5 instant takeaways: Buffalo Bills 22, Miami Dolphins 16

LeSean McCoy and the Bills had no trouble with the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS—Everybody had something better to do once this drab afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium finally ended.

The Bills go on to their first playoff appearance since 1999 after beating Miami 22-16 in a listless regular-season finale. For the Dolphins players, and everyone else at the game, at least there was the glow of New Year’s Eve to look forward to once they got out.

With Miami’s season now done at 6-10, here are five quick takeaways from a game—and a year—that was tough to watch:

1. Jay Cutler will be missed.
Not missed in the sense that anyone will be sad he left, just in the way that he won’t be here anymore. His time with the Dolphins, and perhaps as an NFL quarterback, ended fittingly with him throwing his final pass straight into the hands of Buffalo cornerback E.J. Gaines. Graciously, Gaines dropped it and allowed Smokin’ Jay to exit with a final line of 1 for 2 with six yards before David Fales replaced him.

It’s not fair to retroactively question a move that was logical at the time, but this just didn’t work out like the Dolphins or many covering them thought. Cutler’s one season ends with him in the bottom 10 in interceptions and passer rating. Miami needs to get much better and much younger at quarterback behind returning starter Ryan Tannehill.

2. Cameron Wake gets it done—again.
Remember that not-so-career-ending injury Cameron Wake suffered in 2015? He seems fine. Wake got a sack in the second quarter, making this his fifth double-digit year at 10.5. Only a dozen players have pulled that off at age 35 or older.

This guy is truly an all-time great and will rival Jason Taylor as the most fearsome pass rusher in franchise history if he sticks around long enough. The question is how much more of this he’s willing to endure. Last year’s 10-6 season with a brief playoff appearance was the best the Dolphins have done in his time here, and it had to have been vexing to play in another meaningless season finale today.

3. Quarterbacks treat Miami’s defense like a scout team.
The one thing that gives the Dolphins fits is pretty much any quarterback with a functioning arm.

A blend of all 16 passing performances against this team in 2017 would add up to a Pro Bowl selection. Coming into the finale, Miami was among the 12 worst teams in the league in opponent completion percentage (63.9), passer rating (94.3), passing touchdowns (25), interceptions (nine) and sacks (26). In 10 of 15 games, the opposing quarterback had a higher passer rating than he put up against the rest of the league.

Tyrod Taylor, in particular, loved facing the Dolphins this year. After lighting them up at New Era Field two weeks earlier, he went 19 of 27 for 204 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions today. Two of his top seven games of the year were against Miami.

4. Adam Gase did a great job last season. This year, he was just OK.
The Dolphins lost their starting quarterback in training camp and saw 14 other guys go on Injured Reserve over the course of the season, not counting two others who were placed on similar lists that ruled them out for the season. He had old, flawed quarterbacks in Matt Moore and Jay Cutler. He had an uncharacteristically loaded strenuous schedule. And at the end of all that, he went 6-10.

That’s about where any realistic person would’ve expected this to end up. Gase didn’t do any better or any worse than what was reasonable. He was average. Last year, when a million things went wrong and the team was 1-4, he was excellent and steered them to a playoff berth. He’s in no danger whatsoever at the moment, but next year will be tense if the team doesn’t take a step forward.

5. Both Dolphins coordinators should keep their job.
That’s not the easiest argument to make when the Dolphins finish in the bottom quarter of the NFL in points scored and points allowed. But Clyde Christensen and Matt Burke should get another season.

In Christensen’s case, by his own description, he’s essentially an advisor to Gase. He’s a calming influence and a sounding board for the man who calls all the plays. Gase needs that. A veteran coach’s presence is essential for him this early in his head-coaching career. As for Burke, he’s an up-and-comer in the profession and one season as a defensive coordinator isn’t enough to come to a verdict on him. He’s smart and he’ll get this fixed with some personnel changes and maybe some moves among the position coaches on his staff.

[Dolphins throw away strong seasons by five of their star players]

[Dolphins QB Jay Cutler says he won’t be a backup]

[A resurgence for Dion Jordan–and a warning for future Dolphins]

[Dolphins-Bills photo gallery]

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