- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Contenders to pretenders: The Dolphins appeared to be contenders after their 3-0 start. Now, Miami looks much more like a pretender following its third straight loss. The Dolphins cannot be taken seriously in the playoff conversation if they cannot beat Buffalo at home with a third-string quarterback in Thad Lewis. Miami also had two weeks to rest and prepare and played perhaps its sloppiest game of the season. The Dolphins will play two first-place teams -- the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals -- with a combined 10-4 record in the next two weeks. Miami could be staring at a five-game losing streak if the team cannot play much better than it did on Sunday.
Clabo watch: Replacing Miami right tackle Tyson Clabo has been a hot topic for at least two weeks. Clabo added more fuel to that debate after allowing two sacks in Sunday’s loss to Buffalo. He’s now allowed a team-high seven quarterback sacks in six games. Bills defensive end Mario Williams manhandled Clabo with two inside moves in the fourth quarter to get to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The second sack forced Tannehill to fumble and set up Buffalo’s game-winning field goal. The Dolphins’ coaching staff put Clabo on notice during the bye. A lineup change could be looming if he continues to allow multiple sacks.
Tannehill’s turnovers: The fourth-quarter fumble was costly. But that wasn’t the only bad play for Tannehill. Miami’s second-year quarterback also had two bad interceptions. One was a pick-six on his first throw. The second was a bad pick in the end zone that took points off the board for the Dolphins. Overall, Tannehill is having a solid second season. But he can’t have many three-turnover games and expect to win. Tannehill has been able to overcome an inconsistent running game and pass protection in the first three weeks. But it appears those shortcomings are starting to catch up with the quarterback, who is failing lately to take over games.
Ground game: It wasn’t all bad for Miami. The Dolphins’ running game showed plenty of signs of life against the Bills. Miami rushed for 120 yards on 25 carries. Dolphins tailbacks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined for 103 yards. Miami adjusted its rushing attack by plowing forward instead of running sideline to sideline. This is something the Dolphins can build on.