The Dolphins need help. Both literally and figuratively.
Why? They did nothing to help themselves in their worst 60 minutes of the season.
The Bills outplayed the Dolphins in all three phases Sunday, slapping down their guests 19-0 to sweep the season series.
“We picked a hell of a day to go out and lay and egg,” said defensive end Cameron Wake. “It’s disappointing, with as big of a game this is.”
How big? They entered the day knowing that if they won their final two games, they’d be in the playoffs. Now, those once-strong hopes are in jeopardy.
The silver lining: they had others do their heavy lifting Sunday.
Thanks to wins by the Chargers and Patriots late in the day, the Dolphins (8-7) probably enter Week 17 with as good a chance as anyone.
They need to beat the Jets Sunday and get victories from either the Bengals or the Chargers to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Amazingly, none of the four teams still alive for the AFC’s final Wild Card spot will get in solely with a win. They all need help.
With the way the Dolphins played Sunday, they’re lucky to even have a shot. They, not the Bills (6-9), looked like the team playing out the string.
Ryan Tannehill was sacked a staggering seven times — including one that sent him, temporarily, to the bench with a knee injury. (He later said he was “fine.”) The Dolphins have surrendered 58 sacks on the year, breaking the single-season record of 53, set in 1969.
The Dolphins mustered just 103 total yards — the third fewest in their 48-year history. They were out-gained by nearly a 4-to-1 margin. They managed a mere 14 yards on 12 carries. And they converted just 2 of 14 third downs.
It was arguably the worst performance by the offensive line all season, and inarguably the worst since the team’s bullying scandal cost them two starters.
Afterwards, Miami’s blockers had little desire to explain what happened.
They gave up sacks to defensive ends, defensive tackles and nickel corners. Kyle Williams got Tannehill twice. So did Nickell Robey.
Finally, a season’s worth of hits knocked Tannehill out of the game, however briefly. Tannehill suffered the minor knee injury on sack No. 6 of 7, but would later return.
“Obviously, we don’t want to take those type of hits, we don’t want to put ourselves in long down situations,” said Tannehill, who completed just 10 passes on 34 drop-backs and threw for a meager 82 yards.
“We’re not happy about it but we’ve got to get ready to go next week.”
The Bills’ pass rush was a major concern entering the game, and showed why right away. Buffalo sacked Tannehill on the Dolphins’ first two third downs.
Center Mike Pouncey said the Bills, who lead the league in defensive sacks, did a good job of twisting their defensive linemen and bringing pressure from the slot.
The Dolphins prepared for such scenarios, Pouncey said. They didn’t just execute.
“I’m not blaming them for the whole lack of offensive performance,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of the offensive line. “We had opportunities to make plays that we didn’t make.”
Take, for instance, the usually dependable Brian Hartline, who had three drops Sunday — including a potential touchdown that bounced off his chest.
Or how about the two times they actually started a possession with good field position? Both of those possessions ended with three-and-outs.
The Bills, meanwhile, got enough points to win when Dan Carpenter connected on his first of four field goals. Fred Jackson, who went for 111 yards on 19 carries and scored the game’s lone touchdown, a nine-yard romp in which he broke two tackles.
“They outplayed us,” Philbin said. “I wish I had a better answer. If I had a better answer, I would have stopped it.”
The Dolphins have one more chance to get it right.