ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- For a pleasant fall afternoon, a legion of Buffalo Bills fans were reintroduced to the uneasiness of the Ryan Fitzpatrick experience again -- this time with the veteran quarterback playing on the opposing side.
In the Miami Dolphins' 31-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills (5-1), the full Fitzpatrick experience was on display. That means big-play throws to power an underdog to a lead, elusiveness in the pocket to keep drives alive, and of course, the untimely turnover that puts an end to all the fun.
Coach Brian Flores' decision to bench Josh Rosen in the place of Fitzpatrick because he believed the veteran gave him the best chance to win seems sound after Sunday's game. Fitzpatrick, who played for the Bills from 2009 to 2012, looks the quarterback who can give Miami (0-6) a chance at a victory. He also adds the most unpredictable excitement for a team otherwise immersed in weekly struggles.
Fitzpatrick delivered a beautiful 35-yard pass to Preston Williams on his second offense drive that led to a touchdown -- a taste of magic. He later nailed DeVante Parker on the money for a go-ahead second-quarter touchdown -- a full helping of magic. Down two scores with two minutes left in the game, Fitzpatrick scored on a 12-yard rushing touchdown after lowering his shoulder on Bills safety Micah Hyde to get into the end zone -- a bunch of reckless magic.
There was an almost tangible energy surrounding Fitzpatrick and his teammates, but the juice seems to often run out this season and Sunday was no different.
For better or worse, Fitzpatrick, who threw for 282 yards and a touchdown Sunday, makes this team more fun. He also is sure to scare Dolphins fans who are rooting for losses in order to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft (which, by the way, Miami is still on track to secure that pick).
This was the Dolphins' best performance of the season, a sign of their fight in a hostile environment and an indication that a win could be on the horizon. But for now, the winless Dolphins trek on.
Buy/sell on a breakout performance: I'm buying Mark Walton as the Dolphins' lead running back going forward. Walton got his second consecutive start for Miami, rushing for 66 rushing yards -- a single-game season-high for all Dolphins backs. Walton has taken advantage of his opportunity -- averaging 4.7 yards per carry -- and seems like a good bet to continue demanding touches whether Kenyan Drake is traded by the Oct. 29 deadline or not.
Pivotal play: With a 14-9 halftime lead, the Dolphins' first of the season, Fitzpatrick led a 16-play drive that chewed up 9 minutes and 59 seconds. A touchdown would have put Miami up two scores on a reeling Bills team, but Fitzpatrick threw a goal-line interception to Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White.
The Bills then went 98 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, and never relinquished the lead. That drive set the tone for the second half -- a half in which Miami was outscored, 22-7. The Dolphins have now been outscored 113-20 in the second half this season.
Silver lining: The Dolphins haven't quit. They have shown that weekly, and this is a much improved team over the bunch that got embarrassed by the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots to start the season. The Dolphins held a lead for only 3 minutes and 43 seconds of game action over their first five games. Sunday in Buffalo, Miami led for 26 minutes and 44 seconds. Progress?