Relapse by Dolphins' D shows permanent fix won't be easy

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Just when it appeared the Miami Dolphins had turned a corner and put their terrible performances behind them, the team's defense was shredded by Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills in a 37-20 defeat. It was a return to their woeful September ways and a disappointing step back after a strong month of progress.

The Bills' offense had its way in nearly every facet of the game, and it was alarming just how many holes Buffalo was able to expose in the Dolphins' defense. Sunday's game showed that despite some positives, a permanent fix won't be easy and likely won't come until after the 2019 season.

Allen had the best game of his sophomore season, beating the Dolphins with his arm and his legs. He totaled 313 yards and four touchdowns with a 117.7 quarterback rating -- the highest of his career.

Tackling was a prime issue, but others reared their heads, such as coverage busts and failed run-gap fills, being outmuscled in the trenches and simply being beaten in one-on-one situations.

Progress isn't a straight line, and Sunday's loss doesn't erase the small signs of good that this team has shown. But the Dolphins' defense took a huge step backward.

So the Dolphins (2-8) erased talk of their being winless with two consecutive victories, but they were snapped back to reality Sunday, when they looked like just a regular bad team.

Troubling trend: The Dolphins' horrors on both sides of the run game were more eye-opening than ever. Miami had 23 rushing yards, its fewest since its 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. In contrast, the Bills ran for 168 yards on a 4.9 yards-per-carry average.

Running back Kalen Ballage is having a rough season, and his struggles continued with nine rushes for 9 yards, though he did add his third rushing touchdown. Ballage continued to dominate the running back reps, and this backfield needs to change something it is doing to get better production.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Containing John Brown. Too often the Dolphins had one-on-one coverage on one of the NFL's fastest receivers, and he made them pay for it. Brown had a season-high 137 receiving yards on nine catches and two touchdowns.

When the Dolphins did give help on Brown, Allen was able to find the zone or Brown was able to separate to get open. The Dolphins no longer have a No. 1 cornerback with Xavien Howard on injured reserve, so moving forward, they have to do a better job of covering the other teams' top threat.

Silver lining: Special-teams magic. The Dolphins recovered a surprise onside kick in the second quarter. Entering Sunday's games, teams were 1-of-29 on onside kicks. (The Bears had the lone recovery.) The Dolphins and kicker Jason Sanders -- who recovered the ball -- got the season's second successful recovery.

Miami recovered two other onside kicks this season, but they were offside both times. The special-teams magic didn't stop there, as Jakeem Grant returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He is the Dolphins' all-time leader in kick/punt-return touchdowns with four.

The Dolphins are the 12th team since at least 1991 to recover an onside kick and return a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game.

DeVante Parker also had a career-high 135 receiving yards in the loss.