Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Miami
Miami now falls to 4-6, and is now likely has only two chances at a playoff berth: slim and none. Buffalo improves to 4-6, and while they have the same record as Miami, have improved their chances as they now own the tiebreaker over the Dolphins.
Join us as we take a look at Miami's grades for a game that showed promise at the end despite a despicable beginning: one that would ultimately cost them the game.
Offense — F
Overall Game Grade — F
The offense took the first three quarters off before waking up for one drive in the fourth quarter. Thanks to Miami's defense returning to form (in terms of allowing points at least), Miami's offense still had not one, but two chances to come away with the victory.
That failure to score (which was on the whole offense and not just Tannehill) drags Miami down to an F. Had they taken advantage of a defense that held the Bills to only 12 points on offense (with the only touchdown scored by Buffalo being on special teams), Miami would've won the game.
Fourth Quarter — C-
Miami’s offense finally looks like the Dolphins’ offense we saw in the first half of the season, as they were able to penetrate Buffalo’s red zone. The reasons for this: Bush’s running, and Tannehill’s throwing. Tannehill completed two great passes, and drew pass interference on another pass intended for Rishard Matthews.
Then it looked like it would be for naught, as Tannehill got sacked. But a Bills’ face-masking penalty would give Miami a new set of downs and placement half the distance to the goal.
After a bad one-yard loss due to a missed block by Charles Clay (because he had to help Jake Long, which to me is sad), Miami would face third-and-goal. Ryan Tannehill finds Davone Bess in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown, however it’s called incomplete despite both feet being in bounds.
Philbin would challenge the ruling on the field (which despite the result was the right idea), and it would be reversed, making that a much-needed touchdown for Miami.
The next drive would start from Miami’s own one-yard line, which you could say if you were to focus on the negative (and with the way this game has gone, no one would blame you for that). If you were to focus on the positive, than your train of thought is that Miami played terribly through three quarters, yet is now only 99 yards away from the lead (and the possible win).
The first play was a power run to Jorvorskie Lane, one that Miami just barely was able to avoid a safety on. This was followed by an eight yard Daniel Thomas run, then a beautiful Tannehill roll out pass to Brian Hartline that got Miami to the Buffalo 21-yard line.
Things were looking up until Jonathan Martin just about forced a sack that backed Tannehill back to their own 32, where they faced second-and-11 at the two-minute warning.
However the next play would see Tannehill go long to Bess again, this time resulting in an interception. I can’t pin this interception on Tannehill as much as the stupid play-calling that thought it was a great idea to throw long to Davone Bess!
The Dolphins’ offense would get another chance though, this time with 1:24 left.
This drive would again look good with the first three passes being completed, however a fishy offensive pass interference call seemed to kill Miami’s momentum.
The next play would be a Ryan Tannehill interception, ending the game.
Third Quarter — F
The Bills likely felt charitable for a Dolphins offense that only gained 50 yards in the first half, as on the very first play Kyle Williams gave Miami five yards.
Two plays later; Miami earns their first first down of the game (one that wasn’t caused by a penalty, this one was only partially due to a Bills’ penalty). The next play was a long pass play to Davone Bess, which ended as you would expect. Bess wasn’t able to grab the completion thanks to great coverage from the Bills’ defense. This would lead to the next play, a four-yard loss by Reggie Bush thanks to Richie Incognito, followed by, ugh, another short pass?
What is up with Miami’s offensive play-calling today? Really, what’s up with it?
On the next drive though, things looked like an improvement was afoot. Tannehill threw a nice pass to Brian Hartline, but after that couldn’t complete a pass. However the officials managed to bail the Dolphins out not once, but twice on the drive (so that’s how it feels when calls go your way).
However after a promising-looking drive, Miami could only get a 50-yard field goal attempt, which Dan Carpenter would miss.
Second Quarter — F
Missing: the Miami Dolphins running game. If found, please return to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY to the boys in aqua.
Buffalo has Miami’s running game at a stand-still, thus forcing Miami to go through the air. Tannehill seems a bit jumpy in his first nationally televised game, and has twice already put way too much on a pass.
The next drive would start with a perfectly-placed pass from Ryan Tannehill to Brian Hartline, but Hartline couldn’t get to the ball due to the defense reading the pass a bit too well. There’s where Tannehill should’ve put a little bit more on the pass, for if he does Hartline is in stride behind the Bills’ secondary on his way to a touchdown. It’s worth mentioning though that Hartline was hit with a helmet-to-helmet hit on the play after the pass fell incomplete. If you’re going to be serious about player safety, you have to call that penalty.
Miami was able to get some positive yardage from Reggie Bush in the form of a screen pass that went for 10-yards, but on the next play thanks in part to Jake Long failing to contain Merriman, Bush lost a yard on the run play.
Another Dolphins’ drive, another punt; to add insult to injury, The Wannstache is dominating the Dolphins, and not even blitzing to do it!
Miami would have one more shot in the second quarter, this time with three minutes left in the half. However they were backed up to their own 10-yard line. This time the offensive line would completely fail, forcing Bush to gain only one yard, followed by Tannehill being forced to throw the ball away, then taking a sack at his own one-yard line.
First Quarter — F
Miami’s first offensive drive of the game saw more of the same; only it wasn’t a turnover, just a three-and-out that led to a punt returned for a touchdown. Their second drive would also go three-and-out; but this time bad blocking and puzzling play-calling had to do with that.
On drive three, the Miami offensive cluster-bleep seemed to continue when Brian Hartline caught a 17-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill, then promptly fumbled the ball, giving possession back to the Buffalo Bills.
So does this mean that Hartline will be benched for the rest of the first half? Come on Joe, I need some consistency from you! Other than that, Miami’s pass blocking was great on that play, and Tannehill did an excellent job finding a wide-open Hartline to complete the pass.
Ryan Tannehill — F
Overall Game Grade— F
Ryan Tannehill had one good drive all game. His last two drives started off promising, but a bad play-call and a dubious penalty would led to an interception to end both drives.
But I can't just blame Miami's lack of offensive line protection. Tannehill did have not one, but two chances to come away with the victory. Both times ended with Tannehill making rookie mistakes (despite the bad luck that surrounded Tannehill, those throws were poor decisions), sealing a Buffalo victory.
I have to be tough on the kid, so I'm giving him an F that he does deserve. Had he scored a game-winning touchdown on either of those drives though, he would've gotten an A.
Fourth Quarter — C-
Tannehill starts off his fourth quarter with two nice passes (after an incompletion), and gets Miami into Buffalo’s red zone (one of them was due to a Buffalo pass interference, but had it not been a pass interference it likely would’ve been a touchdown). This seemed to wake up Reggie Bush, who would run it up the gut for 11 yards, then two plays after that, Tannehill would complete a beautiful pass to Davone Bess to make it first-and-goal at the Bills’ eight-yard line.
His next throw would be a perfect pass to Davone Bess in the corner of the end zone, but it was ruled incomplete on the field. However Coach Philbin would challenge the ruling on the field, and the officials would reverse the call, giving Tannehill the touchdown pass.
Tannehill would have two chances to lead Miami to a comeback, however bad decision making on his part (two very bad decisions), and a dubious pass interference penalty on Brian Hartline would lead to two interceptions for Tannehill, which sealed the win for Buffalo.
I’ll give Tannehill some points on the grade for showing some moxie at the end of the game, however both interceptions were complete brainfarts, despite the situations (playcalling, a fishy penalty) that caused him to throw them. He might get an F for the game, but for the fourth quarter: C-.
Third Quarter — D-
Well it took until 4:19 left in the third quarter, but Ryan Tannehill got off a good throw, and Brian Hartline brought it in for the catch! He can do this as long as Miami shows some trust in him, more importantly, as long as the offensive line protects him.
Of course his next throw is an underthrown pass to Hartline, but I give Tannehill credit for throwing it where the Bills’ defense wasn’t, thus preventing a turnover.
However Tannehill would falter towards the end of the series, meaning Miami would have to attempt (and miss) a field goal.
Second Quarter — D-
Tannehill’s first drive of the second quarter was actually a continuation of his last drive of the first quarter. He was very hot and cold though, as he followed up a very good six yard pass to Davone Bess to a third-and-four pass to Bess that had way too much mustard on that hot dog.
Ryan Tannehill still has had yet to lead Miami to a first down after thirty minutes of football. He's overthrown and underthrown receivers all evening.
It’s not all his fault, but this hasn’t been Tannehill’s finest quarter. He hasn’t turned the ball over, but for the first time all season, he looks tentative, nervous, Chad Henne-like. This isn’t a good look for him, however unlike Henne (who actually had a decent offensive line in his first season), Tannehill doesn’t seem to get any help from his friends up front. I still have to give him the D- for the half because, he’s still apart of Miami’s failing offense.
First Quarter — B-
Tannehill’s first drive saw one pass go for five yards, but this was followed by an incompletion to Anthony Fasano on third down and three. On the next drive, Tannehill would complete a two yard pass to Reggie Bush, then for some reason on third-and-long had a quarterback draw play designed for him. This is on the coaches.
On the next drive Ryan Tannehill would get great pass protection and find Brian Hartline for a 17-yard pass and what would’ve been a first down had Hartline been able to hold onto the ball. The poor guy just can’t catch a break.
Reggie Bush — F
When you get 20 yards on 10 attempts against the worst run defense in the NFL, you deserve an F.
Daniel Thomas — F
Thomas wasn't any better, getting 33 yards on 12 attempts. It seemed like Miami just couldn't find a seam, and both running backs struggled mightily.
Jorvorskie Lane — F
How many more of Lane's missed blocks do the Dolphins have to go through? It was ridiculous.
Brian Hartline — F
I know Hartline’s stats look good, with four catches for 49 yards, but his fumble after catching the ball for a 15-yard gain in the first quarter helped Buffalo gain momentum. I’m not going to attack him for his pass interference penalty, as that was a bad call, plain and simple.
Davone Bess — B+
The most consistent receiver of the evening was Bess, who caught six passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. His three catches on Miami’s lone touchdown drive were some of the best he had made all season, and his foot (and ball) control on his touchdown pass was so unbelievable that the officials called it incomplete at first.
Anthony Fasano — B
Fasano was stuck blocking, and that’s not really his fault. When it was thrown to him, he did make a great diving catch.
Charles Clay — F
Missed blocks, not being able to lay out for a catch (it was a poor throw by Tannehill but catchable with a dive), and a general malaise that Clay seemed to have is the reason for his F.
Jake Long — F
Richie Incognito — C
Mike Pouncey — B
John Jerry — C
Jonathan Martin — F
During the game, I called the defense frauds, and I'm sorry for that since they did hold Buffalo to only 12 offensive points.
But this offensive line? It's as fraudulent as when Jeffrey Loria says "I plan on making the Marlins a long-term contender." Once again they were dominated at the line of scrimmage, save for Mike Pouncey. Jonathan Martin and Jake Long were the worst of the bunch this evening, but Richie Incognito and John Jerry weren't exactly the second comings of Larry Little.
I give Mike Pouncey some sympathy, because I don't even think Dwight Stephenson in his prime could save this motley crew of linemen.
Defense — A
Overall Game Grade — B+
I really don’t know what to make of Miami’s defensive performance. They allowed the Bills to gain 281 yards against them, but only score 12 points. Most of Buffalo’s yardage however came in the first half, as in the second half they calmed down and actually shut out the Bills.
They didn’t allow an offensive touchdown, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Defensive penalties by the secondary killed them, or so one would think, when in reality Buffalo just settled for field goal.
They also got Miami the ball back with 1:24 left down by only five.
Their performance wasn’t as bad as it looked in the beginning, and in fact was actually quite good. I can’t complain about anything but Nolan Carroll (wait until I get to him), as this defense stepped up.
Fourth Quarter — A
The Dolphins defense would start the quarter with a continuation of Buffalo’s last drive of the third quarter, and force the Bills to punt on that drive.
Their next drive would come with Miami now down only five. The goal here is to keep playing the defense that they played in the third quarter, and prevent Buffalo from scoring.
But it doesn’t start out well, with Buffalo getting a five-yard run from C.J. Spiller, followed by a 13-yard pass to Stevie Johnson. But after those two hiccups, it looked like Miami’s defense would settle down before another stupid penalty by Nolan Carroll.
I thought he was benched, seriously.
After Buffalo got the automatic first down, Miami would do something they’ve failed to do all afternoon: bottle up C.J. Spiller. Well, they were able to do this for one play, make that two. Now Buffalo would face a third-and-12, the biggest play of the game. Would the Dolphins defense produce, or would Buffalo convert? How is Nolan Carroll going to screw this up?
He’s not. Miami would force Buffalo to punt, and would give their offense another shot.
On the next defensive drive, with Buffalo attempting to kill the clock, Miami was able to get Buffalo to go three-and-out, getting Miami the ball back with 1:24 left in the game.
Third Quarter — A
Reshard Jones is the only player on the secondary playing well. Other than that an offense based off of a shifty running back and screen passes is beating this defense. However one spot that gave Buffalo a first down was a bit questionable, but I’ll let this slide since the Dolphins defense is doing their best to let the country know that they’re a fraudulent bunch.
Actually here’s a good question: where’s Olivier Vernon? Are they really insisting that he’s only special teams material when he can tackle better than most of the players on the Dolphins front seven? Wouldn’t he be an upgrade over Jared Odrick (who’s missing tackles like they’re going out of style)?
Despite the bad start with C.J. Spiller again carving up the Dolphins defense like Thanksgiving turkey, Miami still forced the Bills to punt on their first drive of the half. As much as I’ve ragged on this defense, if they had a competent offense, they’d actually be somewhat decent since they wouldn’t be on the field as long, and they have only allowed the Bills’ offense to score 12 points.
The next drive starts off with what looks like a sack, but then Ryan Fitzpatrick decides to go all Vick. Seriously, how is this possible? Fitzpatrick makes Drew Bledsoe look like Usain Bolt, yet is making the Dolphins defense look like a Pop Warner team!
Of course after I type that, Miami forces another punt thanks to a Cameron Wake sack. Good to see someone other than Reshad Jones showed up to play on defense.
Miami would wind up not giving up a single point in the third quarter, yet still giving up a lot of yards. They do look like they’re getting their swagger back though.
Second Quarter — D-
I’m going to make this first sentence short and sweet: Nolan Carroll committing a pass interference on an overthrown pass on third-and-five. Yikes!
It gets worse: second-and-10, the Miami Dolphins make Ryan Fitzpatrick, under a heavy pass rush mind you, look like Michael Vick pre-2012. Buffalo deserves to score points on this drive, something that Nolan Carroll guaranteed with another stupid pass interference penalty, this time it put the Bills at the Miami 24-yard line. Do I have to tell you how this drive would end, or can you just assume it was a touchdown?
It was a stop, which meant another Rian Lindell field goal. This time Buffalo would be backed up by their own silliness, in the form of a false start penalty, which backed Lindell back to a 42-yard field goal. Lindell would make it, and Miami would now face a nine-point deficit.
Back to work a few minutes later, the Dolphins defense is now showing problems not only tackling, but containing Buffalo’s screen passes. It’s gotten to the point where everyone in the world knows the Bills are going to call for a screen pass except for the Dolphins.
Later in the drive, Nolan Carroll got called for another penalty, this time illegal contact. This is embarrassing. However I will say this: that call did look a bit bogus. Either way, once again I ask Joe Philbin to be consistent and bench Nolan Carroll, as two of his pass interference penalties did lead to points for the Bills.
The Bills wound up unable to convert on the next series of downs, and I have to give credit to this defense, which has given up a ton of yards, yet only had nine points scored against them.
But even that can’t last forever, as the Dolphins would get one more crack on defense. C.J. Spiller would continue carving apart the Miami defense (he has 97 yards from scrimmage), and the Bills would again get deep inside the red zone. This time it looked like Jimmy Wilson would pull down an interception, but apparently he learned how to catch from the Sean Smith school of pass-catching.
The next play would be a pass interference, this time against Sean Smith. Again, this was on third down. Again, it wasn’t going to be caught. But this time, Miami would get another stop, forcing Buffalo to kick another field goal.
First Quarter — B
As the defense finally came onto the field after two Dolphins offensive possessions, I wondered aloud if this unit would be as discombobulated as the offense and special teams.
Despite a slow start with C.J. Spiller gaining nine yards on two carries in the first series, Miami was able to hold the Bills back on third-and-one, forcing a Buffalo three-and-out.
What a sigh of relief it was to see that. Sure the Bills really screwed up by calling a wildcat play for Tashard Choice, but on third-and-one a wildcat play makes some sense (the “quarterback” is basically running the ball the second it’s snapped to him), and Miami snuffed it out well.
Forgive me if I analyzed that play too much, I’m looking for something positive to write at this juncture.
Miami’s next defensive drive would start at the Buffalo 48-yard line. After C.J. Spiller is again able to gain positive yardage, Miami was able to force an incompletion, then after a Buffalo false start penalty, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to find Stevie Johnson for 15-yards despite a heavy Miami pass rush, followed by another 16-yard reception for Johnson.
Two plays after that, with Buffalo in the red zone, the Bills would face third-and-three. But as Fitzpatrick attempted to pass it to Donald Jones in the end zone, Jimmy Wilson broke the pass up, forcing Buffalo to attempt a field goal. Technically, I’d consider that a win for the Dolphins defense considering the field position given.
Miami would be on defense one more time thanks to Marcus Thigpen’s kickoff return following the field goal, and this drive would start off with C.J. Spiller running off a three-yard run, followed by a 24-yard pass.
This would again help the Bills get back into the red zone. However once again the Bills would outsmart themselves and attempt a pass on third-and-one. The pass would be broken up by Karlos Dansby (who should’ve had the interception and would’ve had six had he been able to hold onto it), and Buffalo was forced to kick the field goal.
Cameron Wake — B+
Five tackles, a sack, and two quarterback hits. Can’t complain about Wake’s day despite the fact that Buffalo practically beat him up the whole game.
Paul Soliai — B-
Only one tackle, but Spiller was mainly attacking the outside, not the interior. Decent bounce back game, but could've been better.
Randy Starks — B+
Two tackles and one sack (a smart, heads-up trip of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the third quarter), and keep this in mind: most of Spiller's runs came on the outside.
Jared Odrick — B-
Three tackles, including one for a loss (and a crucial one in the fourth quarter). Odrick started off bad, but finished strong. He kind of personifies the Dolphins defense in that sense.
Kevin Burnett — B
Burnett had nine tackles, but missed a few more, which is the story of the Dolphins’ linebacking corps. Despite that, he came up big in the second half.
Koa Misi — D
Misi only had four tackles, while the other linebackers had at least seven. Sorry, I penalize that, especially since he was swinging and missing like he played for the Marlins.
Karlos Dansby — B+
Dansby would’ve had a pick-six had he not dropped an interception (I guess he was borrowing Sean Smith’s hands for that possession), but other than that, he played well, racking up seven tackles (one for a loss) and a pass deflection.
Sean Smith — B-
Here’s the thing: Smith wasn’t bad tonight. Buffalo left him alone for the most part, which should tell you that they do have some respect for him.
Nolan Carroll — ZERO
That’s two zeroes for Mr. Carroll, who looked like he was improving just two weeks ago. Wow, I wish I could find a way to describe his utter awfulness without cursing. Alas, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Jimmy Wilson — B-
Wilson also didn’t have a bad night, in fact he saved a Buffalo touchdown, which should count for something. That being said, he did allow Buffalo to kick a field goal by dropping a sure interception in the end zone towards the end of the second quarter.
Reshad Jones — A+
He was everywhere tonight! When Miami needed a tackle, Reshad was there with 14 tackles. He had a pass deflection too and was just plain balling tonight. Well done game Mr. Jones.
Chris Clemons — B+
Clemons’ game wasn’t bad either. Like Jones he saved quite a few touchdowns from Spiller, recording nine tackles and a pass deflection.
Special Teams — B-
Overall Game Grade — B-
Normally I’d give the special teams unit an A just based off of Marcus Thigpen’s great touchdown run. However the rest of the special teams unit was very blah. They allowed a punt return for a touchdown, and Carpenter missed a field goal. Not their best game.
Fourth Quarter — incomplete
The special teams really didn’t have an impact in the fourth quarter. The Bills special teams did with that magnificent punt that landed at the Miami one-yard line, but Miami’s special teams barely got any action.
Third Quarter — B-
Brandon Fields’ first punt of the third quarter: 56 yards, no way that McKelvin gets to it. That’s what we need to see.
What we didn’t need to see? A Dan Carpenter missed field goal, but I’m pinning that on the offense for not getting closer and squandering their best opportunity of the game.
Second Quarter — C
Leodis McKelvin might have gotten off another good return on a Dolphins’ punt, but at least he didn’t score a touchdown. Either way, Miami’s special teams has been dragged down to the level of the rest of their team, save for Marcus Thigpen.
First Quarter — C
The Dolphins special teams unit was the only unit to not allow a touchdown against Tennessee on Sunday. Not wanting to feel left out of Miami’s week of failure, the first punt by Brandon Fields was returned 79-yards by Leodis McKelvin for a touchdown.
It would only be two more game minutes before Fields had another chance to punt the ball, and this time Miami was able to contain McKelvin.
But one great special teams play deserves another to match it, and it would come from a 96-yard touchdown run from Marcus Thigpen. This seemed to take some of the air out of Ralph Wilson Stadium, as a 10-0 lead turned into a 10-7 lead.
Joe Philbin — F
Overall Game Grade — F
Lack of discipline, bad play-calling, bad effort on offense through the first three quarters, and a defense that started off sluggish and was lucky at times in the first half that Buffalo got in its own way.
I’m starting to lose some faith in this coaching staff, which is pretty sad considering that just two weeks ago, I thought Philbin was a coach of the year candidate.
Fourth Quarter — F
Hey remember when the coaching staff called a long bomb to Davone Bess that didn’t work because Bess doesn’t have that speed? They lost the game calling the same play.
That’s a shame because Miami played a great fourth quarter prior to that. They were able to cut the deficit to five thanks to some great play-calling and Tannehill passes, and the defense held up in the second half. But one dumb play call sealed Miami’s fate. This coaching staff really has to know what talent they have on the team and stop trying to out-cute themselves.
If you’re wondering why I’m not putting anything on Tannehill, well, I am. Look back at what I wrote about him.
Third Quarter — F
What is the deal with this awful play-calling? A long bomb to Davone Bess? A short pass to Bush on third-and-14 with all of Buffalo in front of him and no seam to run through? A blitz on any play when all Buffalo is running is screen passes and C.J. Spiller runs?
I’m befuddled by the play-calling, almost as befuddled as the coaching staff!
Second Quarter — F
I’m sorry but until this team shows more discipline (like maybe the discipline they showed from Weeks 5-9), I can’t grade the coaches any higher than an F. Aside from the bad discipline (especially by Nolan Carroll), this team’s play-calling has been maddening.
The only reason the game is so close is because Buffalo just can’t seem to get out of their own way, outsmarting themselves or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Good teams take advantage of that, which is why the onus is on the Dolphins to make Buffalo pay for their first half mistakes that left points on the board.
Miami is lucky to only be down 12.
First Quarter — F
True story, I wrote this “F” only three minutes into the game, when Leodis McKinley returned punt for a 79-yard touchdown run. After that it only seemed to get worse, especially a puzzling quarterback draw play called on third-and-14.
However what potentially saved this game came in special teams, as Marcus Thigpen returned a kick 96-yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit from 10-0 to 10-7. It’s still an F for this coaching staff, who had some questionable play calls earlier, but there’s still enough time to turn this around.