There are losses. There are ugly losses. And then there is the Dolphins' loss on Sunday that causes migraines, induces vomit and makes you look out the back window for Biblical locusts all because of one play.
One awful play. One season-changing play. One play that crystallized year-long issues of pass protection, quarterback turnovers, coaching decisions, roster building and even caused a small commotion afterward in the locker room as right tackle Tyson Clabo professionally blamed himself.
"I got beat," Clabo said after the Dolphins' 23-21 loss.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- Video: Dave Hyde and Omar Kelly on 'embarrassing' loss to Bills
- Box score: Miami Dolphins 22, Cincinnati Bengals 20 OT
Poll: What do you blame most for the Dolphins' loss to Buffalo?
- Report Card: Dolphins' offense fails to hold up its end
- 5 things we learned from Miami Dolphins' loss to Buffalo Bills
- Photos: Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins
- Ryan Tannehill
- Thaddeus Lewis
- Tony Sparano
See more topics »
He got beat by Buffalo's Mario Williams, the hottest pass rusher in the game. Beat with three minutes left. Beat with the Dolphins leading, 21-20. Beat for the second time in the fourth quarter and a league-leading eighth time for a sack this season.
"He's a big, strong guy and came at me with power," Clabo said.
"Why do something else when you've got the power game, works best?" Williams said, smiling, outside the winning locker room.
But as much as this play centered on Clabo, it's not all about him. It's not that easy. You had the statistically-best pass rusher matched up against the statistically-worst pass protector, one-on-one, with the game on the line.
Shouldn't he have been helped? A running back chipping Williams? A tight end double-teaming him? Something?
"You can't give somebody help all game long," Clabo said. "It's just not schematically possible. With the way it worked out, I'd say it was 70-to-30, help-to-no-help for me."
Here's where they also lead the league, besides sacks: Quarterback fumbles. That came into play, too. Ryan Tannehill was starting to throw when Williams saw the ball and, "I went right for it," he said.
Tannehill lost the ball. Buffalo recovered at the Dolphins' 34-yard line. That led to Dan Carpenter's winning field goal with 36 seconds left. That also was Tannehill's sixth fumble on the year (he also had two interceptions on Sunday).
So Tannehill isn't blameless here. It's easy to play the result and blame the play call of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. It's too easy to say they should have run the ball with a one-point lead, punted and dared Buffalo quarterback Thaddeus Lewis to beat them.
For years, Dave Wannstedt and Tony Sparano did just that. They were booed out of the stadium for doing so. This is Tannehill at quarterback, too. This is the guy you have entrusted the keys to the franchise.
"We had a great look to throw the ball," he said. "They had an eight-man box and we liked [our] matchups on the outside."
Don't you allow him to try to seal the win? Besides, don't get carried away with the Dolphins' defense being able to contain Lewis. This added to Sunday's misery. Lewis was Pat Devlin on the practice squad a few weeks ago.
But even with two injured running backs, Lewis still beat up the Dolphins defense for 202 yards passing and a healthy 47-percent conversion rate on third downs (compared to the Dolphins 23 percent conversion rate).
"Right to the end, we were moving the ball to put us in better range for the field goal to win it,'' Lewis said.
No, the second-guess isn't with the microcosm of the play call. It's with the macrocosm of that play. It's how the Dolphins still can't solve the protection issues that haunt this season.
This brings in General Manager Jeff Ireland, too. When you need to fill so many holes in one off-season through free agency, you're bound to swing and miss.
Ireland backed up his decisions at cornerbacks with draft picks. Finding a right tackle was tough, just as it has been since Vernon Carey retired a few years ago. Remember Marc Colombo?
Clabo was a hope that isn't working. Eight sacks are enough evidence. As he was a pro and talked Sunday after the game, offensive line coach Jim Turner walked into the media crowd saying, "All you're talking about are two plays. He played a good game. It's not just two plays."
Loyalty is praiseworthy. But that second sack still changed the game. It changed the season, really. The Dolphins are 3-3 now, still haven't solved some glaring problems and there's a hint of locusts in the air.