Tyson Clabo had just finished answering questions about surrendering yet another game-altering sack — dooming the Dolphins in a 23-21 loss to Buffalo on Sunday — when he exhaled deeply and turned back to his locker.
“It’s like a bad dream,” said Clabo, who acknowledges he is playing the worst stretch of football in his nine-year NFL career.
Clabo and his Dolphins teammates better wake up quickly, or their entire season might become a full-fledged nightmare.
Clabo allowed two fourth-quarter sacks to Bills stud pass rusher Mario Williams on Sunday, the second resulting in a lost Ryan Tannehill fumble in Dolphins territory late in the game.
Seven plays later, former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter drilled a 31-yard field goal to hand Miami its third consecutive loss.
Oh, and up next: A trip to Foxborough, Mass., where the Dolphins (3-3) haven’t won since 2008.
“No question, we gave them this game,” Dolphins center Mike Pouncey said. “But they went out there, played better than we did and deserved to win this football game. We didn’t.”
Although Clabo is a convenient foil — he has now allowed eight sacks in six games as a Dolphin — Sunday’s loss was a systemic failure.
The Dolphins turned the ball over three times, including an interception-turned-touchdown by Nickell Robey on Tannehill’s very first pass.
Don Jones gave a struggling Bills offense 40 yards of field position by illegally touching a booming Brandon Fields punt in the first quarter. Buffalo (3-4) scored its only offensive touchdown on that possession.
And Caleb Sturgis missed his only field-goal attempt of the game — a 51-yarder that he pushed right.
Tannehill was particularly brutal, completing as many passes to Bills defenders — two — as he did to Dolphins receivers in the first quarter.
And yet, Miami actually led for all but the final 33 seconds of the fourth quarter because: first, Tannehill settled down, and second, the offensive line mauled Buffalo up front.
The Dolphins rushed for 120 yards (including 60 by Daniel Thomas and 43 by Lamar Miller), and Tannehill threw a career-high three touchdown passes.
Two went to Brandon Gibson, including an acrobatic 13-yarder in the second quarter in which he literally leapt over the Buffalo secondary.
Tannehill, who completed 19 of 37 passes for 194 yards, found a rhythm because his line kept him on two feet. After allowing 24 sacks in five games, the line had a clean sheet through three quarters Sunday, neutralizing Williams with double teams.
But that all changed late in regulation. Williams beat Clabo the first time on a second-and-8 midway through the fourth quarter, obliterating Tannehill with a hit so fierce that the quarterback stayed down for a few seconds afterward.
An hour later, a clearly sore Tannehill walked gingerly out of the locker room, carrying a bag of ice.
But the final sack probably hurt more.
The Dolphins were at midfield, with a one-point lead and the clock running, and faced second-and-long.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman called a play-action pass, with Brian Hartline — who was running a stop route — the intended receiver.
“He was going to come open right when I was letting it go,” Tannehill explained. “It was that close. ... If we have another half-second, no one is talking about this.”
But Williams changed the conversation with a power move to the inside of Clabo, who had no running back or tight end help in the backfield or edge of the line.
Williams slapped the ball away just as Tannehill was releasing, causing a fumble recovered by Kyle Williams.
In the Dolphins’ solemn locker room, Clabo took full responsibility for the sack — even if his position coach thinks his right tackle gets more blame than he should.
“You’re talking about two plays in the whole game,” offensive line coach Jim Turner said. “That guy played a great football game [Sunday]. Two plays in the whole game. He’s one of the best players in the NFL.”
Clabo, meanwhile, saw things differently.
“That’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter,” Clabo said. “He’s a really good football player who made a really big play at crucial time in the ballgame.
Continued Clabo: “I have to take full responsibility. Those sacks are my sacks. There’s no way around it.”