ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – It was a nightmare scenario, not just for this team, not for this stage, but for this newest Dolphins time.
Ryan Tannehill's final two drives, the ones that attempted to overcome his teams' three lackluster quarters against Buffalo, both ended in interceptions, one after another, disappointment after distress.
And so another game got away from them Thursday night in another season that's getting away. Buffalo's 19-14 win didn't expose anything new about the latest warning signs for this team as much as it underlined concerns.
The defense? No turnovers in the last three games.
The season? It's in full free-fall now with three straight losses and a difficult schedule ahead of Seattle (6-4), New England (6-3) and at San Francisco (6-2-1).
The year, new coach Joe Philbin said from the start, would be judged by the progress made. But we're running through November and the optimism of September and possibilities of October are gone.
It was just a few weeks ago, the Dolphins were playing Indianapolis to be the surprise team of the league. Now they're fighting to stay out of basement of the AFC East.
For so long Thursday night, the lone Dolphins' highlight was Marcus Thigpen taking a first-quarter kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Thigpen returned a punt for a touchdown earlier this year. Now he pulled the Dolphins back to a 10-7 game.
And that's all there was for a while. At half, the Dolphins had more yards in penalties (54) than in offense (50). Truth is, cornerback Nolan Carroll, who had three second-quarter penalties, accounted for nearly all that penalty yardage.
But it wasn't just any single play or any single player again in this game. It would be easier to get a lay of the land, if it was. The defense got pushed around for three quarters, but didn't give up a touchdown.
It was the Buffalo defense that showed how to change games, though. It took away a fumble from the Dolphins' Brian Hartline early on, and then closed out the game with the two interceptions on Hartline.
Tannehill looked like a shaken rookie at times. Some of that was understandable. He has few receivers breaking open. His offensive line almost got him killed in the first half.
He attempted to rally the offense down the field, throwing the short touchdown to Bess to end an 81-yard drive that had the mark of something good happening.
He then got it going again on the final drive. There was an 18-yard slant to Bess. A 20-yard completion to Rishard Matthews followed just over midfield.
But then Hartline was flagged for offensive interference and all the good work was set back. Tannehill then threw over the middle into triple coverage for the final interception.
So much of this defied common and statistical sense. The Bills' defense ranked second-to-last in the league? The Dolphins scored the one touchdown.
That Bills defense was dead last in the league on third-down conversions? The Dolphins didn't convert a third down without a penalty until the fourth quarter.
The Bills averaged more than three turnovers a game? The Dolphins didn't get one from the, which, again, makes three games in a row without causing one.
That's a formula for trouble in the NFL. And it's one the Dolphins are spinning a lot now.
The season is in trouble that once looked so promising. All the normal questions are in play – a troubled roster, a rookie quarterback and a franchise that hasn't come to full answers.
Thursday night didn't expose any of that.
It just underlined it again.