Final

Dolphins 20

(9-6, 6-2 away)

Bills 3

(6-9, 4-4 home)

1:00 PM ET, December 21, 2003

Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY 

1 2 3 4 T
MIA 10 3 7 020
BUF 0 0 3 03

Buckley returns INT 74 yards for score

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Terrell Buckley put the distractions aside to keep alive the Miami Dolphins' playoff hopes.

Leading a stifling defensive effort that included six sacks, Buckley returned an interception 74 yards to spark Miami's 20-3 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
Question on the Dolphins: If they sneak into the playoffs, are the Dolphins a threat?
This isn't a team that scares any team in the AFC like the Bengals do. Teams know what to expect when playing the Dolphins, and that's what hurts Miami. With no fear of the unknown, opposing teams can game plan much more easily and be more effective in the crunch time of games.

Question on the Bills: So was the loss of Mike Williams that significant or is Drew Bledsoe simply declining?
Bledsoe is a quarterback whose success is based on timing. Right now it seems his timing is off because he's holding onto the ball way too long. When he holds onto the ball as long as he is, it gives defenses too much time to get a shot at him. He has to return to releasing the ball quickly if he wants to return to his previous success.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

The Dolphins (9-6) stayed in the hunt for an AFC wild-card berth. But they left for home knowing they still needed help, because they could be eliminated by a Denver victory.

The Broncos (9-5) played at Indianapolis on Sunday night, and close out their season at Green Bay. The Dolphins will host the New York Jets next Sunday.

While the future remains out of their control, the Dolphins put aside questions that have haunted their past.

So much for critics who harped on an inability to win on the road in December, and blamed the defenders for their porous performance in last Monday's 34-27 loss to Philadelphia.

"Everything that was written that gave the guys an opportunity to doubt themselves, that didn't happen," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It's a remarkable job that this football team was able to keep its focus."

If there was criticism, Buckley didn't notice.

"I don't care, I don't read, I don't pay attention," Buckley said. "And I wish all the guys would realize that that's just talk."

His reply came on the field.

With the Bills trailing 13-3 in the third quarter and threatening to mount a comeback with the ball on the Miami 29, Buckley stepped in front of Drew Bledsoe's pass and ran it back untouched up the left sideline.

It was one of several defensive contributions. Jason Taylor had 2{ sacks, giving him 69{ for his career to become the Dolphins' sacks leader. And Miami limited the Bills to 177 yards -- and a mere 49 prior to Buckley's score.

Chris Chambers scored on a 23-yard reception on the Dolphins' first possession, and two turnovers by the Bills led to Olindo Mare's field goals from 28 and 30 yards.

Miami snapped a two-game losing streak and won on the road for the first time in December or later since closing the 2000 season with a victory at New England -- ending a six-game losing streak.

The Bills (6-9) bumbled their way through the game, an apparent letdown after they were eliminated from playoff contention with last week's 28-26 loss at Tennessee.

Bledsoe's season-long struggles continued. He finished 12-of-24 for 114 yards passing, the eighth time this season he's failed to break 200. That's a significant drop from last year, when Bledsoe set 10 franchise passing records in his first season with the Bills.

And it's even more discouraging considering the high expectations Bledsoe had for a team hoping to build off last season's promising 8-8 finish.

"Right now I'm so mad. I didn't see the season going this way," Bledsoe said. "I'm trying to figure out what the answers are. I'm so angry right now."

Coach Gregg Williams was unemotional and looked stunned after a loss that further raises speculation he won't be rehired after he completes the third and final year of his contract this season.

"We just didn't play very well," Williams assessed the game, speaking in a monotone.

And without saying who, Williams called it "unfortunate that some people around the ball didn't play as well today, and put us in a hole."

There was much blame to spread around in a game the Bills turned over the ball four times and couldn't score despite three tries from inside the Miami 6, eventually settling for Rian Lindell's 23-yard field goal.

The Dolphins' defense took the pressure off quarterback Jay Fiedler, who finished 8-of-17 for 46 yards and an interception. Ricky Williams, who missed six plays in the first half because of a shoulder injury, led Miami with 111 yards rushing.

Williams credited the defense, saying: "I think everyone understands that is the strength of our team. If they keep playing like that, there are good things in our future -- especially if Denver loses."< ^Notes: Taylor had 1{ sacks on consecutive plays near the end of the first half to move him ahead of Bill Stanfill, who held the previous Dolphins record of 67{. ... Chambers' 10th touchdown of the season made him the first Miami receiver to reach double digits since Mark Clayton had 12 in 1991. ... Including Buffalo's 17-7 loss at Miami in September, the Bills combined for 295 yards offense, 19 first downs and no offensive touchdowns against the Dolphins this season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Scoring Summary

THIRD QUARTERMIABUF
miaTD8:20Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 70 yds, 0:00
193
mia8:20
Drive info: 1 plays, 70 yds, 0:00
203
FIRST QUARTERMIABUF
miaTD11:30Touchdown
Drive info: 4 plays, 36 yds, 2:00
60
mia11:23
Drive info: 4 plays, 36 yds, 2:00
70
miaFG2:00Olindo Mare 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 15 yds, 5:00
100
SECOND QUARTERMIABUF
miaFG9:10Olindo Mare 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 21 yds, 3:30
130
THIRD QUARTERMIABUF
bufFG12:10Rian Lindell 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 34 yds, 1:57
133