Bills 23, Dolphins 21: Postgame takeaways & observations

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins’ season took an unwelcome turn against Buffalo on Sunday.

The Bills had come to town riding a two-game losing streak to play a game in 87-degree heat with a backup quarterback.

A team thinking playoffs doesn’t lose to a struggling division rival at home following a bye week, does it?

Buffalo led Miami 14-0 after the first 15 minutes, but the Dolphins didn’t panic. The Fins pulled within 17-14 at halftime and went on to grab a 21-20 lead that lasted until late in the fourth quarter.

That’s when Mario Williams had a sack and forced fumble of Ryan Tannehill. The turnover helped set up former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter’s 31-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining that gave Buffalo a 23-21 win.

Miami fell to 3-3. A trip to New England awaits next weekend.

Here are five takeaways from Miami’s loss.

1. Tannehill appeared to have recovered from a horrendous start, then …

Miami won the coin toss and chose to receive — a decision the Dolphins would have changed had they known Nickell Robey would make a pick-six of a Tannehill pass on Miami’s first possession.

Tannehill threw another first-quarter interceptionerception when he floated a would-be touchdown pass interceptionended for Brian Hartline that instead was picked off by safety Aaron Williams.

The second-year quarterback ended up 19 of 37 for 194 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 71.2.

2. Third down was not Miami’s friend.

The Dolphins were 0 for 7 on third down in the first half, and 3 for 13 overall.

In contrast, Buffalo converted 9 of 19 third-down tries.

It’s hard to win when you can’t sustain drives.

3. The Dolphins displayed a running game.

Miami entered the game ranked 29th in the league with 69.6 rushing yards per game.

Daniel Thomas ran for 60 yards on 12 carries (a 5.0 yards-per-carry average). Lamar Miller had 43 yards, with 30 of them on the first play of the Dolphins’ first touchdown drive.

The offensive line helped the running game and allowed no sacks through three quarters after entering with a league-high 24. Unfortunately for Miami, there were two sacks in the fourth and another that was negated by a defensive holding penalty.

4. The defensive front mostly did its job.

The front line pressured quarterback Thad Lewis, even with defensive end Cameron Wake playing only in third-down packages. Wake had been limited to one series during the past two games due to a knee sprain.

The line also helped hold Buffalo to 90 rushing yards. The Bills had entered ranked third with 148.8 per game.

5. Oh, those miscues.

It wasn’t just Tannehill’s interceptions and his fumble.

There was Don Jones’ penalty on a punt that forced a replay, which resulted in a 40-yard gain for Buffalo. Instead of deep in their own territory, the Bills started on Miami’s 44 and drove before Fred Jackson pounded in a 3-yard touchdown.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins’ roughing the passer penalty gave the Bills 15 yards on a third-quarter drive that ended with a 20-yard field goal by Carpenter.

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