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Tagovailoa leaves early with rib injury as Dolphins shut out at home by Bills, 35-0

·4 min read

The Dolphins left their 35-0 blowout defeat at home to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday with much more pressing issues than an embarrassing loss and 1-1 record.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left early in the first quarter with a rib injury after absorbing a hit from Buffalo defensive end A.J. Epenesa on an incomplete fourth-down pass attempt. Tagovailoa had trouble walking upright and lay on the ground at Hard Rock Stadium for multiple minutes before eventually making his way to the team’s bench. Shortly afterward, Tagovailoa was carted back to the locker room and listed as questionable to return. He was eventually downgraded to out and never returned to the game.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores did not have an update on the severity of Tagovailoa’s injury after the game but NFL Network reported that X-rays were negative and Tagovailoa bruised his ribs.

It was the first of many tough blows for Miami, which lost its sixth consecutive game to its divisional rival and was shut out for the first time since Sept. 15, 2019, a 43-0 loss to the New England Patriots.

Cornerback Xavien Howard said the mood in the locker room was like a “funeral” after the Dolphins’ margin of loss to the Bills widened to 91-26 in the teams’ past two matchups, which includes the 56-26 Buffalo blowout win in Week 17 last season.

“I’ve got to do a better job of getting us ready to go,” Flores said. “That wasn’t the case today.”

The Dolphins defense extended its streak of forcing turnovers to 24 games with a pair of first-half takeaways but wasn’t able to compensate for an offense that couldn’t finish drives after the early exit from Tagovailoa.

“It was a rough day for us,” right guard Robert Hunt said of the offensive line. “ … We’re a young line and we’re trying to improve. … But we can’t keep saying that s---. We’re working to be better and we will be better.”

Miami committed nine penalties, tied for the most in the Flores era; the Dolphins also committed nine in their 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in September 2019, Flores’ first game as head coach.

The Dolphins offense remained steady with Jacoby Brissett, who completed 24-of-40 passes for 169 yards and an interception, but the game-ending hit to Tagovailoa was emblematic of issues for the offensive line all afternoon. Buffalo sacked Miami quarterbacks six times and registered 12 hits.

“We got a lot of protection issues,” Flores said. “I know they were up on the line of scrimmage. When they weren’t, we still had some issues.”

Five of the Dolphins’ first-half drives ended past midfield and four finished within the Bills’ 40, but Miami got no points to show for it. Miami was 0-for-4 on fourth down and unable to convert three opportunities in the red zone into points.

Tagovailoa, who finished 1-for-4 with 13 yards, was sacked twice on the Dolphins’ opening possession, forcing a three-and-out. The Bills scored two plays later on a 46-yard run by Devin Singletary to take an early 7-0 lead.

On the following possession, the Dolphins went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Buffalo 48 but Tagovailoa’s pass was incomplete, and he left the game after taking the hit from Epenesa, who came off the right side of the offensive line unblocked.

The Bills scored on the following possession, a 5-yard, across-the-body touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Allen to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, to push the lead to 14-0.

Allen completed 17-of-33 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

A forced fumble by linebacker Jerome Baker and subsequent recovery by rookie safety Jevon Holland gave the Dolphins their best starting field position of the game at the Buffalo 42 late in the first quarter. However, the drive quickly ended after Brissett was intercepted by cornerback Levi Wallace.

On its ensuing possession, Miami got within the Buffalo 11, but wide receiver Jakeem Grant fumbled on a third-down catch, which the Bills recovered at their 11.

Howard flipped the field back to the Dolphins with a diving interception at the Buffalo 24; however, a fourth-and-2 run at the 16-yard line by Malcolm Brown was stopped short, leaving Miami again with a fruitless drive.

Despite the injury to Tagovailoa and a litany of mistakes, the Dolphins went into halftime down just 14-0.

Buffalo widened the gap in the second half, scoring on three of its first four possessions after halftime, as Allen’s record against the Dolphins improved to 6-1.

“They just really came ready to play. They started fast. We didn’t,” defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “We work really hard every day at practice. We’ll just make the corrections. Twenty-four-hour rule in the NFL. Win or lose, 24 hours, flush it, got to get better and make the corrections for next week.”

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