Miscues and turnovers by the Bills kept an upstart Miami team within striking distance early in the second half, and the Dolphins capitalized each and every time as Buffalo dropped their first division contest of the season 25-16 at Dolphins Stadium.
The Bills mounted a 16-7 lead in the third quarter, but watched it melt away as Miami scored 18 unanswered points to win 25-16.
"When you get that many big plays and that many turnovers it's hard to recover," said head coach Dick Jauron. "It's hard to recover."
"I think a lot of it had to do with field position and a lot of little mistakes and missed assignments and it's kind of frustrating," said Trent Edwards. "We made mistakes that got us beat and that's what's frustrating. We didn't play our best game and I'd rather walk off that field playing the best game we can and losing. It's frustrating."
"I would call it sloppy," said Donte Whitner. "We had mental lapses out there at times. Everything is correctable, but we didn't play our 'A' game and we still had an opportunity to win the game."
The Bills defense surrendered only three points off of three second half turnovers, but being unable to sustain drives offensively allowed Miami to chip away at the lead and keep Buffalo from putting points on the board themselves.
"It was a tough game," said Keith Ellison. "The Dolphins capitalized on the mistakes we made offensively and defensively. It allowed them to stay in the game. We had a chance in the third to extend the lead and put them in a hole, but they capitalized on our mistakes."
It was obviously not the start the Bills wanted as they opened division play. With the loss Buffalo fell to 5-2 on the season and 0-1 in the AFC East.
The Bills had appeared to take control of the game charging out in the second half with a ground-oriented eight-play drive that covered 70 yards. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson were responsible for all but 22 of the yards as the offensive line consistently opened holes.
After a seven-yard run by Jackson set up 1st-and-goal from the Miami eight-yard line, Lynch did the rest with a nifty cutback to the end zone to increase Buffalo's two-point halftime lead to nine (16-7).
The scoring run by Lynch marked the seventh straight game in which Buffalo scored at least one rushing touchdown since the beginning of the season marking the third longest streak in team history.
But the lead didn't last long. Ted Ginn's 64-yard reception on the next play from scrimmage put Miami in scoring territory. However, a sack by Bryan Scott and a batted pass by Copeland Bryan only allowed the Dolphins to get three on the possession with Dan Carpenter hitting a 43-yard attempt (16-10).
Ginn was a major problem for Buffalo's secondary all day as he finished with a career-high 175 yards on seven receptions.
"He's very quick and fast with terrific hands and running ability," said head coach Dick Jauron of Ginn.
Terrence McGee, who was coming off a three week layoff due to a sprained MCL, had problems keeping Ginn under wraps. McGee did not play much press coverage partly perhaps due to the injury. Jauron admitted that McGee was not 100 percent.
"No," said Jauron. "He wasn't going in, but he was well enough to play. I wouldn't put a percentage on what he was, but we need him back and he's good enough to play and he has to start getting back there because he's a critical player on our football team."
"I knew they'd come after me on Tuesday," said McGee. "And they came after me."
After a three-and-out by Buffalo's offense the Dolphins took the lead with an inspired 69-yard drive. Ginn again contributed with a 19-yard reception and Pennington got first downs on his next two completions to set up 1st-and-goal at the Bills eight-yard line. Two plays later Ricky Williams plunged in from three yards out giving Miami it's first lead since the second quarter (17-16).
Buffalo tried to answer, but Trent Edwards was hit as he threw on a 2nd-and-7 from the 47, sending the ball high in the air and it was picked off by Will Allen who returned it to the Bills 34-yard line.
The Bills defense stiffened as they sent the Dolphins offense three-and-out, but Miami was still close enough for Carpenter to put three more on the board to give the Dolphins a four-point cushion (20-16) early in the fourth.
The Dolphins committed to coverage for a good portion of the game dropping eight men into coverage to force Edwards to hold the ball longer, and then mixed in some blitzes to try to keep the Bills offensive front off balance.
"When they're only rushing three you've just got to get through your reads and get the ball to the open guy," said Edwards. "And when they brought pressure they did a good job of covering up our tight ends, receivers and our backs. I was pretty impressed with their secondary."
The four-point deficit only got worse for Buffalo. In an effort to gain the first down on a 3rd-and-1 from the Dolphins 33, Trent Edwards called a quick snap and reached out to extend the ball past the first down marker, but was stripped in the process and Joey Porter recovered with just over 11 minutes left to play.
"It was a situation where we were trying to get the first down. They made a great play," said Edwards. "I can't reach the ball out like that. I don't have a ton of experience with QB sneaking like that. I didn't really feel like we had gotten the first down and I felt like I could reach out a little bit and they took it out of my hands. It was a learning experience for me and it won't happen again and that play is all on me and I have to fix that."
"We were confident," said Lee Evans who finished with 116 yards on seven receptions. "It was just a one score game. We were confident we would go down and score points. We were moving the ball, but that turnover kind of shifted it and gave it back to them."
The Bills defense was able to keep the fumble from turning into more points for Miami. Unfortunately on the next Buffalo possession backed up deep in their own territory Edwards was sacked trying to throw from his own end zone, and though Duke Preston recovered he was tackled in the end zone for a safety, which made it 22-16. Miami added a late field goal on the ensuing possession for a nine-point win.
"They didn't have it today," said Whitner of Buffalo's offense. "But we don't expect that every week. I'm sure Trent is going to study this tape real hard and those mistakes that he made he won't make again. He'll fix them."
The Dolphins started fast from the game's outset as they hit Ted Ginn for a 45-yard completion on the first play from scrimmage to immediately get them into Buffalo territory. Chad Pennington capped the initial Miami possession executing a play action fake on 3rd-and-goal at the two-yard line with a touchdown pass to an uncovered Anthony Fasano in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Buffalo got three points back on the ensuing drive as Lee Evans and James Hardy made first down receptions of 28 and 14 yards respectively to put Buffalo in a first-and-goal situation from the five-yard line. Despite three straight run plays with Fred Jackson the Bills were unable to get in the end zone as they took a 19-yard field goal from Rian Lindell to make it 7-3.
Miami looked as if it was going to be the beneficiary of a special teams miscue by Buffalo when Ryan Neill snapped the ball over Brian Moorman's head. Moorman, however, was able to run the ball down in the end zone and got a makeshift punt off before any Dolphins' players could close in. The punt went 27 yards, but at least gave the defense a field to defend instead of surrendering two points on a safety and possession.
The Bills defense then made a play as Paul Posluszny stripped Ricky Williams on a 1st-and-5 play for his first career forced fumble. Fellow linebacker Keith Ellison recovered at the Buffalo 29.
Trent Edwards and company again moved the ball down the field. Josh Reed appeared to convert a big 3rd-and-10 at the Dolphins' 19-yard line, but Duke Preston was flagged for unnecessary roughness negating the play and again the Bills had to settle for a field goal as Lindell put a 43-yard attempt through the uprights making it a one-point game (7-6).
Miami tried to answer late in the first half, but a 46-yard attempt by Dan Carpenter was blocked by Langston Walker, the sixth of his career, gave the Bills possession at their own 36 with 1:38 remaining. A pass interference penalty proved to be the offense's biggest gain on the drive when Lee Evans was held by Andre Goodman, but the Buffalo drive stalled at the Miami 29 where Lindell put a 47-yard attempt between the goalposts for a 9-7 edge at the break.
Buffalo has a chance to even their division record next Sunday when the Bills host the New York Jets.