Buffalo Bills Lose to Miami Dolphins and Referees 24-10

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIDecember 23, 2012

Buffalo Bills Lose to Miami Dolphins and Referees 24-10

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    The Buffalo Bills closed out the road portion of their 2012 schedule today by losing to the Miami Dolphins, 24-10. With the loss, the Bills dropped to 5-10 on the season, while Miami upped its record to 7-8.

    The loss today prevented the Bills from sweeping their first AFC East rival in a season since Chan Gailey took over as head coach.

    With the loss, the Bills are looking more and more likely to have a draft pick in the top 10 in the 2013 NFL draft, which is of little consolation.

    There were a number of curious calls by the officiating crew all day, as it seemed like the Bills were battling the Dolphins and the referee's crew all game long. The calls were so lopsided that it reminded me of the Seattle versus Green Bay game that brought about the quick exit of the replacement referees.

    Buffalo was flagged 11 times for 93 yards, while Miami was called for three penalties for 25 yards. Any call that could have possibly gone Miami's way did, and the replay booth wasn't even able to overturn bad calls on the field when it was obvious that a touchdown shouldn't have been allowed.

Today's Inactives, Injuries and Roster Moves

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    Buffalo's inactive list against Miami included WR Marcus Easley, DE Mark Anderson, QB Tarvaris Jackson, LB Chris White, OL Keith Williams, DL Jay Ross and OL Chris Scott.

    The Bills earlier this week declared that three players were out for the Dolphins game. The trio are DE Mark Anderson, LB Chris White and WR Marcus Easley. Easley and White have hamstring injuries, and Anderson isn't all the way back from his knee operation.

    Center Eric Wood is expected to play despite tearing his MCL in Week 13. That is a testament to how badly Wood still wants to compete and be part of the Bills team going forward.

    Leodis McKelvin was placed on I.R, which allowed the Bills to bring back LB Kirk Morrison to fill his roster spot. Due to the injuries to White and Easley, Morrison may actually be active for the first time this year, as he will be needed on special teams.

    Buffalo Bills.com reported that the team has signed G Kraig Urbik to a new contract extension. The team also moved two more players to I.R this week, as WR Donald Jones and LB Arthur Moats are now done for the year. To fill their roster spots, the Bills promoted WR Chris Hogan and LB Gregg Lloyd.

    Buffalo now has 13 players on I.R. and one player on the non-injury illness list (Donald Jones).

1st-Quarter Review

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    Miami got the ball to open the game and drove down into Bills territory before stalling out the drive. It attempted a 46-yard field goal, but Alex Carrington reached up and blocked the kick. It was the fourth blocked kick this year by Carrington, and he set a new franchise record with the block.

    Buffalo started its first drive at its own 37 (which was by far the best starting position the Bills had all day) and promptly drove the ball right down the field. Fitzpatrick hit Scott Chandler for a 25-yard gain, but Chandler hurt his knee on the play and would not return to the game.

    Fitzpatrick continued to throw the ball well when he hit Stevie Johnson with a pass to the Miami 17, which would have set the Bills up with a 1st-and-10 in the red zone. Johnson was stripped of the ball, but it was questionable if he ever had possession long enough to be ruled as a catch.

    The Bills were denied an overturned call by the replay officials, and the first questionable call was in the books going against the Bills. That would set the precedent for the rest of the day.

    Miami took over at the Bills 38 and drove down for a touchdown, or a phantom touchdown, if you prefer. Reggie Bush ran the ball in, but the replays clearly showed he stepped out of bounds at the 4-yard line. Even the replay official turned a blind eye to the obvious missed call and allowed the touchdown to stand. That was amazing that even the replay booth could blow such an obvious call begging to be overturned.

    Stevie Johnson's bad day continued when he dropped a wide-open pass on the Bills' next possession. Fitzpatrick hit tight end Dorin Dickerson for a 22-yard play, and the Bills were driving when the quarter ended with Miami up 7-0.

2nd-Quarter Review

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    The Bills' drive stalled when Fitzpatrick had all day to throw on third down, but he rushed a pass to a covered Dickerson when nobody was even close to him. Must have been the clock in the back of his head telling him to get rid of the ball. Shawn Powell gets off a 23-yard punt, and Miami has great field position again at its own 38.

    But the Bills defense forced Miami into a three-and-out drive. Buffalo responded with its own drive when C.J. Spiller found a crack in the Miami defense and took off for a 62-yard jaunt down to the Miami 23. From there, Fitzpatrick finds Steve Johnson open and lofts a perfect pass to him. Johnson catches the ball inside the Miami 5-yard line and crosses the plane of the goal line with the ball in his hands. After he allegedly scores the touchdown, he then falls to the ground and the ball bounces out of his hands.

    The referee signals incomplete pass, and Chan Gailey doesn't even challenge the call. Johnson clearly had control of the ball when he broke the plane of the goal line, so that was a head-scratcher of a call.

    Johnson then lost control for the first time this year, and you could tell that mentally, he went somewhere else. Rian Lindell came on and continued his strong season with a 42-yard field goal to make it Miami 7-3.

    The Bills defense holds Miami off again, and the Bills start the next drive at their own 8-yard line. The Bills picked a bad time to have a three-and-out drive, but they do.

    Miami starts with the ball at the Buffalo 49. The Bills defense holds it to another three-and-out drive, and it punts it into the end zone. The Bills answer with their own three-and-out drive as the Bills are losing out on the battle of field position.

    Miami starts its final drive of the half at their own 35. Tannehill passes 30 yards to Rishard Matthews, and then Tannehill runs around end for 31 yards to the Bills' 2-yard line. Reggie Bush scores from the 1-yard line, and the half closes with the Dolphins up 14-3.

Halftime Stats and 2nd-Half Adjustments

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    At halftime, Buffalo was down by 11 points, but it was moving the ball pretty well on Miami. C.J. Spiller had gained 100 yards rushing on just 11 carries. He was averaging 9.1 yards per rush thanks to his 62-yard gallop.

    Fitzpatrick was 6-of-13 for 75 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He should have been credited with a touchdown to Johnson. Fitzpatrick's QB Passer Rating was 64.6 at the half.

    For Miami, Reggie Bush had two touchdowns with 11 rushes for 38 yards, and Ryan Tannehill picked up 43 yards on just three rushes. The Dolphins no doubt saw how Seattle rookie QB Russell Wilson hurt the Bills by running the ball, so they encouraged Tannehill to follow suit.

    Buffalo had tried one long pass in the first half to T.J. Graham, and that was it for trying to stretch the defense. The Dolphins were geared up to try to contain Spiller, so that should have allowed the Bills offense to exploit some other areas.

    But with Chandler hurt and Steve Johnson having a miserable game, you had to wonder what weapons the Bills had left to exploit anything.

    Besides losing the battle of field position, the Bills were also losing the battle on third down. They went 1-for-6 on third down in the first half, while Miami went 3-for-7 on its first-half chances. The Dolphins outgained Buffalo 205 to 174 in the first half and held the ball for 16:50, compared to Buffalo keeping the ball for just 13:10.

3rd-Quarter Review

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    To open the second half, Buffalo had the ball. In a repeat of how the Bills' first drive ended, the Bills did the same exact thing in the second half. They were driving the ball down the field when Fitzpatrick hit Dorin Dickerson with a pass for 21 yards to the Miami 48-yard line. 

    Dickerson was hit from behind just as he gained control of the ball, so it could have gone either way that he did or didn't have control of the pass when he fumbled. But on this day, every call literally would go against the Bills. Instead of an incomplete pass, it was Miami with a first down at its own 36. 

    Miami rookie RB Lamar Miller ripped off a 28-yard run. Later in the drive, Mario Williams pressures Tannehill into throwing an errant pass that skirted out towards the sidelines. Jairus Byrd picked up the ball on a bounce, and the Bills thought they were in business with the recovery of a lateral pass behind the line. Byrd had recovered the ball at the Miami 48, which would have been a great start to the drive.

    The referees ruled the pass incomplete, and this time, Chan Gailey challenged the ruling. The replay booth let the call on the field stand. Just like that, another chance for the Bills to get back in the game was squashed by the officials and replay booth.

    With new life, Miami winds up with a touchdown drive that culminated in Reggie Bush catching his second touchdown pass of the day. Bush wound up with three touchdowns on the day, and the Dolphins were up 21-3.

    On the next drive, Cameron Wake blew past Bills back up tackle Sam Young and strips the ball away from Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins convert the turnover into a field goal, and the quarter ends with the Bills trailing 24-3.

4th-Quarter Review

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    In the fourth quarter, Miami opts to execute a fake field goal by punting the ball, but the ball goes into the end zone.

    The Bills then engineer their only touchdown drive of the game when Fitzpatrick hits T.J. Graham with a 41-yard pass to get the Bills rolling. Fitzpatrick winds up hitting Brad Smith for a two-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 24-10.

    Buffalo shuts out the Dolphins over the final quarter, but during the entire period, you never really see Buffalo going into a hurry-up mode on offense, trying to save precious seconds for its attempt to get back into the game.

    The Bills mount one last drive when they got the ball with 5:51 left. They drive the ball 92 yards down to the Miami 1-yard line. There, Fitzpatrick tries to hit Steve Johnson on a slant, only to have Reshad Jones reach up and get a hand on the pass. He juggles the ball and comes up with the interception. It was the Bills' fourth turnover of the game, while Miami had none.

    Buffalo out-gained Miami 381 yards to 301, but the four turnovers were too much to overcome.

Steve Johnson Milestone Reached

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    Steve Johnson came into the Miami game needing 109 yards to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the third straight season.

    Johnson had 44 yards on four receptions, so he will now need 65 yards against the Jets to reach his 1,000-yard goal.

    Johnson will hopefully do a better job of keeping his head in the season finale, as he was not under control in the Miami game. He threw the football away in disgust after a pass was ruled incomplete and got dinged for a delay of game penalty.

    The Bills were hit with at least four false start calls, which isn't that unusual when you consider all of the inexperienced linemen that the Bills are playing. Lee Smith got hit with a holding call, and Sam Young had some rough moments on the line as well.

What the Outcome of This Game Does for 2013 Draft

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    Coming into Week 16, Buffalo was grouped in with a cluster of 11 teams that all had records of 5-9 or worse. Due to its loss today, it is now one of nine teams that have a record of 5-10 or worse.

    The Bills have to capitalize on these top-10 draft picks to come up with cornerstone players that they can continue to build the team around.

    Marcel Dareus and Stephon Gilmore are two examples of top-10 picks that have to play better. Dareus had one of his better games in the second half of the season today, as he was credited with four solo tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.

    Dareus played the most inspired game of the season today. Perhaps he had a number of family members and relatives that came over from Alabama to watch him play. That is the Dareus version that we need all season long.

    Whether or not Buddy Nix will use that top-10 pick on a quarterback or he will address another position remains to be seen. Clearly, the Bills have a better talent base than they did when Nix first started to rebuild the team.

    But then again, the results are all that anybody cares about. This is the third straight year that Gailey has lost at least 10 games, and that is something that is difficult to be okay with.

Bills Lost in Field Position During the Entire Game

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    When Alex Carrington blocked the first-quarter field goal to give the Bills the ball at their own 37, who knew that would be their best starting point for the entire game.

    After that, the Bills' starting points were their own 11, 11, 8, 20, 20, 20, 20, 20 and their own 15.

    Miami's starting field position was quite different. Its drives began at its own 20, 38, 38, 34, the Buffalo 49, its own 35, 35, Buffalo 29, its own 36 and 24.

    As you can see from the above numbers, the deck was stacked against the Bills all day long. They seemed to struggle to contain the Dolphins on kick off returns, and it didn't help that Shawn Powell's first punt traveled only 23 yards.

Final Thoughts

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    C.J. Spiller looked great again today, and the Bills have to be thinking long and hard about how to shape the offense in 2013 around Spiller. Now that he has demonstrated in both Miami games that he can carry the ball at least 20 times per game, that has to be something the Bills brain trust has to digest and work with.

    With only one game left to play in the 2012 regular season, Bills fans and the team can turn the page on this disappointing season. The Bills were looking forward to ending their long playoff drought, but obviously came up way short.

    From a big-picture perspective, the good news is that the Bills are staying in Western New York for at least the next seven to 10 years due to the new lease signed with Erie County. That news can only become better news when the team starts recording winning seasons. Anything short of that is not acceptable.

    The signing of Kraig Urbik was a step in the right direction. Signing Andy Levitre and Jairus Byrd would be two more steps in the right direction. Letting either player walk away in free agency at the end of the year would be a major mistake.

    The Bills will try to end the season on a high note by beating the New York Jets next Sunday. The game is meaningless in the standings, but the team will be playing for its pride and to get that winning feeling back in the locker room again.