They might be in the same division, but the Dolphins simply aren’t in the same league as the Bills.
Buffalo throttled Miami for the second time in six weeks Sunday. The only difference this time is that it happened on the road instead of at home.
The Bills and Dolphins have now met 100 times in the regular season. Rarely in the team’s long history has the rivalry been this one-sided.
The ugly final score Sunday: Bills 33, Dolphins 17.
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The details: The Bills had two 100-yard rushers (LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams), Sammy Watkins caught eight passes for 168 yards and Tyrod Taylor completed 92 percent of his throws.
The impact: A series sweep by Buffalo for the second time in the last three years.
And like it did back in 2013, the second Bills’ win crippled the Dolphins’ playoffs hopes. That’s understandable when the loss happens three days before Christmas, as it did two years ago.
But when the Bills all but end the Dolphins’ season a week after Halloween? That’s a sign that systemic changes should — and probably will — come when the year ends.
Here’s where the Dolphins stand at the season’s halfway pole: At 3-5 overall, winless in four divisional contests, and two wins behind Pittsburgh for the AFC’s sixth seed.
The analytics website Football Outsiders gave Miami just a 5.5 percent chance of making the postseason — before Sunday’s result.
“Absolutely,” interim coach Dan Campbell said when asked if the season can be salvaged. “I don't see why not.”
Here’s why not: The Dolphins’ two-week dominance against the Texans and Titans looks more and more like the exception than the rule. Remove those two games, and they’ve been outscored by a 170-89 margin this season.
So it’s fair to say that the bloom is off Campbell’s rose.
For the second time in as many weeks, he was outclassed by the guy on the other sideline.
In Week 8, Bill Belichick schooled the apprentice.
And on Sunday, Rex Ryan did the same.
Really, none of this should come as too great of a surprise.
The last time the Dolphins won in Ralph Wilson Stadium, Todd Bowles was their coach. Like Campbell, he had that title on an interim basis.
Stephen Ross decided Bowles would not get the job permanently the following offseason.
Will Sunday’s result help convince Ross — who lingered in the Dolphins’ locker room longer than usual — that Campbell likewise isn't the right fit?
It would be hard to blame him.
Campbell made at least two decisions that impacted the game negatively for the Dolphins:
▪ He allowed 24 seconds to elapse between plays in the final minute of the first half, with the Dolphins inside the 10 and in possession of a timeout. Then Campbell doubled down by going for a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal on the final play of the second quarter. Ryan Tannehill’s pass to Dion Sims fell incomplete, and the Dolphins came away with nothing.
“That’s up to the coaching staff and what they wanted to do there,” Tannehill said when asked why he didn’t use the team’s final timeout to preserve clock. “They tell me to be on the ball and make a play and so that’s what I did.”
▪ Campbell later accepted a holding penalty that gave the Bills a third-and-14 at the Dolphins 44 instead of forcing Dan Carpenter to try a 51-yard field goal. The Bills made the Dolphins pay with the extra play; Taylor hooked up with Sammy Watkins on a 44-yard touchdown. The lead swelled to 12 points. The Dolphins would not threaten again.
For his part, Ryan said he wasn’t surprised “at all” that Campbell accepted the penalty. Campbell was “frustrated” by the result of that decision.
He should be just as frustrated with a run defense that was exposed again. The Dolphins allowed the Bills (4-4) to rack up 266 rushing yards and average 7.4 yards per attempt. Williams rushed for 110 yards two touchdowns, while McCoy had 112 yards and one touchdown.
“They were just gashing us in the run game,” said linebacker Koa Misi. “We knew what they were going to run and we just couldn’t stop it.”
There's no stopping the looming offseason either. The season’s remaining eight weeks might determine who in aqua and orange survives it.