MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins' biggest offensive weaknesses -- an inability to protect the quarterback Ryan Tannehill, an inability to run the ball, and Tannehill's propensity for losing fumbles -- conspired against them in the fourth quarter Sunday against Buffalo.
It was those factors, along with former kicker Dan Carpenter's 31-yard field goal with 33 seconds left, which caused the Dolphins to sustain a gut-wrenching and humiliating 23-20 loss to the Bills at Sun Life Stadium. It was the third consecutive loss for the Dolphins after starting the season 3-0.
Carpenter, released by the Dolphins during training camp, kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter to help the Bills (3-4) to steal the victory. Bills quarterback Thad Lewis, making his just third NFL start, was ho-hum, going 21-for-32 passing for 202 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. But he did enough to win.
"They made the plays they had to make to win the game," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "Give them credit."
Things only get tougher for the Dolphins. They travel to New England next week to take on the Patriots, coming off a tough loss at the Jets. The Dolphins haven't won at Gillette Stadium since 2008.
The Dolphins, once the darlings of the NFL after opening the season 3-0, are now on a three-game losing streak. And they're in that position because they blew a 21-17 third quarter Sunday due to those aforementioned deficiencies.
Buffalo cut its deficit to 21-20 early in the fourth quarter when Carpenter's 20-yard field goal capped a 15-play, 72-yard drive.
From then on, the Dolphins, who entered the game 29th in rushing offense at 69.6 yards per game, needed to run the ball to milk the clock.
They ran three times for four yards in the fourth quarter.
Dolphins running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, who combined to rush for 103 yards on 21 carries, entered the fourth quarter with a 99 yards on 19 carries. But the Dolphins chose to pass.
Then, after what turned out to be the Dolphins' final run, a two-yard gain by Thomas, the game changed greatly.
Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who ranked third in the NFL with eight sacks entering the game, got his second sack of the day when he blew past right tackle Tyson Clabo (eight sacks allowed this year; two sack allowed Sunday) and dropped Tannehill, causing him to fumble.
It was Tannehill's seventh fumble of the season, and the fourth one he's lost. It was also the Dolphins' NFL-leading 26th sack allowed.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams recovered the loose ball, setting up the Bills at the Dolphins' 34-yard line.
Although the sack/fumble led to Carpenter's game-winning field goal, Philbin stood by his decision to try to seal the game through the air.
"We ran the ball on first down, got two yards," Philbin said. "Second and eight (the sack play), we believe we had a good play called so we called the play."
The lost fumble wasn't Tannehill's only miscue of the day. He threw a pick-six (interception that's returned for a touchdown) on the Dolphins' first possession of the game when cornerback Nickell Robey jumped an "out" route and took the errant pass 19 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Bills lead.
Tannehill (19-for-37 passing for 194 yards) threw three touchdown passes, but he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. He now has 11 turnovers -- and seven interceptions and four lost fumbles -- and nine touchdown passes.
The Dolphins, who fell behind, 17-7 in the second quarter, fought back to take a 21-17 lead. But they couldn't close the deal.
"This is a bad feeling," said wide receiver Mike Wallace, who had five catches for 76 yards on Sunday. "You don't want to feel like this. Three games in a row? That (expletive) is unacceptable. Especially after starting out hot like we did. We can't let this team continue to go down this path. We can't let this season spiral and get away from us."
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