- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: It means the already slim chances of the Dolphins making the playoffs are over. Miami lost its third straight game, dropping to 4-6. The Dolphins have a brutal upcoming schedule, hosting the Seattle Seahawks (6-4) and New England Patriots (6-3) before traveling to face the San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1). The Dolphins could be 4-9 in a few weeks if they don’t improve. But the Dolphins also have an opportunity to play spoiler for playoff contenders. The Bills are playing better and may feel optimistic they can make a playoff push. But Buffalo also is 4-6 and showed the inability to finish at home against a mediocre Miami team. Buffalo doesn't have a shot unless it can go 5-1 the rest of the season. That doesn't seem likely.
Spiller factor: One of the most dangerous weapons in the AFC East was unleashed in a national game. Buffalo backup tailback C.J. Spiller got the start due to Fred Jackson's concussion. Spiller was electric in the running and passing game. He registered 91 rushing yards and 39 receiving yards. Miami’s usually tough run defense had trouble containing Spiller, who is learning how to be patient before hitting the line, which makes him more dangerous. The Bills need to do the smart thing and make Spiller the starter for the rest of the season. It’s borderline embarrassing that he’s still a backup for the Bills.
"Special" special teams: We had a rarity in the first quarter. Both the Dolphins and Bills returned kicks for touchdowns. Buffalo corner Leodis McKelvin returned a punt 79 yards to get Buffalo on the board. Miami backup tailback Marcus Thigpen returned the favor with a 96-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. Both teams have played well on special teams this season and made an impact in this game.
Dolphins are offensive: Miami’s offense is going nowhere fast. This group went nine quarters without scoring a touchdown. Miami didn’t even get in Buffalo territory until late in the third quarter and finally scored a touchdown in the fourth period to end the streak. The Dolphins couldn’t get their running game going against the NFL’s worst run defense and the passing game was off. Buffalo’s defensive line imparted its will against Miami’s offensive line. Bills defensive end Mario Williams (four tackles, one sack) had a solid game.
Tannehill’s struggles: You also have to wonder if Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is starting to hit the rookie wall. He was 14-of-28 for 141 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Tannehill has struggled since the second half of the Indianapolis Colts game in Week 9. The rookie is entering the time of year when the college season is wrapping up, but he still has extra games to play. Tannehill has looked subpar in his past 10 quarters and is missing throws he usually makes. In the fourth quarter, Tannehill woke up with a touchdown pass to receiver Davone Bess. But the rookie failed to produce late heroics and threw two interceptions on his final two drives.
Gailey vs. AFC East: Bills coach Chan Gailey has struggled mightily against division foes. Gailey entered Thursday 2-13 in division games. But Buffalo finally got a win in the division and improved to 1-3 this season.
Bush whacked again: Miami starting tailback Reggie Bush didn’t get benched this week for fumbling, but did see little playing time again after being ineffective. Bush totaled zero yards in his first seven carries and finished with just 10 carries for 20 rushing yards. Bush hasn’t been the same since his knee injury in September. Bush is a pending free agent but probably won’t return, because he’s not a favorite of the coaching staff.
What’s next: Both teams will have an extra few days to prepare for their next opponent. Miami has a two-game homestand, which starts Nov. 25 against the Seahawks (6-4). That same day Buffalo will go on the road and play the hot Indianapolis Colts (6-3), who have won four straight games.