MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Josh Allen walked toward the thousands of Bills fans who made their way to South Florida for the weekend, waving his arms as they showered him with postgame cheers.
It felt like home.
And that’s where surging Buffalo will be next weekend. The Bills are AFC East champions for the fourth straight season and the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.
“What a resilient group,” said Allen, who threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Dawson Knox midway through the fourth quarter to rally Buffalo past the Miami Dolphins 21-14 on Sunday night.
“So proud of our guys,” Allen continued. “They battled their tails off. The final couple of drives I felt we found a groove on the offensive side of the ball. The ball was coming out of my hands the best all year.”
Allen made things difficult with three turnovers in Miami territory, but he finished with 359 yards and two touchdown passes for the Bills, who didn’t clinch a playoff berth until Tennessee beat Jacksonville earlier Sunday. Buffalo will host seventh-seeded Pittsburgh in the wild-card round next Sunday.
The Bills were 5-5 in mid-November and faced long odds just to make the playoffs. They fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey after a Week 10 collapse against Denver. From there, they won six of seven — including five straight to close out the season.
Miami, which made the playoffs with its Week 16 win over Dallas, fell to the sixth seed and will play at AFC West champion Kansas City on Saturday night.
“We’re going to have to come in tomorrow, we’re going to have to watch the film, see things we can get corrected and then move on,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “It’s a short week. We know that and it’s going to be a tough road game for us.”
The Bills dominated time of possession and outgained Miami by nearly 200 yards, but offensive miscues in the first half stalled their momentum. Buffalo trailed 14-7 before Deonte Harty returned a punt 96 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
“I blacked out,” Harty said afterward. “I can’t tell you what happened. I’d just seen a crease. I hit it. And the next thing you know, I was free.”
Buffalo then forced a three-and-out, and Allen directed an eight-play, 74-yard drive, capped by his 5-yard toss to Knox with 7:16 left.
“Give all the glory to the Lord,” said Knox, whose late brother, Luke, played football at Florida International University less than 30 miles from Hard Rock Stadium. “I’m just thankful that my number was called but I think anyone in here when their number was called, they stepped up tonight.”
Miami had one last chance, but Taylor Rapp intercepted Tagovailoa on a pass intended for Chase Claypool with 1:13 left.
Allen finished 30 of 38 and was intercepted on back-to-back drives to open the game. He squandered another scoring chance when he completed a pass to Ty Johnson short of the goal line at the end of the first half, allowing time to expire.
Another promising Buffalo drive in the third quarter ended when Allen was strip-sacked by Christian Wilkins.
Tagovailoa finished 17 of 27 for 173 yards with two interceptions. He had a 3-yard touchdown throw to Tyreek Hill in the second quarter and finished with an NFL-best 4,624 yards passing. Rookie running back De’Von Achane’s shifty 25-yard score in the second quarter put Miami ahead 7-0.
Hill, finished with seven catches for 82 yards, bringing his league-leading total to 1,799. He celebrated his 13th touchdown of the season with a back flip in the end zone four days after firefighters put out a blaze at his South Florida home.
Both teams were sloppy early.
Buffalo safety Christian Benford undercut Tagovailoa’s pass intended for Hill to end Miami’s opening drive. Then, Dolphins cornerback Eli Apple intercepted Allen in the end zone on Buffalo’s first possession to halt a 12-play, 79-yard drive.
Allen had entered the game as one of the league’s most turnover-prone quarterbacks with 14 interceptions, and he had another one on Buffalo’s second drive on a fourth-down heave across his body. Dolphins safety DeShon Elliott came down with it.
But Miami’s offense fizzled as Buffalo forced four punts and a turnover down the stretch. The Dolphins closed the season with two straight losses and now will face a Chiefs team that beat them 21-14 in Germany in Week 9.
“It’s a team game,” Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “If the other side is struggling, we have to do even more to help them get in position to make plays. We have to find a way to play complementary ball.”
Bills: WR Gabe Davis left in the second quarter with what appeared to be a non-contact left knee injury and did not return. … LB Tyrel Dodson left with a shoulder injury. … CB Rasul Douglas (knee) left in the second quarter. … RB Ty Johnson did not return after halftime because of a concussion.
Dolphins: Elliott pulled his calf in pregame warmups but played through it. … LB Andrew Van Ginkel left with a foot injury in the third quarter and did not return. … LB Cameron Goode was carted off the field with a leg injury early in the fourth quarter.
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