Want the perfect epilogue for a pound-your-head-against-the-wall season for the Dolphins?
It came midway through the third quarter, when the Bills sideline was more lit than nearby Club LIV.
Bills players jumped up and down around defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who just scored a touchdown.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Williams’ one-yard touchdown plunge Sunday put the Bills up three scores, put the game essentially out of reach, and put an exclamation mark on an utterly forgettable Dolphins season.
Then there’s this: The Dolphins’ two best offensive players — Jarvis Landry and Kenyan Drake — will likely go into the New Year lighter in the wallet. They both were ejected for their roles in an ugly brawl and can expect fines, at least.
The final score Sunday: Bills 22, Dolphins 16.
That made three straight losses to end the season. A 2-8 finish after a 4-2 start.
And 10 or more losses for the second time in three years.
Good news: The draft is four short months away!
Perhaps that will be the team’s sales pitch to fans (and their paying customers) after a year that began with such promise crashed and burned.
In truth, the die was cast that dreadful August morning Ryan Tannehill went down in a heap. Most teams lose their season when they lose their starting quarterback.
And after five straight losses midway through the season, the Dolphins became the rule, not the exception. Yes, they would have made the playoffs with wins in their final three games.
Instead, they lost all three.
And everything else — Jay Cutler’s 14 starts, a Monday night win against the Patriots, embarrassments involving Chris Foerster, Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga — was background music.
Cutler on Sunday dressed, put on pads, went through warmups and started for the 153rd — and, given the facts on the ground, probably last — time.
If this was his swan song, it was entirely forgettable.
Three plays, two passes, one completion and one near-interception.
Cutler’s day was done after one series. His career probably was too.
But the Dolphins wanted to see what David Fales could do.
The answer, at least Sunday: Not much.
Fales, seeing the most extensive action of his career, completed 29 of 42 passes for 265 yards and threw for a touchdown and ran for another. But most of those numbers came in garbage time. And yet, he had the ball with a chance to win in the game’s final minute. Instead, he threw an interception to safety Jordan Poyer.
The Dolphins were shut out in the first half for the fourth time this season, in large part because they had no passing game.
Fales had a ghastly 40 passing yards on 11 attempts and the Dolphins had more than twice as many penalties (nine) as first downs (four).
And Miami’s best scoring opportunity stalled out when Adam Gase decided to go for it on fourth-down deep in Buffalo territory. The conversion failed.
Put it together, and that is a losing proposition against any quarterback. But Tyrod Taylor is not just any quarterback when he plays the Dolphins. In the first half, he threw his 10th career touchdown pass versus Miami — against no interceptions.
He identified and exploited Miami’s biggest deficiency: covering tight ends. Ex-Dolphin Charles Clay had five first-half catches for 56 yards.
The third quarter was no kinder to Fales, who was so off he committed an intentional grounding penalty — on fourth-and-long.
If there was a bright spot to the second half of the season, it’s this: Drake emerged as a player.
Buried on the depth chart behind Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams early in the year, opportunity found Drake when Ajayi was traded and Williams got hurt.
He rushed for 75 Sunday, giving him 444 over the season’s final five games.