Three weeks ago, a Bills-Dolphins game would have seemed like a Bills blowout.
What a difference 21 days can make.
The Dolphins continued to erase the memory of an 0-7 start with their third straight win, completely dominating the struggling Bills in a 35-8 rout at Sun Life Stadium.
Matt Moore threw for 160 yards with three touchdowns and Reggie Bush ran for a score in the lopsided decision, while the Miami defense kept its opponent out of the end zone for a third straight game.
The Dolphins (3-7) hadn’t won three straight since capturing their last five games of the 2008 season en route to a surprising division title. That was Tony Sparano’s first season at the helm, and despite this resurgence, this very well could be his last year with the team.
Still, Miami has played extremely well the last three weeks. The Dolphins have scored 86 points and yielded just 20, and the defense has not surrendered a touchdown since the 5:58 mark of the October 30 loss to the New York Giants.
Buffalo (5-5), meanwhile, has gone in a completely opposite direction. The Bills have been outscored 106-26 during a three-game skid and have also dropped five of seven games after opening the campaign with three wins.
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 20-of-39 passes for 209 yards with a pair of interceptions in defeat. Fred Jackson, who entered the contest leading the NFL with 917 rushing yards, was held to just 17 yards on seven carries as the Bills had to abandon the ground game after quickly falling behind. Jackson did catch five balls for 50 yards before leaving with a leg injury in the third quarter.
The Bills managed field goals on their first and last possessions of the opening half. Dave Rayner connected from 30 yards away just under five minutes into the game and drilled a 56-yarder as time expired in the first 30 minutes.
In between, Miami dominated.
The Bills had five possessions between field goals — two ending in Fitzpatrick interceptions that led to a pair of Miami touchdowns and three ending in threes-and out.
After Rayner’s first kick, the Dolphins marched 87 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown. Moore completed five passes for 70 yards during the series, including a 19-yard strike to Brian Hartline to convert 3rd-and-12, and finished it with a one-yard TD pass to tight end Anthony Fasano.
A 46-yard pass to fullback Charles Clay keyed the next Miami series, which ended with a five-yard touchdown run by Bush for a 14-3 lead in the final minute of the first quarter.
Nolan Carroll intercepted a tipped Fitzpatrick pass on the first play of the second period and the Dolphins quickly converted with a short field. Moore completed the five-play, 23-yard set with a 12-yard scoring strike to Clay.
Yeremiah Bell came up with Miami’s second interception with just over two minutes remaining in the half and returned the pick to the Buffalo four-yard line. After Moore’s pass to Brandon Marshall in the back of the end zone was reversed by replay, he found Davone Bess from four yards away for a 28-3 cushion with 1:36 left in the half.
That gave Buffalo enough time to drive into Rayner’s range for the long kick.
The 22-point halftime bulge was the largest for the Dolphins since December 3, 2000, when Miami built a 24-0 lead over Buffalo en route to a 33-6 win.
Miami’s special teams then delivered five minutes into the third quarter when Chris Clemons blocked a Brian Moorman punt and Lex Hilliard fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 35-3 advantage. It was Miami’s first blocked punt for a score since October 18, 1990 when Mark Higgs blocked and returned one against New England.
The Bills appeared set to score with a drive to the Miami two-yard line late in the third quarter, but the Dolphins made a goal line stand. After the fourth-down pass fell incomplete early in the fourth quarter, the Buffalo defense registered a safety when Miami rookie running back Daniel Thomas was unable to get out of the end zone.
Each team went to backup quarterbacks in the fourth quarter, as former Dolphin Tyler Thigpen replaced Fitzpatrick and former Bill J.P. Losman took over for Moore.
The Dolphins have a short week with a trip to Dallas on Thanksgiving, while the Bills will try to keep their fading playoff hopes alive next Sunday against the New York Jets.