The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, a review

Tyrod Taylor of the Buffalo Bills throws the ball as Charles Harris of the Miami Dolphins attempts to defend him on Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

If it turns out the Miami Dolphins would have made the playoffs if they’d won this game in Buffalo, there will be regrets. Of course, the same thing could be said about losses to… the Jets… Tampa Bay… Oakland… Most all of this season, disappointing.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The Tape Don’t Lie.” Each week I give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed about Miami’s 24-16 loss, a loss that dropped the club to 6-8:

  1. Jay Cutler is like a starting pitcher. You can tell early in the game if he’s got all his stuff or none of his stuff working. On back-to-back plays during Miami’s first offensive drive, Cutler was way off target. Based on Cutler’s history, this was immediate cause for concern. Was the cold bothering him? Was his not gripping the ball well? Was he skittish? On a second down, Cutler made what should have been an easy short pass to running back Kenyan Drake much more difficult, as it was way out in front of him. On the very next play, Cutler deftly rolled to his right (he’s really moved well in the second half of this season) but was way too high for Jarvis Landry. In the second quarter, Bad Jay continued to rear his ugly head, as he overthrew Kenny Stills after a roll-out. Later, on a third down, Cutler’s screen pass to DeVante Parker was too high. Parker would have gotten the first down with ease, as there was a convoy of blockers in front of him, if the ball had been placed just a little better. Early in the third quarter, another bad overthrow of 4-5 yards of Stills, resulting in an interception. Ryan Tannehill is the pitcher who gives you six innings, night in and night out, almost always allowing two or three runs. It may not often be a thrilling ride, but the stability and consistency will be much, much better at quarterback next season, with Tannehill back on the mound.

    This pass from Jay Cutler to Jarvis Landry is high. It was a trend.

  2. Charles Harris took advantage of his Sunday start, delivering pressure after pressure. There was a first quarter play in which Harris showed off the athleticism that made him a first-round pick. It was a third down and he was allowed to run free, because the tackle was moving forward to set up a screen pass from Tyrod Taylor. But Harris got to Taylor so quickly in the backfield, and was leaping at him like a tiger, with such range, that Taylor had no choice to eat the ball. Taylor could not go over or around the charging Harris. In fact, if he had tried to, Harris may have batted the ball in the air, caught it and ran the other way for a Pick 6. Cam Wake actually got credit for the sack, as Harris finished Taylor off. Harris flourished with extra reps. His run stopping and edge setting will continue to be a work in progress. But his ability to consistently pressure the quarterback was extremely encouraging. Later in the first quarter, a very active Harris was put in a position to succeed by defensive coordinator Matt Burke. Harris nearly recorded his second NFL sack, and he did it from the left defensive tackle position. From left to right, Burke went with Wake, Harris, Jordan Phillips and Ndamukong Suh, at right defensive end. Burke brought Lawrence Timmons and Harris came through unblocked because the blitz  put two Bills linemen in a position to block three charging Dolphins. In the third quarter, Harris affected the run. Harris overpowered a tight end and it forced LeSean McCoy to turn slam on the brakes  and take a loss. A very, very encouraging outing by the rookie.

    Tyrod Taylor thinks he has a screen set up. But look at leaping #90. Not happening.

  3. Kenyan Drake’s movements can be reminiscent of LeSean McCoy or Le’Veon Bell. This is not to suggest that Drake will run for 10,000 yards in the NFL (as McCoy accomplished on Sunday against the Fins). Or that Drake will emerge as one of the NFL’s best running backs (as Bell clearly is already). But some of Drake’s attributes are a bit reminiscent of those two great backs. Drake had a 31-yard run in the first half in which he exhibited patience, vision and speed. As Drake took the ball, a Bills defender was breaking into the back field. But Drake used a little hop-step, much the way McCoy or Bell might, to avoid the tackler. Then, as a defensive back tried to create an angle on Drake from about 5 yards away, Drake accelerated for the right sideline and absolutely burned the Bills for a big gainer. His speed is hard to match. But he’s really more of a complete back than advertised. Later, Drake showed exceptional burst on an outside toss. And showed toughness on an inside, goal-line touchdown. In this game, Drake was underutilized as a runner, though he again showed to be a dangerous receiver.

    This Bills defensive back thinks he has a good angle on Kenyan Drake. Yeah – not so much.

  4. Kiko Alonso seemed tentative and isn’t making the impact he did last season. Kiko Alonso has speed. And toughness. And the ability to make game-changing plays. But it hasn’t happened for him as often this season as last. On Sunday, the Bills went after their former linebacker in the passing game. On the very first play of the game, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor identified Alonso in loose coverage on fullback Patrick DiMarco, and hit him for a 6-yard gain. Alonso seems at his best when chasing players sideline-to-sideline. But when he’s in open space, opposing teams seem to find him. After a broken play on a third down in the first quarter, Alonso was unable to stay with LeSean McCoy (who he was once traded for) and the running back caught a pass for a conversion. Later in the drive, Alonso was tied up by a tight end during a 12-yard rush. Alonso played a very good game against the Patriots last week, but this game did not live up to that standard. According to Pro Football Focus, Alonso was targeted 8 times for 7 completions for 71 yards and allowed 2 missed tackles against the Bills. In the second quarter, Alonso threw a shoulder at a running back after a catch that failed to end the play as the Bill continued on his path. The worst moment for Alonso came with less than a minute to play in the first half. After a screen to McCoy, the Bills running back cut to his left, leaving Alonso off-balance and overrunning the play, allowing 10 more yards to be gained.

    LeSean McCoy was asked about “juking” Kiko Alonso and said: “It’s not the first time.”

  5. EXTRA POINTS. Speaking of linebackers, neither Lawrence Timmons nor Stephone Anthony shined in the area of pass defense… DeVante Parker had an important catch on a 50-50 ball, but still doesn’t seem like a dangerous red zone threat… Cutler showed some courage in this game, hanging in the pocket and taking shots to the sternum and other assorted areas in order to make a few key completions. Cutler also showed some nifty agility, which may or may not serve him in whatever he chooses to do next season… Reshad Jones tried to strip Charles Clay on a third down, when he had a chance to stop him short of the marker. He must secure the tackle first. He missed and Clay gained an extra 14 yards… T.J. McDonald is showing he will be a good signing. But it’s easy to forget that if he intercepts a pass that goes through his hands, and takes it for a Pick 6, the entire complexion of the game may turn Miami’s way. It was not an easy play, and McDonald is still shaking a bit of rust, but… When the Dolphins give up a touchdown where a receiver prevents a receiver from working through a screen, it’s called a well-executed “rub” or a “pick.” Ask Jarvis Landry. Too often when Miami does it, it seems it’s called a “penalty.”… That was a tough hands-to-the-face penalty on Xavien Howard, but he had a sack, several nice plays in coverage, and a key tackle for loss near the end of the game. Howard’s late-season growth is one of the most positive storylines of the 2017 Dolphins season… Why do so many of Cutler’s bad plays seem like not only bad plays, but extremely demoralizing? Maybe it’s because there have been too many memorable plays where it seemed Cutler didn’t give his teammate a decent chance.

5 Miami Dolphins Snap Conclusions from loss at Bills

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Miami Dolphins: Why Kenyan Drake had only six carries in the second half

What did Miami Dolphins’ Xavien Howard make of key fourth-quarter penalty call?

Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jesse Davis: A Buffalo Bill hit me in the face

Jarvis Landry: Official ‘didn’t want nobody to talk to him’

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