A beat-up Miami Dolphins team had a nearly impossible task on Sunday: Go into Buffalo and beat the talented Bills in a wild-card matchup without a number of key players, most notably quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
And yet they almost pulled it off.
In what proved to be a wild game that saw the Dolphins erase a 17-point first-half deficit, the Bills held on to win 34-31 and move on to the AFC Divisional Round.
It was hard not to imagine what might have been with a healthy Tagovailoa:
But that wasn't the only what-if from Sunday.
The key moment of the game came with 2:29 remaining and the Dolphins facing a key 4th-and-1 from their own 48-yard line. The team handled the play clock so poorly that they were hit with a delay-of-game penalty and instead had to attempt a 4th-and-5 conversion, which they failed.
And after the game, head coach Mike McDaniel and the team were hammered for their clock management:
Cameron Wolfe @CameronWolfe
Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel has mentioned multiple times this year he's been trying to improve his speed getting plays into the QB as a play-caller. He's had a strong year as a playcaller but not in clock operation. It's been an issue all day today & cost them on that 4th & inches.
No doubt, the Dolphins will rue that moment in particular. But the fact that they had a mere 231 yards of total offense and still put up 31 points was a major testament to a defense that forced three turnovers, sacked Josh Allen seven times and scored a touchdown on its own.
On a day when the Dolphins were down to third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson and facing one of the NFL's most dangerous offenses, the defense needed to make some plays. They certainly did, though they also allowed 34 points and 423 yards of total offense, albeit with two Buffalo touchdowns coming after Thompson interceptions.
All in all, most people expected the Bills to blow the Dolphins out with relative ease in this one. But the Dolphins battled. A few key moments, namely on that fateful 4th-and-1, and we could have had a stunning upset on our hands.