(Reuters) - Miami Dolphins’ rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two late interceptions as the Buffalo Bills held on for a 19-14 win in the AFC East divisional clash on Thursday.
Miami suffered their third consecutive loss and slipped to 4-6 in the division with their playoff hopes becoming increasingly marginal.
“We had a couple of opportunities late in the game to win the game and we weren’t able to get it done,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin told reporters.
“It was not a good offensive performance, we had nothing going on, we weren’t throwing the ball well, we weren’t running it well,” he said.
The Bills got off to the perfect start with a 79 yard punt return from Leodis McKelvin and then a 32 yard field goal from Rian Lindell making it 10-0.
The Dolphins responded with a defensive touchdown of their own, Marcus Thigpen racing 96 yards on the kick-off return to narrow the deficit.
Three field goals from Lindell gave Buffalo a 19-7 lead at halftime and while Miami’s offence struggled against a solid Bills defense, the Dolphins’ chances were not helped by a missed field goal attempt from 50 yards by Dan Carpenter.
Miami’s offence had not managed a touchdown in over nine quarters of football but they finally ended that barren run with a two yard Tannehill pass, superbly caught in the end-zone by Davone Bess.
Carpenter’s miss meant that Miami needed another touchdown to win the game and while the Bills’ gave them two late possessions they were unable to take advantage.
A brilliant diving catch from safety Jairus Byrd intercepted a pass intended for Bess and then, after the Buffalo (4-6)offence failed to make a first down, Tannehill was picked off by Bryan Scott to end the game.
“We did a good job, it was a good team victory,” said Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 168 yards.
“The defense did a great job, we didn’t score touchdowns when we got in the red zone and they kept us in it all night. The two turnovers at the end really proved to be the decisive factor,” he told NFL Network.
Another key element to Buffalo’s win, which snapped a three-game losing streak, was the contribution of running back C.J. Spiller, who put up 130 yards from scrimmage after taking on the lead rushing role in the absence of the injured Fred Jackson.
Spiller has no shortage of admirers in the game but some had questioned whether he was able to take on the heavy workload of being the main back.
“I answered the critics out there,” he said.
“We didn’t really play consistently on offence and the defense bailed us out,” added Spiller.
“You can’t win many games in this league kicking field goals. We keep being up and down on offence, we need to be more consistent”.
Reporting by Simon Evans. Editing by Patrick Johnston