The Miami Dolphins’ loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday was their most normal game of the season, which is to say that it was their least interesting. The circus came to town, but nobody fell from the trapeze or was mauled by a bear. The Dolphins showed up, gave the fans a game, lost, packed up, and got ready to move onto the next town.
Free of context, the Bills’ 31-21 win was as average an NFL game as could exist, save for Buffalo’s Micah Hyde snaring an onside kick in the air and running it back for a touchdown like he was the only player on the field. There were no particularly explosive plays or egregious mistakes. The Bills drove down the field when they needed to, the Dolphins did not. When Miami needed a stop on third-and-7, Cole Beasley caught a pass for eight yards. You can close your eyes and picture the fourth quarter—Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a furiously doomed comeback—even if you did not watch this game. (Hopefully you did not watch this game.)
This was all wonderful for the Dolphins, whose main objective is to lose inconspicuously. They want to do the things a normal franchise does, like celebrating the performances of their players or holding press conferences where they aren’t repeatedly asked if they are losing games on purpose. They are desperate to shed the context, but it’s impossible for the rest of us to do that, and in that gap the typical machinations of an NFL franchise begin to produce what is essentially political propaganda.
Take this video the Dolphins tweeted out on Tuesday. It’s the exact sort of useless chum thrown overboard by every NFL team—in this case something called #DolphinsDaily, sponsored by, for some reason, Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Narrated by an account executive in business development/human shield, the video begins like this: “While Sunday’s loss in Buffalo to the Bills was a tough one, it continued to show Coach Flores how this group doesn’t quit, that it’s a locker room full of competitive and motivated players, focused on improving and making progress.” So, there you have it: the troops are happy and motivated.
Line: Bills by 17
Margin: Bills by 10
Miraculously, every Dolphin comported himself with something nearing utmost dignity on Sunday. No Bills player gained more than 83 yards, and Josh Allen barely threw for 200; the Bills had three more penalties than Miami and only one more sack. The one exception is cornerback Bobby McCain, who spit on one guy and threatened to spit on a kid. This is extremely rude, as living in Buffalo is hard enough.
I’m not sure you would exactly call the Dolphins’ offense “good” on Sunday, but you wouldn’t say it was bad, either. Miami’s top two receivers, DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, combined for 11 catches, 137 yards, and a touchdown. Yes, that is the production of one good receiver, but this is the Dolphins, and it all happened on pretty much one cornerback. That cornerback was not Tre’Davious White, who was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after picking off a pass and forcing a fumble. It was the other guy. I’ll let this Bills fan have the final word, because he came at the problem from an angle of positive thinking:
We mark the years by losses in Buffalo.