Buffalo Bills center Mitch Morse did not play Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. The Bills lost that heartbreaking game in a way reminiscent of the Dallas Cowboys’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Game last season. In the event, Josh Allen threw a 12-yard pass to Isaiah McKenzie, who, exhausted by the heat and unable to break a tackle, failed to get out of bounds to stop the clock.
The result? The players could not prepare. A referee could not touch the ball. The game clock hit double zero before Josh Allen could kick the ball, stopping time and setting up Tyler Bass for a potentially game-winning field goal.
Disappointing? Yes. However, I believe that is not the reason the Bills lost that early season AFC East game.
A not-so-expert breakdown of what went wrong for Buffalo
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Bills had some challenges ahead. First, their entire secondary was full of players, with three starts between them. With Tre White still on the PUP roster and Dane Jackson sitting with a neck injury, rookie Cornerbacks Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford were going to have their hands full containing veteran speedsters Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. Safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde were also absent, leaving these rookies without a fully professional safety net.
However, the secondary did its job and shut down Hill and Waddle. Tyreek Hill was limited to two catches for 33 yards, while Waddle was limited to four catches for 102 yards. Neither player was a threat.
The scorching Miami heat (no, not the basketball team), however, was. When the Bills started the game, they had five key players inactive due to injury: Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, Jordan Poyer, Dane Jackson and Mitch Morse. At the end of the match, 17 players were injured.
With many offensive weapons worked on the sideline due to cramps and tackle Spencer Brown out of play due to heat illness, the Bills’ high-powered offense was surprisingly shorthanded. They needed to make the most of their scoring opportunities.
To the disappointment of long-suffering Bills fans, they didn’t. They were two to four in the red zone. Tyler Bass missed a field goal from 53 yards after Sean McDermott decided against going 4th and 4th.
This brings us to the last two possessions. The Dolphins are now up four and have the ball on their 2-yard line after the Bills flipped it in tryouts, and the Bills have two timeouts. After a -1 yard run by Raheem Mostert, the Bills use the first of their remaining timeouts. Then, after a winless run from Tua, the Bills use their last remaining timeout. Now, facing a 3rd-and-11 from their 1-yard line, the Dolphins called a pass play. Tua throws the incomplete ball and the clock stops. A break for the Bills.
Dolphins punter Thomas Morstead is now throwing from his end zone with no wiggle room. It’s blocked (well, not so much blocked as kicked in the butt of the member of his team). A security! Bills are now down two. With the free kick, they still have a chance. From their 23-yard line, they only need one basket to win.
Unfortunately, they never had a chance. Don’t worry, fellow Buffalo fans; I won’t bring it back to you, especially since I talked about it above. However, it leaves me wondering what would have happened if the punt hadn’t been unintentionally blocked. The Bills probably would have put the ball in midfield and needed a touchdown.
But I can’t change the result.
Biggest flaw: Center-quarterback trade
I admit it: several things went wrong for Buffalo. However, I think the main reason the Bills lost was because center Mitch Morse didn’t play. The Center-Quarterback exchange is arguably one of the most essential parts of football. In a game that can be summed up in millimeters and inches, the snap must be flawless.
With Mitch Morse injured in the elbow, Greg Van Roten was called upon to send the ball to Josh Allen. The lack of chemistry between the two was evident the entire match. The cliches were high; the shots were weak and late. Allen had to jump for the ball or mishandle the snap too many times, allowing Dolphins passers to force ill-timed throws.
For me, the game was just one game: the weird play at the end of the first half. The Bills were driving down and were within goal range. It looked like Josh Allen was going to hit the ball, stop the clock and give Bass a chance to throw a basket that would have put them 17-14. However, he mishandled the snap. Instead of spiked the ball, he threw it at Stefon Diggs. Diggs couldn’t get out of bounds or break free in the end zone (an eerie similarity to endgame).
By all accounts, the Super Bowl favorite Bills should have beaten the Dolphins. Josh Allen’s team had 497 yards to Miami’s 212. Additionally, the offense compiled 31 first downs. So on paper, this game shouldn’t have even come close. But, in reality, the Bills lost by two points. Two points that seem like a million when expectations are sky high.
In his post-match press conference, Sean McDermott said it best: “It was played out in the margins, and we didn’t do enough of that.”
They haven’t done enough. But without their starting center, they really never had a chance.