Dolphins miss chance to clinch after 56-26 loss to Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills placed an emphatic stamp on their breakout season with a 56-26 rout of Miami on Sunday in a game the Dolphins could have clinched a playoff berth with a win.

Miami’s postseason hopes now rest on whether the 1-14 Jacksonville Jaguars can upset the Indianapolis Colts later in the day. With a win or a tie, the Colts would clinch a playoff berth and eliminate Miami.

The Dolphins (10-6) didn’t get results they needed to clinch their third playoff berth in 18 years, after Cleveland beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore routed Cincinnati.

Allen threw three touchdown passes and Isaiah McKenzie scored three times, including returning a punt return 84 yards, in a game Buffalo blew the game open by scoring on four consecutive second-quarter possessions.

With the win, the Bills (13-3) clinched the AFC’s No. 2 playoff seed in completing a season in which they matched a single-season record for wins, set in both 1990 and ’91, and won their first East Division title in 25 years.

Allen finished 18 of 25 for 224 yards passing in playing just the first half before being replaced by Matt Barkley to start the third quarter. Allen upped his total to 4,544 yards passing, to eclipse the team’s single-season record of 4,359 set by Drew Bledsoe in 2002.

Buffalo’s 56 points were the second most in team history, and two shy of the record set in a 58-24 win over Miami on Sept. 18, 1966, when the two were members of the American Football League. The Bills also finished the season with 501 points, a franchise best in topping the record of 445 set in 1991.

Nothing went right for the Dolphins in what proved to be an utter collapse in all three phases.

Rookie Tua Tagovailoa finished 35 of 58 for 361 and three interceptions, the first of which Josh Norman returned 16 yards for a touchdown to put Buffalo up 35-13 midway through the third quarter. He was also intercepted twice by Dean Marlowe.

The Dolphins’ rookie closed the season with a 6-3 record, and didn’t have Ryan Fitzpatrick to bail him out as the veteran backup did in rallying Miami to a last-second 26-25 win at Las Vegas last weekend. Fitzpatrick didn’t travel with the team after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

After Myles Gaskin capped the Dolphins’ opening drive of the third quarter with a 1-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 28-13, Miami’s next four drives ended with Tagovailoa throwing three interceptions — one more than his season total — and turning the ball over on downs.

The Dolphins’ usually stout defense, which entered the game leading the NFL in allowing just 18.8 points per game, instead allowed the fourth-most points in franchise history, including the playoffs.

Miami opened the scoring with Jason Sanders’ 49-yard field goal, which came after Byron Jones intercepted Allen’s pass at the Buffalo 41.

The Bills went ahead on Allen’s 7-yard TD pass to McKenzie with 12:09 remaining in the second quarter, sparking a stretch in which they scored three times in a span of 6:47. Allen then completed the first half with a perfectly placed 32-yard pass to John Brown, who returned after missing five games.

Rookie running back Antonio Williams scored two TDs rushing in his NFL debut, a day after being called up from Buffalo’s practice squad.

Barkley went 6 of 13 for 164 yards, including a 56-yard TD pass to Gabriel Davis, and an interception.

DOUBLE-DIGIT PICKS

Dolphins CB Xavien Howard matched a single-season franchise record with his 10th interception by picking off Barkley in the third quarter. Howard matched the team record set by Dick Westmoreland in 1967, and became the NFL’s first player to have 10 interceptions in one season since Antonio Cromartie had that many with the Chargers in 2007.

STREAK ENDS

Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was inactive and had his streak of consecutive games played streak end at 149, which stood as the NFL’s second-longest active run among defensive ends behind New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan (159). Hughes had not missed a game since 2011, when he was with the Indianapolis Colts.

UP NEXT

Dolphins: Playoff hopes rest on Jacksonville defeating Indianapolis.

Bills: Opponent to be determined in preparing to host first playoff game since 30-27 loss to Jacksonville in wild-card round and Hall of Famer quarterback Jim Kelly’s final game on Dec. 28, 1996.

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