Dolphins win 3rd in a row by drubbing Bills 35-8
The stands were mostly deserted in the final minutes, the outcome a foregone conclusion, as has often been the case at Miami Dolphins home games the past couple of years.
Lately, however, the fans are heading home happy.
Matt Moore threw three touchdown passes, a ball-hawking defense set up two TDs and the Dolphins' improbable midseason turnaround gained momentum Sunday when they routed the reeling Buffalo Bills 35-8.
After losing their first seven games, the Dolphins (3-7) have three consecutive victories for the first time since 2008. Success is suddenly routine.
''We're not sitting here saying, `Holy cow, we played pretty good,''' linebacker Jason Taylor said. ''It's a great win. They all are. I've never seen a bad one. But we're not really bouncing off the walls about it.''
An improving defense has led the surge by keeping the opposition out of the end zone for three consecutive games, which Miami has won by a combined score of 86-20.
''You can see how good we can be,'' said safety Yeremiah Bell, who made an interception. ''This is where we expected to be at the beginning of the season. It just took us awhile.''
Heading the other direction are the Bills (5-5), who have been outscored 106-26 while losing three in a row.
''We can't throw in the towel yet,'' running back C.J. Spiller said. ''We've just got to keep fighting.''
Along with bruised pride, injuries mounted for the already hobbled Bills. Cornerback Terrence McGee (left knee) was carted off the field in the second period and is probably out for the season, coach Chan Gailey said. Receiver Donald Jones (left ankle) was also carted away in the second quarter and might be out three to six weeks, Gailey said.
NFL rushing leader Fred Jackson aggravated a calf injury, but X-rays were negative.
''I'll be all right. It's just a bruise right now,'' Jackson said. ''I'll get some treatment on it this week and see what happens.''
The fiercest hits by Dolphins defenders sent Bills helmets flying. Miami, which came into the game tied for last in the league with four interceptions, twice picked off passes that deflected off receivers. Both turnovers led to touchdowns.
''I wouldn't want to play against our defense,'' Miami receiver Brandon Marshall said. ''It seems like every time the ball was in the air, there was a big hit.''
The fifth and final TD came on a blocked punt by Chris Clemons, which Lex Hilliard recovered on the goal line for a 35-6 lead. The score on a blocked punt was Miami's first since 1990.
Miami mounted a goal-line stand midway through the second half, stopping the Bills four times after they had a first down at the 2.
The Dolphins scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and led 21-3 after 18 minutes. Moore threw little after that and finished 14 for 20 for 160 yards, with a passer rating of 133.3.
''Guys around me are making big plays and making it easy for the quarterback,'' Moore said. ''It's such a good feeling.''
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has yet to win a game since signing a $59 million, six-year contract last month, was sacked twice and had a rating of 45.8. He has 12 turnovers in the past six games.
Jackson was held to 17 yards on seven carries. The Bills fumbled four times, and while they recovered them all, they went 0 for 14 on third- and fourth-down conversions, a rate of futility that left Gailey shaking his head.
''I don't know if I've ever been through that before, ever,'' Gailey said. ''When you're that bad, you're having a pitiful day.''
By the third quarter, the Bills' ineptitude had become farcical. On one play, the wet ball slipped out of Fitzpatrick's hand as he prepared to pass, so he caught it and tried again, throwing a short completion. Even hiking the ball was problematic for the Bills, with Fitzpatrick forced to reach for several errant snaps.
The past three weeks, the Bills have totaled two touchdowns, and one came during garbage time.
''We've got to get our guys back, keep everybody together, keep fighting, keep working,'' Gailey said. ''It will not be easy, because it's bad right now.''
Notes: The Dolphins are the third NFL team to win three consecutive games at any point after starting a season 0-7. ... A streak of 735 punts without a block by Buffalo's Brian Moorman ended. It was the third-longest streak in NFL history. ... The Bills' Dave Rayner kicked a career-long 56-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.