Melvin Ingram does not want to hear anyone ever suggest the Miami Dolphins let someone score — not after the way he and his defense have stood up at the goal line against two of the best quarterbacks in the league in the last two weeks.
There was, essentially, no margin for error on this one Sunday in the final few minutes against the Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen and his Bills got all the way down to the Dolphins’ 1-yard line at the two-minute warning. They were literal feet away from delivering Miami a heartbreaking loss at Hard Rock Stadium and they had three chances to get them.
A quick touchdown would guarantee the Dolphins, who were down to their last timeout, would get some sort of real chance to string together an answer, but there was no hesitation: They were going to try to win the game right there.
“We stand on business,” Ingram barked, when asked about the idea of letting them score and then he repeated it three more times. “We stand on business.”
Said coach Mike McDaniel: “They were not giving up.”
The first play went backward when linebackers Elandon Roberts and Jerome Baker snuffed out a run by Allen. The second ended with Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard swatting away a pass intended for Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs. On fourth-and-goal, Miami did just enough to force Allen into a slightly off-balance throw and his pass bounced before it got to Buffalo wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie.
One week after staging a goal-line stand against superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, another one was the biggest sequence for the Dolphins to beat the Bills, 21-19, in Miami Gardens.
It wasn’t the only key sequence for this defense, though. The Dolphins (2-0) gave up 38 points in their win against the Ravens last weekend and spent the entire week thinking about their chance to rebound against Allen and Co.
There was a common thought Miami-Buffalo would be a shootout — it had the highest over-under total of the week, as high as 54 1/2 combined points, according to VegasInsider.com — and yet the Dolphins won with defense.
“We’re trying to put it on the defense,” cornerback Nik Needham said. “We’re happy to have it on us.”
Miami sacked Allen four times and hit him 10 times. Safety Jevon Holland got to the star quarterback for a strip sack in the first quarter and Ingram jumped on it at the Bills’ 6 to set up the Dolphins for an early game-tying touchdown.
Allen threw 63 passes — tied for the 13th most in a single game in NFL history — and the Dolphins’ secondary mostly stood up to it, breaking up nine of them. Although Allen threw for 400 yards, his leading receiver was running back Devin Singletary and he came up short on two chances at a game-winning drive in the final two minutes.
Miami won despite managing just 212 total yards and running only 39 plays. The defense was on the field for 40:40.
Ultimately, the win came down to two stops.
The first was the goal-line stand and it came via contributions at all levels of the defense: Roberts and defensive lineman Christian Wilkins stuffed Singletary for a 1-yard gain on first down, two linebackers dropped Allen for a loss on second down and then Howard won his 1-on-1 matchup with Diggs on third down, sticking with the star wideout for five full seconds — an inordinate amount of time for a goal-line play.
“It’s just the character, it’s about who wants it more,” linebacker Jaelan Phillips said. “It’s a 1-on-1 competition every single play and it’s either him or me, so that’s the guys that we have on that team.”
Finally, the Dolphins escaped when Allen uncharacteristically short-armed a pass to an open receiver.
The Miami Gardens crowd erupted, but the Dolphins’ defenders knew they probably weren’t done. After a safety, Buffalo (2-1) got the ball back at its own 23 with 1:25 left and a field goal now enough to win.
“We knew we were going to have to get out there and then stop them again,” Phillips said, “so we were just ready for the opportunity where it came and just fanatical effort all around.”
Even though Allen went 4 of 7 for 46 yards on the final drive, Miami did just enough to keep the Bills from a game-winning attempt. One deep shot to Diggs fell incomplete when Holland decked him as the ball arrived, and another to Buffalo wide receiver Gabe Davis hit the ground after Needham reached it and ripped it away.
Allen’s four completions went for 18, 9, 7 and finally 12 yards and then there was a scramble drill. McKenzie couldn’t get out of bounds on the final catch and the clock winded away.
The crowd counted down the final seconds. Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey smashed his tablet in the coaches’ box. Buffalo ran out of time.
Miami’s defense held one last time.