ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Miami Dolphins were poised for a letdown Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The way Miami celebrated in the locker room after its statement victory six days ago versus the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots was a major warning sign.
In many ways, the Dolphins treated last week like their personal Super Bowl, but they failed to repeat that effort in Sunday’s 24-16 defeat to the Bills at New Era Field.
The loss all but eliminated Miami (6-8) from playoff contention and killed any chance of the team posting a winning record for the second straight season.
Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler also followed last week’s impressive showing against New England with a shoddy performance against Buffalo. He threw three second-half interceptions after throwing for three touchdowns last week.
The inconsistency has been the story of Cutler’s 12-year career.
What it means: The Dolphins’ two-game winning streak ended, and they are basically playing for pride down the stretch. The best Miami can finish is 8-8 if it embraces its spoiler role and beats the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo in a rematch to end the season. Both are fighting for playoff spots.
What I liked: Running back Kenyan Drake played well for the third straight game. He finished with 78 rushing yards on 16 carries but didn’t get many attempts in the second half with Miami playing from behind. Drake had a pair of impressive runs of 31 and 19 yards. Drake is doing his part to prove he’s part of the solution for the Dolphins in 2018.
What I didn’t like: The Dolphins had a poor seven-minute stretch at the end of the first half that proved costly. Bills running back LeSean McCoy returned from injury to catch a 16-yard touchdown with 6 minutes, 5 seconds left in the second quarter. Miami didn’t do anything offensively on the next drive and gave the ball right back to the Bills, who were in a good rhythm and took advantage of a Dolphins defense that didn’t get much rest. Buffalo then promptly went 80 yards down the field in less than two minutes to take a 21-6 halftime lead that it never relinquished. That provided the cushion the Bills needed at home.
Fantasy fallout: Miami’s Kenny Stills entered Sunday averaging 85.75 receiving yards in his past four games. But the Bills did a good job of shutting out Stills with zero catches in the first three quarters. Stills finished with just one reception for 8 yards.
Wake quake: Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake recorded his ninth sack of the season. Wake is just one sack away from becoming the 11th NFL player age 35 or older to record double-digit sacks in a season. Wake also is a strong candidate for the Pro Bowl.
What’s next: The Dolphins have another tough road game against a playoff contender. Kansas City (8-6) has a chance to clinch an AFC West title and a home playoff game with a win over Miami. It will be the Dolphins’ final road game of the season.