The Buffalo Bills are under pressure.
Pressure to win games.
Pressure to defend their first AFC East title since 1995.
Pressure to protect Josh Allen.
On Sunday, the Bills (0-1) visit the Miami Dolphins (1-0) in a key division battle.
The Bills have won five straight games in their series against the Dolphins, but — even though it’s early in the season — there’s a sense of urgency for Sunday’s matchup.
That’s because the Bills lost 23-16 to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday.
Allen was pressured 24 times, making it a dreadful day for Buffalo’s offensive line. He was also sacked three times, and he fumbled twice, losing one.
There were also six penalties called on Buffalo’s offensive line, including four that were accepted.
“I’ve got to play better,” said Allen, taking the blame. “I know that.”
Allen was the toast of Buffalo last season, passing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns. This past Sunday, Allen completed 30 of 51/ passes for 270 yards and one touchdown. He wasn’t intercepted, but the Bills had issues on special teams and along their entire offensive line.
Buffalo blew a 10-0 lead, and it was a blocked punt for a touchdown that allowed the Steelers to finally take the lead in the fourth.
As for Buffalo’s blockers, the lowest grades assigned by Pro Football Focus went to guards Jon Feliciano and Ike Boettger.
The Bills were stopped twice on fourth down in Sunday’s second half, and they also lost the aforementioned Allen fumble.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins — who are listed as 3 1/2-point favorites on Sunday — are coming off a 17-16 win over the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins recovered two Patriots fumbles, including one at Miami’s 9-yard line with just 3:31 left in the game. Miami led by just one point at the time that Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard recovered that fumble, and that turnover denied the Patriots a shot at taking the lead.
“We needed the ball,” Howard said. “I made it happen.”
Howard led the NFL in interceptions last year, and he keys Miami’s defense.
“He’s a great player,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said.
Offensively, the Dolphins are led by a pair of former Alabama stars: second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.
Tagovailoa completed 16 of 27 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown with one interception against the Patriots. Waddle, Miami’s first-round pick, caught four passes for 61 yards and one touchdown in his NFL debut.
With his speed, Waddle averaged 3.6 yards of separation against the Patriots. Last year, the Dolphins ranked next-to-last in the NFL (2.96) in that statistic.
Tagovailoa targeted Waddle six times last Sunday. Tagovailoa’s passer rating during those targets was a near-perfect 157.3.
Those two players had a good connection while at Alabama, but it has grown now that they are pro teammates.
“His biggest improvement is his communication,” Tagovailoa said of Waddle.
On the sideline, Waddle is now telling his quarterback what he sees and where he wants the ball on the next throw.
“He’s not asking,” said Tagovailoa, who has encouraged this communication. “He is telling me.”
Besides Waddle, Tagovailoa’s other big target is 6-3 receiver DeVante Parker, who has nearly 2,000 yards in receptions the past two years.
Miami also used backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett as a runner on Sunday, gaining a crucial first down on a third-and-1 play.
But not everyone was impressed with the Dolphins.
“That’s what Tua (does),” Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson said when asked about Tagovailoa’s interception. “If he doesn’t have his first read, he’s just going to throw the ball up.”
–Field Level Media