How did Sunday crumble? Ask a laughing Buffalo

The Bills 19-0 win was best explained by a blitzing 5-7 cornerback

Dolphins need help to make the playoffs.

ORCHARD PARK –

"I kept waiting for them to block me,'' Buffalo cornerback Nickell Robey said, "and they never did. I'd say, 'OK, this play they're going to block me.' ''

He laughed.

"And then they didn't again!" he said.

Twenty yards across the hall at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill shrugged and said he had no answer for how this Sunday, and perhaps this season, crumbled. Coach Joe Philbin said, "If I had a better answer, I'd have stopped it."


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Well, someone from South Florida had to get an answer. So I went to the player that symbolized the Dolphins' frustration. Robey had answers for what happened to the Dolphins' playoff hopes, ticking them on his fingers as he counted.

"One play I ran by No. 42 (Charles Clay),'' he said. "One play I ran by that running back (Lamar Miller). I beat (Bryant) McKinnie on the edge once."

He held three fingers up.

"One time their other running back (Daniel Thomas) bumped into the quarterback trying to block me and that was as good as a sack,'' he said.

Disappointing. Ridiculous. Inexplicable. Put the words in any order you want for how another trip to a Dolphins teams with the playoffs dangling before them was whipped by a bad Buffalo team with nothing at stake.

But add this word, too: Possible. Because the playoffs still are possible the way the rest of Sunday shook out. Some very average team will claim the AFC's final spot and the Dolphins might be that team.

But do you trust them after Sunday? The defense lost in the only manner possible considering reserve quarterback Thad Lewis was without three of his top four receivers by the third quarter: It allowed Buffalo 203 yards rushing on 51 carries.

"It's frustrating, obviously,'' Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said.

And the Dolphins offense? It gave up seven sacks, gained a season-low 103 net yards and didn't come within sight of the Buffalo end zone to even attempt a field goal.

"It was a pretty good beating,'' Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said.

Which brings us to coaching. Why did the Dolphins play into the pass-rushing strength of the Bills? Why not run the ball more than 12 times, even if those few carries netted just 14 yards?

"Well, we got behind,'' receiver Mike Wallace said.

That normally explain why they had to throw more. But Buffalo's Lewis isn't Tom Brady. You don't fear him piling up the points. And you certainly didn't want to give a Buffalo team that leads the league in sacks the idea you're always passing.

Ryan Tannehill now has been sacked 58 times. That's a franchise record. It sprinted by the 1969 mark of 53 sacks, a number that caused quarterback Bob Griese to be labeled, "The Scrambler." He went into the Hall of Fame as, "The Thinking Man's Quarterback."

Imagine how much better Tannehill could look if he wasn't ducking rushers. This game wasn't like the previous loss to Buffalo, when a great pass rusher in Mario Williams beat a struggling tackle in Tyson Clabo, one-on-one, on key plays.

Robey isn't a great player. He is an undrafted rookie. And …

"I'm 5-7,'' he said.

The smallest player on the field.

"Didn't bother me out there at all,'' he said.

It's one thing to lose to Buffalo because of Thurman Thomas running the slip-screen or Jim Kelly diving into the end zone. But this? Robey kept blitzing from the slot in the manner Patriots undrafted rookie Ryan Logan did to sack Tannehill in their October meeting and shift that day.

McKinnie didn't slide out on Logan, just as he had no chance to do when Robey timed a running start perfectly. But all the other times?

"We were going to keep calling it until they stopped it,'' Pettine said. "And they never stopped it."

Pettine said the Bills called that blitz twice in the first game. He called it eight times Sunday. Twice, Robey sacked Tannehill. Twice, he hit him as he threw.

"I wasn't blocked once, I don't think,'' he said. "Guys were there. They kept missing me."

Sometimes, you see, it isn't all about schemes. Sometimes it's as simple as blocking and tackling. The Bills did that Sunday. The Dolphins didn't. And so while the playoff hopes weren't crushed, any thought they're more than an average team were.

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