MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins have been torched, tortured and tormented by Buffalo Bills star quarterback Josh Allen long enough.
On Sunday, the Dolphins finally slowed Allen down and ended their losing ways against the Bills.
The Dolphins survived two late drives by Allen and the Bills to escape with a 21-19 victory at home, and end a seven-game losing streak against the two-time defending AFC East champions.
The Dolphins can say it’s just one win.
They can say improving to 3-0, while the Bills fell to 2-1, is just another part of their end goal and mission this season.
They can deflect about their upcoming short week, where another opportunity awaits in Cincinnati against the Bengals on Thursday night to start Week 4.
But don’t confuse the Dolphins’ reserved comments for how they really feel.
This Dolphins’ win over the Bills is cathartic beyond measure. And it could be a spark they need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, a potential playoff berth for just the fourth time in the last 20 years.
“We would fight, but we would end up getting beat pretty bad,” Dolphins safety Eric Rowe said of Miami’s first win over Buffalo since Dec. 2, 2018.
“It feels great. It shows our character and what we’ve been preaching since the springtime, and we finally get to show it. This is who we are.”
“I think it meant something to everybody,” added first-year Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel after his first win over Buffalo.
McDaniel is the Dolphins coach tasked with leading the franchise’s rebuilding process into the next phase. Call it: Beating the Bills.
After 20 years of being endlessly haunted by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the evil Patriots empire, the Dolphins were poised to finally get past New England in the AFC East.
There’s only one problem.
The Dolphins allowed the Bills to not just pass them, but overlap them during the last two seasons.
Allen has transformed into one of the NFL’s best performers and he proved so again, even in this loss.
Sure, the Bills fell short to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs during the postseason each of the last two years.
But the Bills, not the Dolphins, were in position to experience a long postseason run where the Super Bowl was a fathomable thought.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the star player expected to lead Miami through this transition, played his part to reverse Miami’s misfortune.
Tagovailoa – a year after the Bills sidelined Tagovailoa for several games due to a rib injury in Buffalo’s last trip to Miami – returned to this game from an injury and delivered. He cleared concussion protocol after a push from Bills linebacker Matt Milano caused him to injure his back and his head just before halftime.
Tagovailoa completed a 45-yard strike to receiver Jaylen Waddle to attack a depleted Bills secondary to set up Dolphins running back Chase Edmonds’ 3-yard touchdown run to give Miami a 21-17 lead with 10:05 left in the game.
“For us, this is what we believe,” Tagovailoa said after completing 13 of 18 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.
“We believed in each other. We believed in ourselves. It might be new to a lot of the people that are watching, but for us… We just trust each other, go out, and play football.”
Tagovailoa’s stat line lends more to the nature of this game.
The Dolphins defense survived the sweltering South Florida heat to defend Allen and slow the Bills after 90 plays together on the field Sunday.
Allen was 42 of 63 for 400 yards with two touchdown passes, and eight carries for 47 yards in the game. He touched the football 71 times during the game.
But when the Bills trailed late, they gave the Dolphins all they could handle in the final quarter.
Allen and the Bills reached the 1-yard line, but a pass to receiver Isaiah McKenzie was uncharacteristically short.
The Dolphins nearly ruined their victory when Thomas Morstead’s punt out of his own end zone hitteammate Trent Sherfield’s rear end.
And even after the Dolphins’ "butt-punt," which it became affectionately known as afterward, Miami was still able to keep the Bills from getting into field goal range.
After a 12-yard completion that would’ve played Buffalo inside the 40-yard line, time expired.
And the Dolphins, and their fans, started their celebration.
This Dolphins' win doesn’t catapult Miami into Super Bowl conversation just yet like the Bills remain in.
It doesn’t make the Dolphins a lock to reach the postseason, either.
It’s a nice 3-0 start, and 2-0 record in the AFC East. And it’s okay to take it one game at a time as the season unfolds.
But the Dolphins officially freed themselves, even if it’s just one game, from the stranglehold the Bills had in this division behind Allen’s stellar play and Buffalo’s excellent coaching.
And that relief could provide the Dolphins more than enough encouragement as this season continues.
“It was a great win. It was an awesome, gritty, gritty win,” Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “But our goals are bigger than going 3-0 and beating the Bills. This is just a steppingstone to where we want to go.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dolphins' wins vs. Patriots and Bills show team is AFC East threat