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Dolphins win, but are eliminated from playoff contention

The SportsXchange

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami's defense had hoped it could generate more turnovers, and it got four early Christmas gifts from Buffalo's offense on Sunday leading to a 24-10 victory over the Bills.

Despite their second straight win and improving to 7-8, the Dolphins were eliminated from playoff contention with Cincinnati's 13-10 win over Pittsburgh, but the possibility of an 8-8 finish remains alive.

"No, it doesn't," linebacker Kevin Burnett said when asked whether being eliminated from the playoffs took away from the win. "A win is a win. It's hard to put it in the left column, so you better embrace it when you get one."

The four takeaways was a season high for the Dolphins, and they converted them into 17 points, Ryan Tannehill threw touchdown passes of 17 and 12 yards to Reggie Bush, and Nate Kaeding added a 45-yar field goal. Bush also had a 1-yard touchdown run.

Safety Reshad Jones recovered two fumbles and had an interception as the Dolphins, who began the day with a minus-12 turnover ratio, improved it to minus-eight.

"We've been working on it all season," Jones said. "We always go after the ball. Turnovers are contagious. When one guy gets one, everybody wants one.

"I just happened to be where the ball was a lot, but it's not about me. It's about team defense. The fumbles I recovered were caused, and the interception was because the line was putting pressure on the quarterback."

Buffalo's only touchdown was a two-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brad Smith. Rian Lindell added a 42-yard field goal. Fitzpatrick threw for 240 yards passing, completing 20 of 35 passes.

C.J. Spiller rushed for 138 yards on 22 carries and caught four passes for 35 yards. He had a career-long 62-yard run.

"We made the plays that were there," Spiller said. "When you turn the ball over as many times as we did, you aren't going to win too many games."

The Bills, who lost their third consecutive game and fell to 5-10, had three turnovers in last week's loss to Seattle. They entered the game with a minus-10 turnover ratio, and it fell to minus-14.

It was only the seventh game where the Miami defense has generated a turnover. It had had only two turnovers in the previous nine games.

"Turnovers come in bunches," said linebacker Karlos Dansby. "It is frustrating when you don't get them. We've created some turnovers this season, and the ball just didn't bounce our way. Today, it did."

Bush and Tannehill did the rest.

"We seem to be in a pretty good rhythm right now," said Bush. "The playoffs would have been a great incentive, but an 8-8 finish with such a young team would be big heading into the offseason. Our focus is on New England."

It was first time that Bush had two touchdown catches in a game since Dec. 13, 2009, while playing for New Orleans in a game at Atlanta. He had four catches for 42 yards and rushed for 65 yards in 19 carries.

Bush, Lamar Miller (73 yards in 10 carries), and quarterback Ryan Tannehill (44 yards in six carries) combined to help the Dolphins rush for 182 yards. It was their second straight game with more than 180 yards.

"When we struggled in the middle of the season a little, it was because our running game wasn't producing," Bush said. "We seemed to have fixed it, and Ryan is also in a good rhythm."

Tannehill threw for 130 yards, completing 13 of 25 passes with no interceptions. His 93.8 rating was his third highest of the season, and he hasn't thrown an interception in four games.

In Miami's last two wins, he has thrown for 350 yards, completing 35 of 53 passes, with four touchdowns and a 109.8 rating.

"I've grown a lot since Houston [first game]," Tannehill said. "I've learned something from every game and grown. I can continue to do that.

"It's huge to finish out the season with wins. We're still working hard every day, and we want to go out and win."

With Buffalo apparently driving for the game's first score, Fitzpatrick threw a completion to Stevie Johnson from the Miami 25. But Sean Smith stripped the ball, and Jones returned the fumble 24 yards.

The Dolphins converted it into a 7-0 lead when Tannehill threw 17 yards to Bush for a score with 2:54 left in the first quarter.

The Bills cut the margin to 7-3 on a 42-yard field goal by Lindell with 9:48 remaining in the half. It was set up by Spiller's 62-yard run.

Tannehill's 31-yard run and a 30-yard completion to Rishard Matthews highlighted a 65-yard drive late in the second quarter that ended with Bush scoring on a 1-yard run with 42 seconds left for a 14-3 halftime lead.

On the opening possession of the second half, Fitzpatrick completed a pass to Dion Dickerson. Miami linebacker Karlos Dansby stripped the ball, and safety Chris Clemons recovered.

The Dolphins drove 64 yards with Tannehill throwing 12 yards to Bush for a touchdown and a 21-3 lead.

On the Bills' next possession, Cameron Wake recorded his 15th sack of the season as Fitzpatrick fumbled, and Jones recovered.

It resulted in a 45-yard field goal by Kaeding, signed earlier in the week to replace Dan Carpenter, who was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. It expanded the lead to 24-3 with 4:18 left in the third quarter.

The Bills' only touchdown came with 8:52 to go when Fitzpatrick threw two yards to Smith, completing an 80-yard drive. The key play was a 41-yard Fitzpatrick pass to T.J. Graham on third-and-13 from the Buffalo 28.

With Buffalo driving for another touchdown late in the game, it was only fitting that it ended when Jones intercepted a Fitzpatrick pass.

"We've been stressing getting turnovers," Miami coach Joe Philbin said. "We practice is on a daily basis. It was good to see it pay off a little bit."

NOTES: Spiller, with 173 yards from scrimmage, became the first Buffalo back since Thurman Thomas in 1992 to have 10 games or more with 100 yards rushing and receiving. His 170 yards rushing and receiving give him 1,563 yards from scrimmage for the season. He is the first Buffalo back to rush for more than 1,500 scrimmage yards in a season since Travis Henry in 2003. ... Bills tight end Scott Chandler suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and didn't return. Depending on its severity, Chandler could be prevented from getting a seventh touchdown reception, which would be a team record for tight ends in a season. ... Bills' strong safety Da'Norris Searcy suffered a groin injury in the second quarter. ... Bills' cornerback Stephen Gilmore suffered a head injury in the third quarter and didn't return. ... Bills' fullback Dorin Dickerson suffered a right ankle injury in the final minutes. ... For Buffalo, Kyle Moore started for Mark Anderson at defensive end. ... Tannehill's 31-yard run was the second longest in team history by a quarterback. Pat White ran for 33 yards in 2009 . . . The Dolphins used Bush and Lamar Miller at the same time, with Bush splitting out as a wide receiver .... Dolphin cornerback Sean Smith suffered a knee injury and did not return. ... For Miami, Marlon Moore started for Davone Bess (back) at wide receiver. Dimitri Patterson started for Nolan Carroll (knee) at cornerback, and Jason Trusnik started at linebacker for Koa Misi (ankle). ... Kaeding had his first field goal attempt as a Dolphin, 46 yards, blocked by Alex Carrington.
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