My first US NFL experience @ Miami Dolphins – by Andy Moore (@ajmoore21)

I saw Jay Cutler’s last NFL throw live, in person. It was 3rd and 7 from the Miami 28-yard line. Cutler dropped back to pass, went through his progressions and threw towards Kenny Stills. E J Gaines almost picked it off.

I’d been to every NFL game in London from 2014 onwards, but this was my first game in the US. Week 17 2017, Hard Rock Stadium, the 6-9 Miami Dolphins hosting the 8-7 Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins were clearly done for the season but the Bills could still secure a play-off berth with a win on New Year’s Eve.

The night before we had attended the Orange Bowl, Miami vs Wisconsin and witnessed freshman Jonathan Taylor rush for 130 yards in a 34-24 win for the Badgers in front of a capacity crowd.

It was a lot different the next day, a sparse crowd knew that Miami would largely field a team of reserves and as such the Bills Mafia were prevalent all around the stadium. The tailgate wasn’t as raucous as the college crowd the night before, but it was still ten times better than NFL UK will ever put on in the car park of Wembley. A short walk from car park to the stadium saw hot dogs, burgers and bud lights pushed towards us with friendly smiles behind them.

After Cutler bowed out of the NFL in customary fashion, Tyrod Taylor got the Bills on the score board with a play action pass to a wide open Nick O’Leary. Buffalo’s scoring only continued and they were 22-3 ahead until Jarvis Landry and David Fales went into end zone to bring the final score to 22-16.

Landry and Kenyan Drake were ejected for fighting after the first of the 4th quarter touchdowns, finally getting the Dolphins crowd off their feet and matching the noise of their Bills counterparts. If you watch the post-game interview it’s quite clear that this was probably the final straw for Landry in Miami, with Adam Gase clearly fed up of his star wide-out’s behaviour.

However, the games biggest drama came after the teams had left the field. In the concourses around the ground Bills fans gathered to watch the final seconds of Cincinnati – Baltimore. They needed a Bengals win to send them into the post-season, but trailing 27-24 and Andy Dalton taking the snap on 4th and 12, it looked like the season was over. Dalton threw to Tyler Boyd who somehow took it to the end zone. Queue pandemonium.

The score may not have gone the way we wanted, but you simply can’t beat the experience of watching the NFL in the US with two sets of passionate fans. As for Cutler he probably went out and enjoyed the evening a lot more than I did whilst driving the six hours back to Orlando.

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