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Turnovers sink Buffalo in loss to Dolphins

Posted Dec 23, 2012

Turnovers and no answer for Reggie Bush told the tale for the Bills on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Buffalo could not take care of the football committing four turnovers, three of which came in the first three quarters. It resulted in 17 points for Miami in a 24-10 win over the Bills.

“We gave up too much, too early,” said a dejected head coach Chan Gailey. “I thought the guys fought, but we didn’t execute well enough early in the game, we gave up too much and had too much to overcome in the end.”

Bush wasn’t dominant, but finished with a pair of rushing touchdowns and a 12-yard touchdown catch as part of a 107-total yard from scrimmage day.

It was Buffalo’s fourth loss in their last five games as the Bills again struggled on offense. Aside from C.J. Spiller, who finished with 173 total yards from scrimmage, Buffalo’s offense had trouble moving the ball. Buffalo didn’t reach the red zone until the early stages of the fourth quarter.

That drive finished with Buffalo’s only touchdown of the day on a two-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brad Smith to cap a 12-play 80-yard drive. The Bills however, could not sustain enough offense to truly threaten the Dolphins’ lead from the latter portion of the first quarter.

Again poor execution was the only consistent part of their performance.

“We dropped some passes that hurt. We couldn’t get any momentum going. We got a couple of things, but a couple of penalties hurt us,” said Gailey. “If we’d have just executed the way I think we’re capable of executing we’d have been okay. We should have had points. A couple of times we should’ve had points in the first half.”

Buffalo also had 11 penalties in the game, a lot of them being unforced errors.

“I just thought early on a ton of pre-snap penalties, which had nothing to do with noise or anything,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s just stuff that’s elementary that we should’ve done a better job of and turning the ball over when you think you have some stuff going. That’s the kind of stuff that really hurts you as an offense and it hurt us.”

Fitzpatrick went 20-35 passing for 240 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The interception came on the team’s last possession. Facing 1st-and-goal at the one-yard line, Fitzpatrick’s pass was picked off by Reshad Jones, who had three takeaways in the game with a minute remaining. Miami kneeled out the clock to seal the win.

“We had a run play,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s basically a run to the left and the safety is standing on the end of the line and I kick it out to Stevie who is one-on-one with the cornerback and he just made a heck of a play. It’s a throw I’ve made many, many times since I’ve been here. I talked to him after the game and he just made a heck of a play.”

Buffalo was driving on their opening possession. After a blocked field goal by Alex Carrington, his third of the season, to keep the game scoreless, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit C.J. Spiller for a 13-yard pickup. Two plays later Fitzpatrick led Scott Chandler down the middle of the field for a 25-yard pickup, but Chandler sustained a knee injury on the play and was lost for the game.

On a 2nd-and-5 from the 25, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson, but he fumbled the ball at the 17. Reshad Jones recovered the loose ball and returned it to the Dolphins 38. The Dolphins then promptly marched 62 yards. Thirty-five of those yards came on the ground on just six carries as Buffalo could not stop the run.

Miami capped the drive when Ryan Tannehill rolled right and threw a short toss to Reggie Bush who went out ahead of him into the flat. He then turned it up field and dove for the front right pylon in the end zone and was awarded a touchdown for a 7-0 Dolphins lead. The play was reviewed as Bush clearly looked like he stepped out of bounds at the four-yard line, but the play was upheld.

The Bills ate into the Dolphins touchdown lead with Rian Lindell capping a six-play 65-yard drive with a 42-yard field goal. Almost all of the yards on the drive came on a 62-yard run by Spiller that got the Bills down to the Dolphins 23. The drive stalled from there however, after what appeared to be a Stevie Johnson touchdown catch on the next play. Johnson broke the plane of the goal line, then the ball came loose in the end zone. The officials ruled an incomplete pass.

After both offenses struggled to convert third downs for most of the second quarter, the Dolphins used a couple of big plays to reach the end zone a second time. Tannehill hit Rishard Matthews down the seam for a 30-yard pass play to the Bills 33. Tannehill then followed it up with a keeper carry on a read option play that he took to the Bills two-yard line after a pair of missed tackles on the play. Two plays later Reggie Bush punched it in for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead at halftime.

“I think that’s as poor as we’ve played offensively since I’ve been here,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick. “We made a couple of plays, but had a couple of fumbles, false starts, a lot of different things that you can’t have if you want to be a good football team. It was a very, very frustrating first half.”

C.J. Spiller had 110 total yards at the half, making it the running back’s 10th game of 100 or more total yards from scrimmage this season. Spiller is the first Bill since Thurman Thomas in 1992 to record 10 games or more with 100 scrimmage yards in a season. 

“Just the turnovers,” said Spiller. “We made the plays that were there it’s just we just couldn’t capitalize. Any time you turn the ball over you’re not going to win too many.”

Buffalo had the first possession of the second half, but it ended prematurely when Dorin Dickerson caught a ball deep over the middle only to fumble at midfield. Miami turned it into seven points putting together a 10-play 64-yard drive. Reggie Bush finished it off with a 12-yard touchdown catch from Tannehill for his third score of the game (21-3).

“They hit us that one time with the read where we had three chances to get him on that sideline and he took it all the way down and pretty much scored,” said Mario Williams. “That play and a seam route and then Reggie on the wheel (route) that we definitely let go on defense. When they’ve got the ball on a short field and it’s our side of the 50-yard line going in, we’ve got to hunker down and try not to let them score the points that they did score.”

The Bills would turn it over again when Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked by Cameron Wake as he tried to deliver a pass, fumbled the ball and Reshad Jones recovered at the Buffalo 29.

Buffalo’s defense got a third down stop, but Nate Kaeding put a 45-yard attempt through the uprights for a 24-3 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

The loss dropped the Bills to 5-10 on the season.

“It was another put up and shut up and go out and play ball and try to win the game. We go out and have a game full of penalties. Missed tackles here and there,” said Williams. “With the way things were going I can’t really understand how everything is unfolding like this. We definitely went out there and played our hardest and tried to get it done. Playing hard only goes so hard and after that it’s finishing and making a play and that’s something we obviously didn’t do.”

Buffalo will need to win their season finale at home against the Jets to match their record last year (6-10). Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 1 pm at Ralph Wilson Stadium.