough plays on the offensive side of the football. We had a couple that I want back obviously so lots to learn from in this one but overall proud of our guys and how they battled."
See the best game photos from Bills vs. Dolphins during Week 3
2 – Bills backs keep drives alive
On a day when Buffalo's passing game was forced to throw short and Miami remained aggressive with their pressure packages, Josh Allen relied heavily on his backs in Sunday's game. Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and James Cook all made contributions to keep offensive drives alive.
Singletary's first catch of the day was on a checkdown throw from Allen that he caught and took for 19 yards. He then capped that drive with a short two-yard reception on fourth and goal to put Buffalo on the board first (7-0).
By halftime Singletary had seven receptions for 52 yards.
"It felt good. Just doing my one eleventh," Singletary said. "Any way I can just help the team out. That's what it was just Josh checking it down and me trying to keep us on the field."
In the second half Zack Moss took a hand-off out to the right flank and got the corner on Dolphins CB Nik Needham and rumbled for 43 yards to put the Bills in Miami territory on what wound up being a field goal drive for Buffalo to break a 14-14 tie and give Buffalo the lead (17-14).
James Cook also contributed with four receptions for 37 yards. The impact of the backs was critical with the Miami secondary not giving up anything deep to Buffalo's receivers, who were also getting heavy legged in the heat.
"I thought Josh did a good job on those checked downs early and I mean that frustrates defensive play callers when you do that," said McDermott. "You set up 2nd-and-2, so hard to call that for a defensive coordinator. Josh and the backs did a good job getting on the same page early. Doing some things blocking-wise with their pressures and we expected some defenders dropping out as well. So, I thought we handled that really well."
For Singletary his nine receptions led the team and were a single-game career high as were his 78 receiving yards.
3 – Defense stands tall
For a defense that did not have their Pro Bowl caliber safeties, two of their top four defensive tackles and proceeded to lose another cornerback in Christian Benford to a hand injury, the performance they put on the field against the league's number one passing offense was remarkable.
"Those guys on the back end just holding it down, rookies out there, players we're elevating from the practice squad going out there and not even having a drop off in play," said Greg Rousseau, who contributed a sack and a half and two quarterback hits. "Obviously, we wish we could have gotten it done, held them to fewer points, but it is what it is. I feel like we fought out there though. It was hard, but we didn't blink, didn't back down, didn't flinch at all."
Miami's offense that had rolled up 547 total net yards on offense in Week 2, managed just 212 on Sunday against the depleted Bills defense. Tua Tagovailoa, who had 469 yards passing and six touchdowns last week, had just 186 passing yards and a touchdown as Miami ran just 39 plays from scrimmage on offense converting just three of their eight third down opportunities.
"That's part of the game some time," said Taron Johnson of the outcome despite the lopsided statistics. "I feel like we had opportunities maybe to take the ball away and we didn't do that. I feel like that was a big, big swing in the game.
"I think we've got dogs from the front to the back, you know, the guys that stepped up I feel like they did a good job. And I feel like it was maybe one play away. It was tough luck."
"You want to come out with the dub, but I'm extremely proud of my guys," said Von Miller. "I'm not going to make any excuses, but the fight the way we fought and to have the injuries that we had. To come into the game with the injuries that we had and at the same time I'm not making any excuses like they came out and they won the game. Being on this side of it and witnessing my guys and my coaches and the way we handled adversity, I'm extremely proud of our guys. Sometimes a loss like this is good medicine."