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ORCHARD PARK — The Miami Dolphins are carrying a three-game losing skid now and it’s possible to be quite depressed about that because they obviously have trouble winning on the road.
But there was something different about Saturday night’s 32-29 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
There was something about this loss that offered a ray of sunshine amid the swirling snow inside Highmark Stadium.
“We had a very good performance against a very, very good team,” coach Mike McDaniel said afterward.
“That is night and day from the football we’ve played since the bye. Had we played like that for the whole season, we’d be feeling a lot different because it wouldn’t be the third loss in a row.”
Dolphins Improve On Offense Against Bills
The Dolphins have indeed lost those three games but this was different because it wasn’t decided until the end. The previous games at San Francisco and the Los Angeles Chargers didn’t offer that kind of intrigue.
The offense showed.
A running game that had struggled in San Francisco and was completely absent in Los Angeles was the tip of the spear in Miami’s attack against the Bills. The Dolphins rushed for 188 yards against the NFL’s fifth-best run defense.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, subpar in the losses out west, also recovered this game. He threw 2 TDs and avoided any turnovers.
And Tagovailoa was able to combine with Jaylen Waddle on a 67-yard touchdown pass — the kind of lightning bolt pass play that was mostly missing the past couple of games.
So the Dolphins left the stadium with the same unacceptable result this game. But they didn’t leave with the same awful feelings.
McDaniel said his players instead maintain a “high resolve and determination to finish the season off right.”
Tua Tagovailoa Rebounds For Dolphins
Tagovailoa was more pragmatic in assessing the loss. It was a loss, he said.
“I think we performed how we think we can,” Tagovailoa said. “But regardless of that, it sucks losing. Regardless of how much stats our guys had offensively or defensively, we lost so, none of the guys in there really care.
“If I threw four interceptions and we came out with a win, the guys would be excited. I would be excited, but also disappointed at my performance, but just the grand scheme of things we’re in this business to win.”
Winning might be in closer reach if the Dolphins somehow fielded a more stable defense. The last couple of weeks that unit has faced a rookie seventh-round pick in Brock Purdy, and two elite quarterbacks in Justin Herbert and Josh Allen.
And all three have played well against Miami.
Allen lit up the Dolphins with 4 TD passes.
Bills Josh Allen Torches Dolphins D
And that’s a problem if the Dolphins hope to stop the bleeding and find some wins their final three games.
But even that reeling defense forced the Bills to punt their first four possessions of the second half and then forced a turnover on the fifth possession to help Miami get back in the game.
“I’m very proud of the way our leaders stepped up in this game,” Tagovailoa said. “In the biggest moments and the crucial moments in this game our leaders made big plays. I think our team is taking a step in the right direction.”
Here’s a step the Dolphins must take to correct course:
Apparently guys take bad plays to much to heart and aren’t moving on to the next quickly enough. That’s a problem.
“There’s in-game stuff we want to improve on,” McDaniel said. “Where when someone makes a play the next play you’re not down. You’re ready to compete for the next play. I think we let some plays snowball for some of the game.”
The Dolphins have an 8-6 record. Not bad. But not good enough.
They have work to do.
“We came back home with three losses,” Tagovailoa said. “Why in this game did we come out with a loss? What can we do to get better from this loss to improve our chances to win? I would say I’m a very optimistic person. I like to look at all the good that our team has displayed tonight against a very tough divisional opponent.”