Bills beat Dolphins, damage Miami playoff hopes
Orchard Park, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The Miami Dolphins controlled their postseason destiny entering Sunday's action, but a second loss to the Buffalo Bills and backup quarterback Thad Lewis has put those playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
Fred Jackson ran for 111 yards with a touchdown, Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals and the Buffalo defense came up with a season-high seven sacks in the Bills' 19-0 triumph over the Dolphins on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Lewis, whose lone career win came in a 23-21 victory at Miami in Week 7, was back under center with rookie EJ Manuel sidelined by a knee injury. The Duke product threw for 193 yards with an interception for the Bills (6-9), who were coming off a win at Jacksonville last week and have captured two in a row for the first time this season.
"We're going to build on this and get after it next year," said Bills coach Doug Marrone.
Miami (8-7) had won three straight entering the contest, including a 24-20 victory over New England last Sunday. The Dolphins could have reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008 by simply beating the Bills and Jets in their final two games.
The Dolphins' loss also gave the Patriots the AFC East crown.
Ryan Tannehill had a miserable day for the Dolphins, completing just 10-of-27 passes for just 82 yards while under constant pressure from a Buffalo pass rush that leads the league in sacks. He left the field for a series in the fourth quarter after the sixth sack of the day and Matt Moore had Miami's only big play of the day with a 50-yard pass to Brian Hartline.
"We didn't play well, we had no rhythm on offense, we didn't have a lot of first downs, we didn't protect the quarterback, we didn't convert first downs," said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, beginning a list of complaints.
The Dolphins were trailing 13-0 with 11 1/2 minutes remaining when Tannehill limped to the sideline with a knee injury. Moore's second pass went to Hartline for the long gain, but his next throw was behind Charles Clay and intercepted by Jim Leonhard.
Carpenter converted the turnover with a 22-yard field goal with 6:43 remaining for a 16-0 lead. He added a 26-yard kick with 2:26 left after the Dolphins turned it over on downs deep in their own territory.
Moore again replaced Tannehill on Miami's final series and was again picked off to end the Dolphins' wretched performance. Miami managed just 103 total yards, including 14 on the ground, and converted only 2-of-14 on third down.
Buffalo racked up 390 total yards and held the ball for more than 36 1/2 minutes with an efficient ground game that totaled 203 yards. C.J. Spiller added 77 rushing yards for the Bills, whose defense now has 56 sacks to top the old team record of 50 set during a 14-game season in 1964.
"They were outstanding," said Marrone about the Bills' defense. "It was an honor to be on the sideline and watch those guys perform."
The Dolphins took themselves out of possible field goal range on their second possession with a delay of game penalty and a sack, but pinned Buffalo inside its own five with a punt. Lewis, though, found Robert Woods along the left sideline with a 57-yard pass to set up a Carpenter 45-yard field goal to give the Bills the early lead.
After a series of punts left Buffalo with the ball at its own 43, Lewis directed a nine-play drive for a touchdown. A 24-yard pass to tight end Lee Smith on 2nd-and-13 ignited the series and Jackson converted 3rd-and-1 with a run of two yards early in the second quarter before scoring from the nine on the next play to make it 10-0.
Lewis had the Bills on the march again after a third consecutive Dolphins three-and-out, but Nolan Carroll came up with an interception at the Miami 26 and Tannehill finally got his unit across midfield for the first time since midway through the first quarter. However, facing third down at the Buffalo 36, Tannehill was sacked for the fourth time in the contest to force a punt.
Miami punted after each of its seven first-half possessions and mustered a meager 56 total yards of offense. Things didn't get much better in the third quarter with two possessions, two punts and a total of six yards.
The second punt pinned Buffalo at its own five and it appeared as though Miami forced a three-and-out, but a hands to the face penalty gave the Bills a fresh set of downs. It also kick-started a 19-play march that ate more than nine minutes off the clock and ended with a 21-yard Carpenter field goal for a 13-0 lead with 12:01 remaining.
The Bills swept the Dolphins for the first time since 2007 when Miami was 1-15 ... Buffalo came away with its first shutout since a 23-0 win over Washington on Oct. 30, 2011 ... Miami was last blanked in a 28-0 loss to New England in the 2012 season finale last December ... The Bills shut out the Dolphins for the first time since a 21-0 triumph on Dec. 17, 2006 in western New York ... Jackson eclipsed 5,000 yards rushing for his career, joining O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas as the only Bills to reach the milestone ... The Miami defense has produced at least one takeaway in each game this season ... Miami coach Joe Philbin lost a challenge for the first time in seven tries this season when video review failed to overturn a play ruled inbounds near the sideline ... Bills rookie wide receiver Marquise Goodwin left the contest in the first quarter with a knee injury and Woods was ejected in the third quarter for throwing a punch ... Buffalo was already without top receiver Stevie Johnson, who missed the game after the death of his mother ... Miami wraps up the season next Sunday at home against the Jets, while the Bills close at New England.
12/22 20:01:15 ET