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AFC East Report: Dolphins miss playoffs on final weekend of the regular season

Related: Patriots vs Jets recap: New England ends 2020 season with a 28-14 win

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The NFL’ 2020 regular season action is in the books, which means that it is now also time for a new edition of the AFC East Report and for a look back at what happened in the New England Patriots’ division in Week 17 — from the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets finishing their seasons in perfect fashion, to the Miami Dolphins missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker.

Let’s dive straight in.

1. Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Week 17: 56-26 win over the Miami Dolphins, in Orchard Park NY

The Bills had already locked up the AFC East title and their spot in the playoffs, but they still played to win versus the visiting Dolphins on Sunday. And win they did, in quite impressive fashion, to secure their best regular season record since 1991 — a year Buffalo won the conference and advanced all the way to the Super Bowl.

The game did not start well for the team, though. Buffalo’s offense turned the football over to end its first possession, with Josh Allen throwing an interception that set up a Miami field goal drive. It took until the second quarter for the team’s offense to get into a rhythm. However, this allowed the Bills to take their first lead of the day when Josh Allen connected with Isaiah McKenzie for a 7-yard touchdown.

After the defense forced another Dolphins punt, Allen and McKenzie again hooked up for a touchdown — this time from 14 yards out to put their team ahead 14-3. The McKenzie show was still not over, though: just four plays after the touchdown and following a Miami three-and-out, the fourth-year man returned a punt 84 yards for his third score of the day.

Miami did reply with another field goal to make it two-possession game again shortly before the half, but the Bills’ train just kept rolling: it took Allen and company just four plays and 44 seconds to cover 75 yards and add another touchdown when the former first-round QB hit John Brown for a 32-yard score. Up 28-6 at the half, Buffalo then decided to pull Allen from the game and insert Matt Barkley at quarterback.

Barkley had to start the second half on the sidelines, though, and instead watch Miami score its first touchdown of the day. His first possession, meanwhile, ended with a punt. Momentum did not stay on the Dolphins’ side for long, however, as Josh Norman registered an interception on the very next play and returned it 16 yards for a Buffalo touchdown. More picks followed in the third quarter — Barkley threw one, Dean Marlowe caught one — before running back Antonio Williams put the Bills up 42-13 with an 18-yard touchdown run.

Marlowe then registered another pick one play later to set up Williams’ second score of the day, this one from two yards out. Miami added another touchdown, but following yet another takeaway — Harrison Phillips recovered a fumble — Matt Barkley and Gabriel Davis put the finishing touches on an impressive win: they connected for a 56-yard touchdown on the very next play, to put Buffalo up top 56-19.

The Dolphins scored one more garbage time touchdown to finalize the score, but Buffalo still ended the regular season with a blowout win.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

2. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

Week 17: 56-26 loss to the Buffalo Bills, in Orchard Park NY

The Dolphins’ mantra heading into the regular season finale was easy: win and you’re in. However, Brian Flores’ team was unable to deliver — in part because of breakdowns on defense and special teams, and in part because of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looking just like the rookie he is.

Before Miami’s quest at making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 fell apart, the team actually started the game in Buffalo well. On Byron Jones registered an interception on the game’s opening drive to set up a 49-yard Jason Sanders field goal. The Dolphins then forced a punt on the following drive but managed to add to their lead, eventually falling behind 7-3 in the early second period.

From that point on, things started to go downhill.

The Dolphins gained just one first down on their next possession before having to watch their opponent drive 88 yards in under three minutes to add to its lead. Following a three-and-out by Tagovailoa and the offense, Miami’s special teams unit then surrendered an 84-yard punt return touchdown. Within a little more over a minute of game time, the score went from 7-3 to 21-3.

Even though the Dolphins were able to add another field goal inside the two-minute warning, their defense followed it up by surrendering a 75-yard touchdown drive in just 44 seconds.

Down 28-6 coming out of the half, Tagovailoa and company finally started to build some rhythm: the unit drove 75 yards in nine plays to come within 15 points on a 1-yard, Myles Gaskin touchdown. And when the defense then forced a punt, things slowly seemed to turn Miami’s way again. Just one play later, however, momentum was gone.

A Tagovailoa pass intended for DeVante Parker was intercepted after the wide receiver had fallen down, and returned 16 yards for another Buffalo touchdown. Down 22 points midway through the third period, the game and playoff hopes seemed to move out of reach despite the Bills already having inserted their backup quarterback at that point.

Miami then turned the football over three more times on its next three drives: a turnover on downs was followed by two more Tagovailoa interceptions. A Xavien Howard pick in between was therefore for naught, with the Bills instead going up 49-13 as a result of the giveaways. Salvon Ahmed scored another Dolphins touchdown late when he burst through the line for a 16-yard score, but another turnover — Mack Hollins lost a fumble — set up another Buffalo TD.

Tagovailoa and Malcolm Perry did connect for a 25-yard touchdown late in the game, but it was already decided at that point. As a result of its 56-26 loss, Miami fell to 10-6 on the year and eventually out of the playoff picture as the AFC’s eighth seed.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. New England Patriots (7-9)

Week 17: 28-14 win over the New York Jets, in Foxborough MA

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To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (2-14)

Week 17: 28-14 loss to the New England Patriots, in Foxborough MA

Final Score: Patriots 28, Jets 14

Patriots 28 Jets 14: A Fitting Ending

To watch highlights of the game, click here.