ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The season is spiraling out of control for the Miami Dolphins.
Thursday's 19-14 loss at Buffalo is the latest example of how badly things are going. Miami (4-6) started the season so much promise with its 4-3 record and three-game winning streak. But it's now on a three-game losing streak. And the roughest part of the schedule – games against Seattle and San Francisco and two games against New England -- is coming.
The troubling thing is Buffalo (4-6), by most accounts, is a bad team. The Bills entered the game on a three-game losing streak. Factor in last week's 37-3 loss to Tennessee (4-6) and the Dolphins have now lost consecutive games to bad teams.
The Dolphins cut their deficit to 19-14 with 8:42 left in the game after quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit wide receiver Davone Bess on a 2-yard touchdown pass. The play would have been ruled an incompletion had coach Joe Philbin not thrown his red protest flag and got the call reversed.
Then came winning time, and the Dolphins, who finished with 184 yards of offense, failed miserably.
Miami got the ball with 4:42 left and faced the daunting task of driving 99 yards after Buffalo punter Shawn Powell booted one 52 yards to the Dolphins' 1-yard line.
Tannehill drove Miami to the 32-yard line by two-minute warning. But his deep pass to Bess was intercepted by Jarious Byrd, who dove to catch the ball at the Bills' 35-yard line with 1:54 left.
Buffalo was forced to punt and the Dolphins got one final chance to record a come-from-behind victory, taking over at their 16-yard line with 1:24 left. Tannehill hit Bess and then Rishard Matthews to drive Miami to Buffalo's 47. But a 17-yard completion to Brian Hartline was eliminated by a pass interference call against Hartline. That put Miami at its own 42-yard line.
Then disaster struck again. Tannehill, who now has six touchdowns and 11 interceptions, was intercepted by linebacker Bryan Scott trying to hit Bess over the middle.
Tannehill put together back-to-back ugly games for the first time this season. He finished 14-for-28 passing for a pedestrian 141 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He had a passer rating of 46.9. Last week he had a three-interception game and a 42.2 passer rating in the 37-3 loss to Tennessee.
Of course, Tannehill didn't get any help from the running game. Miami finished with 60 yards rushing after rushing for just 12 yards on eight carries in the first half. Thursday marked the eighth time in 10 games the Dolphins have failed to rush for 100 yards. Reggie Bush ended with 20 yards on 10 carries.
This was a comedy of errors for Miami from the start.
Buffalo took a 19-7 halftime lead based largely on big plays and big penalties. The Bills had nine plays of 10 or more yards in the first half. Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll had a regrettable starring role in the first half disaster. He had three penalties for 51 yards – a 31-yard pass interference, a 15-yard pass interference three plays later, and a five-yard illegal contact. He got called for a five-yard holding penalty in the fourth quarter, raising his penalty total to 56 yards.
Bills kicker Rian Lindell booted four first-half field goals (32, 34, 42, and 19 yards) to provide the bulk of the offense for Buffalo, which entered on a three-game losing streak.
The Bills started out hot. Punt returner Leodis McKelvin returned the game's first punt 79 yards down the sideline for a touchdown and 7-0 lead. It was Buffalo's first punt return touchdown against Miami since 1966.
Dolphins running back Marcus Thigpen's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown cut Miami's deficit to 10-7. But that was it for the big plays.
Miami hosts Seattle next week.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun