Five unbeaten NFL teams played Sunday. Only two picked up wins. The Bills, Buccaneers and Chiefs all fell in Week 3, losing their three games by a combined seven points. Each loss was meaningful. Winning saved the Colts' season, put the Dolphins in the catbird seat in the AFC East and claimed what might be a crucial tiebreaker for the Packers in the NFC playoff picture down the line.
The three losing teams will be fine in the big picture, but these were the first signs of weakness for teams that had won their first six games by a combined score of 182-75. Let's break down those three losses, try to make sense of what happened and get a sense of whether other teams will be able to attack those same weaknesses or soft spots in the weeks to come.
We'll start with the battle in Miami, where the Dolphins outlasted their rivals to become the AFC's only 3-0 team:
If you could have showed the broader box score of this game to a Dolphins fan without any of the scoring information, they might have gone to the beach Sunday. The Bills outgained the Dolphins 497 yards to 212. They picked up 31 first downs to Miami's 15. Buffalo had drives of 10, 14, 17, and 20 plays, converted more than 60% of its third downs and held the ball for nearly 41 minutes. None of that seemingly would add up to a Dolphins victory.
All true, and the Dolphins won anyway. Football is not about yardage or drive length or time of possession. It's about points, and when the Dolphins got in position to score, they scored touchdowns. They created a short field with a Josh Allen strip sack and scored a touchdown. They had two drives of more than 21 yards and scored touchdowns on both of them, too. They went 3-for-3 in the red zone and needed every one of those points to win.
The Bills were not quite as efficient. Allen & Co. made four trips to the red zone but scored only two touchdowns. They added a field goal and turned the ball over on downs after failing on four plays inside the 2-yard line in the fourth quarter. They got another chance to win when Dolphins punter Thomas Morstead booted a punt directly into personal protector Trent Sherfield's body for a safety, but their attempt to get into field goal range came up short.
First, an aside: As embarrassing as it is to assault your own teammate with a high-velocity football, Morstead's subsequent free kick helped win the game for the Dolphins. Morstead's 74-yard kick after the safety helped pin the Bills at their own 23-yard line, giving them less-than-exciting field position for the final drive of the game. The Bills eventually advanced as far as the Miami 43-yard line before committing a holding penalty and then running out the clock. If they started with 10 extra yards of field position and everything goes exactly the same, their drive ends up at the Miami 33-yard line, and they don't have to run another meaningful play before attempting a game-winning field goal. Morstead helped make that happen.
The Bills managed to execute the rare, ignominious double of running out the clock on themselves at the end of both halves. At the end of the second half, with time winding down, Isaiah McKenzie wasn't able to get out of bounds on a checkdown from Allen. Even if he had, Buffalo likely was staring at a 59-yard field goal, so while Tyler Bass is an excellent kicker, I'm not sure McKenzie staying in bounds cost it the game.
If anything, the way the Bills mishandled the end of the first half was more of a mess. After an Allen spike stopped the clock on the Miami 41-yard line with 15 seconds to go, he hit McKenzie for 7 yards. Another spike would have set up Bass for a 52-yard field goal, but he appeared to bobble the snap from backup center Greg Van Roten before throwing an ill-advised pass to Stefon Diggs in what amounted to a fake spike. The throw was nearly taken the other way for a pick-six, but Diggs instead ran upfield for a short gain to end the half.