MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP)The Miami Dolphins still have work to do if they want to be the team to beat in the AFC.
They’ve shown this season that they can blow out teams and win close games, but they haven’t gotten past the division-rival Buffalo Bills, who have won the AFC East the past three seasons.
Buffalo handed the Dolphins (3-1) their first loss of the season Sunday in a 48-20 defeat that kept Miami from taking the lead in the division and exposed weaknesses that either weren’t there in Miami’s first three games or were hidden by its offensive firepower.
The Dolphins had outscored their opponents 130-71 and averaged 550 yards in the first three games of the season, but that high-powered offense was uneven Sunday both because of a tough Bills defensive front and because of self-inflicted wounds.
A number of pre-snap penalties stalled momentum. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said he needs to be better at communicating in the huddle, but coach Mike McDaniel said the penalties weren’t all Tagovailoa’s fault.
“Tua’s teammates need to know the ins and outs of their responsibilities,” McDaniel said, “and Tua can’t be in charge of getting everyone aligned.”
Without center Connor Williams, who was out with a groin injury, Miami’s offensive line gave up four sacks after only allowing one in the first three games. That unit could take another hit if starting left tackle Terron Armstead misses significant time. Armstead injured his knee in the second quarter.
Tyreek Hill was limited to 58 yards and three catches. He entered Sunday averaging more than 100 yards receiving per game.
It remains to be seen if Miami’s defense can carry it through a deep playoff run. That unit has struggled under new coordinator Vic Fangio and was shredded for 310 yards passing Sunday.
Tagovailoa said the loss is a wake-up call coming off a historic 50-point win over the Broncos in Week 3.
“These guys weren’t going to care what we did last week,” Tagovailoa said. “This is the league, and this is how it works. It’s very good, because I would say it’s also very humbling for a lot of people to be able to have the highest high and then you lose in a manner like this, it’s very humbling. For some, it’s much needed.”
The Dolphins have now lost 10 of their past 11 regular and postseason matchups against the Bills (3-1), who McDaniel said are “the team that our whole division is trying to beat.”
Miami will have to wait until the regular-season finale for a rematch. They host the Bills on Jan 7, 2024.
For now, McDaniel wants his team to turn its first adversity of the season into an opportunity.
“We are 3-1 and we play the New York Football Giants next week. Right?” McDaniel said. “So, that’s where we’re at. I think it would be a failure on anybody’s part on our football team to look at it more than that or less than that.”
Rookie running back De’Von Achane continues to make plays. He scored Miami’s first two touchdowns on runs of 3 and 10 yards and finished with 101 yards on eight carries. Achane, who had four touchdowns in Week 3, is only the fourth rookie since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have at least six touchdowns in a two-game span.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Miami’s pass rush has been uneven all season and did little to impact Josh Allen. They’ll need to find a way to get to the quarterback more consistently, especially with more dual-threat players such as Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson on their schedule.
LB Andrew Van Ginkel had five tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss filling in for the injured Jaelan Phillips (oblique). Van Ginkel has been Miami’s top pass rusher with three sacks this season.
The secondary. Second-year cornerback Kader Kohou struggled against All-Pro receiver Stefon Diggs, who had 120 yards receiving and three touchdowns with Kohou as the nearest defender. Kohou was flagged for defensive pass interference and illegal contact while covering Diggs.
With Kohou struggling, Fangio surprisingly did not move veteran cornerback Xavien Howard onto Diggs. In previous seasons, Howard spent time shadowing the opposing team’s best receiver, including Diggs. Under Fangio, Howard has stayed on the left side of the field.
Fangio said last week that the team could shadow an opponent’s best receiver at some point this season, but it’s not something they would do right now.
Armstead did not return after suffering a knee injury in the second quarter. He missed the first two games of the season with lingering back, knee and ankle injuries.
3 – The Dolphins converted 3 of 10 third down attempts and were 0-for-3 on fourth down.
The Dolphins host the New York Giants next Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl