ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Miami Dolphins, riding the hot hand of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, had won three straight and were in the hunt for a playoff berth.
The Buffalo Bills had been eliminated from playoff contention for the 14th consecutive year and were without their starting quarterback and leading receiver.
One team seemingly had everything to play for, while the other team seemingly had nothing to play for.
So what happens?
The team with everything to play for loses decisively to the team supposedly playing out the string.
Fueled by the defense's seven sacks, Fred Jackson's 111 yards rushing and Dan Carpenter's four field goals, the Bills crushed the Dolphins 19-0 on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Buffalo improved to 6-9, while Miami dropped to 8-7 and limps home to face the New York Jets with Tannehill nursing a knee injury suffered early in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins need help from other teams, or will miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
"They out-played us,'' said Miami coach Joe Philbin. "I wish I had a better answer. If I had a better answer, I would have stopped it. But they clearly outplayed us at the line of scrimmage. That's where football starts, and they played well. Give credit to them."
The Bills indeed dominated at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. In addition to their flurry of sacks, they limited the Dolphins to 14 yards on 12 carries and allowed Tannehill and Co. to convert just two-of-14 third downs. Miami punted on 10 of 13 possessions. Two other series ended with interceptions.
Tannehill entered the game as one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks. He had completed 68 percent of his passes for 843 yards and eight touchdowns, while throwing only two picks, in his previous three games. Against Buffalo, he was 10 of 27 for 82 yards.
"I'm proud of the way we went after it,'' said Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who now has 10 1/2 sacks after two Sunday. "People say you don't have anything to play for when you've been eliminated from the playoffs. But we're professionals. If there is a game, there is something to play for. And today we treated this like it was our playoff game."
First-year Bills coach Doug Marrone couldn't have been more proud of his team, especially his defense.
"It was an honor to be on the sidelines and watch those guys perform,'' he said.
Jackson, the veteran leader who has played much of the season on a bum knee, recorded his 15th 100-yard rushing game. Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson are the only Bills backs with more.
"He just continues to amaze me, the way he goes about his business,'' Marrone said. "We took him out during the week, to rest him a bit. He's taken some good shots this year. ... I'm not sure (others with a similar injury) could go out and perform like that. I give him a lot of credit and I admire him for that. That's not an easy thing to do -- to play with that type of injury."
Running back C.J. Spiller chipped in with 77 yards as the Bills rushed for 203 yards. Spiller also had 26 receiving yards.
Thad Lewis, filling in for injured Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, improved to 2-2 as a starter with his second victory this season against Miami. Lewis was 15 of 25 for 193 yards.
What the Dolphins said
"It's pretty disappointing because we were looking forward to trying to make a run to the playoffs. (We) still have a little hope. We'll just see how everything unfolds." -- Left tackle Bryant McKinney.
What the Bills said
"We only got one more game, so we're going to go out there, give it our all and play like we did today." -- Defensive end Jerry Hughes.
What we learned about the Dolphins
1. Ryan Tannehill was due to get hurt at some point, given the pounding he has been taking this season. The Dolphins quarterback was sacked seven times Sunday and has been sacked 58 times this season. He wound up having to leave early in the fourth quarter after hurting his knee on a sack. He did return for a series, but didn't complete a pass the rest of the game before heading to the sidelines for good.
2. Dolphins punters love kicking in Buffalo. Brandon Fields continued that tradition Sunday, booming a 74-yarder and a 67-yarder and pinning six kicks inside the 20 -- the most coffin-corner punts in a single game in the NFL since 1976. Dolphins punters Reggie Roby and Matt Turk hold the two longest punts in franchise history -- 77-yarders -- and both were kicked in the Bills' home stadium.
What we learned about the Bills
1. Mike Pettine has made a big difference in the Bills' defense. Buffalo's new defensive coordinator has unleashed a variety of exotic blitzes and has put his defenders in positions to make big plays. This year's defense has set a franchise record for sacks (56) and is among the NFL leaders with 22 interceptions.
2. Fred Jackson is the Bills MVP. The veteran running back leads by example. Despite suffering a knee injury that would have sidelined most others, he continued not only to play -- but to play well. He has a team-leading 856 yards rushing to go along with 333 receiving yards
By Scott Pitoniak, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: December 22, 2013 06:54:21 PM
Dolphins-Bills: What we learned
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