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Let’s choose to focus on the destination and not the journey. The Buffalo Bills defeated the Miami Dolphins 34-31 on Sunday afternoon to advance to the 2023 NFL playoffs. Next weekend they will host the Cincinnati Bengals or Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round of the AFC bracket.

The postseason is about survival and advancement, and that’s what the Bills did against a Dolphins team that Buffalo knows well. These two teams have met three times this season, and all three games have been decided by a field goal or less. The Bills-Dolphins rivalry, if it wasn’t already clear, is back in a big way.

Buffalo did a lot to contain an undermanned Dolphins team in this game. Josh Allen turned the ball over three times, including a touchdown early in the third quarter that gave Miami a 24-20 lead. The defense struggled to compete for stretches and gave up too many big plays through the air in key situations. A kickoff on special teams and a long punt return allowed gave Miami momentum after the Bills jumped out to a 17-0 lead.

It was also a very frustrating game to watch on both sides of the field. Miami dropped some big passes early in the game to miss early opportunities to make it close, and Buffalo would return the favor in the second quarter. More sloppy play followed. The game saw a total of five turnovers and despite the high final score, the teams honestly left more points on the field.

In the end, though, it was Buffalo’s big play that saved the day. Allen threw for 352 yards, ran for 20 more and had three total touchdowns. Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis each had 100-yard receiving days, combining for 13 receptions for 227 yards, with Davis’ game-winning touchdown reception coming in the third quarter. Despite giving up some plays, the defense sacked Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson four times, recorded seven tackles for loss, broke up 10 passes and sacked Thompson twice. They also recorded a key fourth-down stop late in the game with Miami trying to drive for the game-winning field goal.

This was not pretty. Mercifully, beauty is not a prerequisite to winning a football game, and the Billers have found a way to win ugly. They live to play another week and that’s enough for now.


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