Dolphins downed by lowly Bills 17-14
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Buffalo Bills defenders heard boos nearly every time they headed to the bench — a soundtrack for success, because the jeers were directed at the home team.
“Music to our ears,” safety Donte Whitner said with a grin.
The resurgent Bills showed Sunday just how much they’re improved since the start of the season, and the Miami Dolphins again looked lousy at home. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and Buffalo won 17-14, eliminating Miami from the AFC playoff race.
The Dolphins, who have won only once in Miami this season, again sputtered on offense. Chad Henne threw a costly interception and was sacked three times, and Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter went 0 for 4, missing from 48, 61, 53 and 48 yards.
“Disappointing and embarrassing,” receiver Brandon Marshall said.
Buffalo (4-10) won for the fourth time in six games after starting 0-8, while Miami (7-7) lost for the eighth time in nine home games over the past two seasons. This year Miami is 1-6 at home and 6-1 on the road, and no NFL team has ever had such a disparity, according to STATS LLC.
Fans began booing in the second quarter, and the jeers kept coming even after the Dolphins’ final, comical desperation play ended with a loose ball being batted about deep in their territory.
“They’ve been booing the last couple of weeks, so I guess we’re used to it,” Henne said. “It’s a sick feeling for us not to have home-field advantage.”
On a 67-degree December afternoon, the visitors from snowy New York made themselves at home.
“Anytime you get into somebody’s stadium and you hear boos from the home crowd, their crowd is actually is working against them, and it’s like it’s our home crowd,” Whitner said. “So we love boo birds when we’re on the road.”
While Miami’s headed nowhere fast, the Bills are on the rise. They were woeful in a season-opening loss at home against the Dolphins, but that was before Fitzpatrick took over at quarterback. He went 16 for 26 for 223 yards in the rematch.
“I said when we were 0-8, you need to get one win and then they start coming,” Fitzpatrick said. “You start learning how to win as a team.”
Counterpart Henne struggled for most of the afternoon, and Miami’s ground game netted only 65 yards against a run defense ranked last in the NFL.
“We knew they were having problems at the quarterback position,” Whitner said. “We knew they were down on him a little bit and would lean heavily on their running game. If you take their run away, you have an opportunity to force Henne into some bad throws, and that’s what we did.”
The Dolphins did show some spunk in the fourth quarter. They trailed 17-7 before Henne completed passes on seven consecutive plays to spark a 77-yard drive that ended with his 8-yard scoring pass to Marshall.
Miami got the ball back at its own 20 and drove to the Bills 30, but Carpenter was wide right on a 48-yard try with 1:48 left.
“I just didn’t hit the ball well all day,” he said. “It hurts knowing you cost your team a chance to win.”
Miami started again from the 20 with 41 seconds to go but no timeouts remaining, and four plays failed to advance the ball beyond the 35.
That ensured the Dolphins will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine seasons.
“It’s tough to swallow because we feel like we do have a good team,” Henne said. “We just didn’t put it together.”
Miami actually outgained Buffalo, but Fitzpatrick was at his best on an 86-yard drive in the third period. He completed two third-down passes, then threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Steve Johnson for a 17-7 lead.
George Wilson intercepted Henne in Dolphins territory to set up the game’s first score. It came on third-and-goal at the 18, when Fitzpatrick hit David Nelson in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
C.J. Spiller’s 34-yard punt return set up a field goal to put the Bills ahead 10-0.
“That was probably as good a team win as we’ve had,” first-year coach Chan Gailey said. “Almost every guy that stepped on the field contributed something.”
NOTES: Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass for his 15th consecutive game, the longest such streak by a Bills quarterback since 1987. … Dolphins DB Sean Smith, who dropped three potential interceptions a week ago, let another one slip from his grasp early in the second half. … Ronnie Brown scored on a 6-yard keeper for the Dolphins’ first TD from the wildcat this year.
Updated December 19, 2010