The Buffalo Bills snapped the longest current non-playoff drought in North American pro sports, making the postseason for the first time since 1999. They avoided elimination by beating Miami Dolphins 22-16, and clinched an AFC wild-card berth minutes later when Cincinnati rallied past Baltimore.
Buffalo (9-7) will travel to face Jacksonville and former Bills coach Doug Marrone on Sunday.
The Bills’ joy was tempered by the loss of 1,000-yard rusher LeSean McCoy with a right ankle injury. He was carted off the field in the third quarter, and was in a walking boot and tears after the game.
“Hopefully it’s not as bad as it seemed,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said.
The frustration of a disappointing season got the best of the Dolphins (6-10) with 6:21 left, when receiver Jarvis Landry, running back Kenyan Drake and offensive lineman Jake Brendel were ejected following a fight . Landry was cited for disrespecting an official, and Drake for throwing his helmet 20 yards in anger. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called against both teams.
The undisciplined Dolphins, who came into the game with the second-most penalties in the NFL, had 14 for 145 yards.
Meanwhile, for the Bills, 17 seasons of frustration ended.
The Dolphins scored a touchdown with 1:56 left and recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Jordan Poyer’s interception sealed the win.
Taylor went 19 for 27 for 204 yards and one score. In six games against Miami, he has 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
For the Dolphins, the season finale had the feel of an exhibition game, with thousands of empty seats and David Fales giving a lengthy, unimpressive audition as a potential backup quarterback in 2018.
Fales took over after Jay Cutler left the game after Miami’s first offensive series. Fales ended up going 29 for 42 with 265 yards, a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Landry, and an interception.
Landry was Fales’ favorite target Sunday – finishing with game highs in in receptions (9) and receiving yards (92). Drake led the Dolphins with 75 rushing yards on 14 carries – both also game highs.
Miami was eliminated a week ago and will sit out the playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine years.
“I guess it’s a little perplexing,” defensive end Cameron Wake said.
– Associated Press