Dolphins suffer tough loss to Bills in first division game

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Three season-opening wins have been followed by three straight losses — not exactly a trend that takes a team to the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins dropped their division opener with Sunday’s 23-21 defeat against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium.

That’s a home loss. In the division. Against a struggling team relying on a third-string quarterback. Following a bye week.

Not good.

“It’s very frustrating,” receiver Mike Wallace said. “It’s a division game, you always want to win division games. It was our first one, we needed to set the tone. We didn’t get it done. We gave it away.”

Nobody comprised more of the “we” than Ryan Tannehill.

The second-year quarterback threw two first-quarter interceptions, one returned for a touchdown that helped build a 14-0 Bills lead and another grabbed in the Buffalo end zone.

“We are in a tough spot right now,” Tannehill said. “Losing three games in a row is something no one wants to go through, but we are here. We have to face it. We have to face the adversity and grow from it.”

Tannehill’s fumble on Mario Williams’ late fourth-quarter sack helped set up former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter’s game-winning field goal with 33 seconds left.

“You don’t want to fumble the ball, but I’m in the middle of my throwing motion, so it’s tough to (hold onto the ball),” Tannehill said.

Lost amid the disappointing result was Tannehill’s career-high three scoring passes, including one in which receiver Brandon Gibson summersaulted into the end zone.

Bills quarterback Thad Lewis was sacked four times and Buffalo was held to 90 rushing yards after entering as the league’s third-best (148.8 ypg) running team. But the visitors converted 9 of 19 third-down plays, including one on the game-winning drive.

“When you lose like that — last second, last minute, last everything —  it’s tough,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said.

“Every loss hurts, but when you know it’s a division game, yeah, we have our backs up against the wall.”

The optimists (realists?), such as cornerback Dimitri Patterson, refused to sound the panic alarm in the losers’ postgame locker room.

“If this was Week 12, that’s a different story,” Patterson said. “But the fact we still have 10 more games left, everybody should be in the mindset that we can still get back on the right track and end this season on a positive note.”

Patterson apparently was listening when coach Joe Philbin addressed the team Saturday night.

“I told the guys, ‘In the NFL, it’s 17 weeks, 16 games, there’s ups and downs that most teams encounter along the way,’ ” Philbin said. “The teams that have great character and great chemistry and are able to overcome those downs are usually there, and I believe our guys are able to do that.”

The Dolphins’ next chance to show character and chemistry will be next Sunday at New England.

“It’s a good thing we have the Patriots coming up,” left guard Richie Incognito said, “because we’ll turn the page quickly.”

A loss in New England would mean an 0-2 start in the AFC East. With division record a playoff tiebreaker, that would be ominous.

“Right now, moving forward, guys just have to have the mindset that we’re going to try and put ourselves in the best situation to win our games and finish these games,” Patterson said, “to achieve what we want to achieve, and that’s obviously to get into the playoffs.”

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas.