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5 Instant Takeaways: Miami Dolphins lose to Buffalo Bills, 31-28

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is sacked in the first quarter of Sunday's home opener against the Bills.

MIAMI GARDENS — The Dolphins fell to the Bills, 31-28, at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, falling to 0-2 both overall and in the AFC East.

Miami lost its home opener because it fell into a 17-7 hole in the first half, as the defense was crushed both on the ground and in the air. The Dolphins allowed a whopping 342 first-half yards.

The Dolphins recovered defensively at the start of the second half, but it was too little too late. 

Miami actually took a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. But passing touchdowns by Josh Allen to Gabriel Davis and John Brown sealed Miami's fate.

The Dolphins must get their defense in order. The Bills had scoring drives of 97, 84, 73, 75 and 71 yards. Buffalo posted more than 520 total yards.

With starting cornerback Byron Jones out with a groin injury, the Dolphins were forced to use rookie Noah Igbinoghene and Nik Needham. Both had tough games against the much-improved Allen. 

The game was delayed 36 minutes due to lightning at the start of the second half. There was also a power outage at Hard Rock Stadium that led to CBS being unable to air a portion of the broadcast.

Here are five takeaways from Sunday:

1. Miami's financial investment on defense will require greater dividends.

The Dolphins' star free-agent acquisition, Jones, was injured on the first defensive series of the game. And, he's been playing through an Achilles injury.

So, it wouldn't really be fair to blame Jones. But the Dolphins gave linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanual Ogbah $51 million, $30 million and $15 million contracts, respectively. 

And so far, those three have not created enough pressure, nor helped Miami's often-feeble attempts to stop the run. Van Noy has been playing through a hand injury; he forced a fumble after a long tight end gainer in the first half.

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But Lawson, the former Bill, and Ogbah can be much better. The Patriots and Bills have both taken it up the gut and around the edge too often with ease.

It stands to reason that Miam's defense will improve as the season moves along. There are a lot of moving parts. A lot of new parts. A lot of inexperienced parts. And a first-time play-caller in defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mike Gesicki rebound.

After a very poor game at New England, veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick rebounded against the Bills.

Fitzpatrick faced a bit more pressure in this game, but he hung in, battled, and fired with confidence to his receivers and tight end Mike Gesicki, who had a breakout game.

For at least another week, the calls for rookie Tua Tagovailoa to start should be quelled. Early in the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick led a drive, capped by a Jordan Howard touchdown, to take a 20-17 lead.

Gesicki had one of the best catches you'll ever see, reaching up high and behind his head and snagging the ball with his right hand. Gesicki also posted a career-best game with a touchdown and 130 yards receiving.

With the Bills missing two starting linebackers, Gesicki took advantage of the matchup and the middle of the field. 

Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin (37) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, September 20, 2020.

3. DeVante Parker plus Preston Williams can be lethal.

Parker played in this game, despite being questionable and limited throughout the week due to a hamstring injury. And he looked really good.

Parker is Fitzpatrick's top target for a reason. He can attack all three levels of the field. He is equally proficient on slants, sideline routes and deep posts.

The Dolphins really caught a break with Parker being able to return to action so soon after missing the second half at New England.

Parker caught a touchdown on a short slant to cap a drive that featured a deep completion to Preston Williams. Unfortunately, in the third quarter, on fourth-and-goal, Williams was unable to hold onto a short slant from Fitzpatrick that would have been a touchdown.

Still, these two complement each other so well. If Miami can keep both healthy for most of this season, it gives the quarterback a chance to move the ball on any drive.

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4. Chan Gailey trusts Myles Gaskin.

Gaskin followed Jordan Howard in Miami's running back rotation for the second consecutive game, ahead of more-heralded Matt Breida.

And after a very solid training camp, Gaskin continued to prove why he is deserving of reps. Not only is Gaskin Miami's primary third-down back, but he opened the second half as a starter, too.

Gaskin, a former seventh-rounder, is quick and tough and a good receiver. He is also a competent blocker. 

This does not mean that at times this season first-year offensive coordinator Chan Gailey won't lean on Howard's toughness and Breida's speed. It just means Gailey sees something special in Gaskin, the former Washington standout. And that's not a bad thing. 

5. Matt Haack shined. 

Well, if the Dolphins punt a lot this season, they would seem to be in pretty good feet. Haack boomed four punts for 222 yards in the first half on Sunday, including a 63-yarder. Haack placed three of those punts inside the Bills' 20-yard line.

Kicker Jason Sanders also connected on field goals of 52 and 45 yards. The Dolphins had turnover up and down the roster this offseason, but there is a reason they stuck with the very solid Haack and Sanders, not even bringing in any training-camp competition.

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