ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Brian Hartline was eager to exit Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday after perhaps the worst performance of his career.
The normally sure-handed receiver caught just two of the 10 passes thrown his way and had three crucial drops — nearly doubling his season total — in the Dolphins’ 19-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Hartline dressed quickly and left the visitor’s locker room before many of his teammates left the showers.
During a brief interview session at the doorway, Hartline gave a succinct explanation for his drops.
“I didn’t catch it,” he said.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin defended Hartline after the game, saying, “It wasn’t our best day on offense,” when asked specifically about the receiver’s play.
“He’s a guy that’s busted his tail every single game,” Philbin added.
“He goes out to work every single day at practice, wanting to get better and working to get better.”
Hartline’s biggest drop came on a long third-down pass in the first quarter.
With the Dolphins trailing 3-0, Hartline beat Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore down the left sideline and might have been on his way to scoring an 83-yard touchdown had the ball not bounced off his chest.
Hartline wasn’t sure if he would have scored on the play.
“I couldn’t tell you,” he said. “I need to see the film. I didn’t know where I was at the time.”
Hartline had caught 64 percent of the passes intended for him coming into the game, but missed all eight of the passes on which Ryan Tannehill targeted him Sunday.
“As an offense, we didn’t play well the entire game,” Tannehill said.
“In every aspect of the game we failed to step up to the plate.”
After Tannehill left the game with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter, backup Matt Moore completed a 50-yard pass to Hartline for the Dolphins’ only third-down conversion on a pass play in the game.
Hartline caught a 3-yard pass from Moore later in the game and wound up accounting for more than half of the Dolphins’ 103 total yards.
The two receptions were a season low for Hartline and snapped a streak of six games with at least five catches. He has had at least four receptions in 12 games this season and caught at least half his targets in all but one game before Sunday.
The last time Hartline caught just two passes was in last season’s Week 16 loss to Buffalo.
In the eight previous games Hartline has been targeted at least 10 times in his career, he has never had less than five receptions.
Through the season’s first 14 games, Hartline had dropped four passes, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Hartline’s day appeared to get worse when he limped off the field holding his left knee late in the fourth quarter. He returned a couple plays later and said afterward his knee was “fine.”
Hartline wouldn’t blame the wind nor rain for the Dolphins’ offensive struggles.
“We’ve played in weather before, so we should have handled it better,” he said.
So what went wrong?
“Everything,” Hartline said. “We didn’t take care of the ball, we didn’t protect our quarterback, we didn’t run the ball well, we didn’t catch the ball well.”