The Dolphins struggled with clock management often Sunday afternoon, with one particular misstep sinking them late.
With Miami down three and 3:26 to play, the Dolphins gave the ball on 3rd-and-1 to running back Salvon Ahmed. He wasn’t able to get back to the line, forcing a 4th-and-1. At that point, the Dolphins had no choice but to go for it, but after letting a whopping 58 seconds come off the clock, they still took a delay of game penalty as they struggled to get organized.
After moving back five yards they were unable to convert on the fourth down chance, giving the ball back to Buffalo, which ran out the clock for the 34-31 win.
It was an inexcusable, season-deciding gaffe. Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said after the loss there were a few variables at play that caused the problem.
“There were compounding variables,” McDaniel said. “There was some crowd noise that had to do with miss-hearing the digits on the wristband. There were some issues within the huddle of communication and getting to the line of scrimmage. …
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“The last one in particular had to do with, whether it was officials or coaching, there was some communication that we had gotten the first down, so we were deploying a group of players for the 1st-and-10 call, and it was articulated that, no, it was fourth down. …
“It was communicated to me from upstairs from the headset – I think. I was standing by an official. I had just gotten convicted information that it was a first down, so I don’t really know exactly who it was from. It’s probably the first time all year that it happened. So, you try to do your best.”
In any event, that situation could have been avoided had Miami not blown through all their timeouts earlier in the half over similar mistakes.
The Dolphins can be commended for hanging around with one of the league’s best despite playing with a third-string quarterback. However, in the end it might’ve been the self-inflicted problems -- not a talent disparity -- that ultimately ended Miami's season.