ORCHARD PARK — Answer me this, how did Miami win eight games this season?
On Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the team with nothing to play for — the Bills — was totally lights-out and the one with so much at stake — the Dolphins — seemingly forgot to get off the plane.
The result was a 19-0 Buffalo victory that prematurely ended the Dolphins’ slim playoff hopes.
If the final is lost on you, consider that the Bills haven’t had a shutout since beating the Redskins, 23-0, two years ago in Toronto. And the last one at “The Ralph” was in 2006 against, all together now, Miami ... 21-0.
AND THIS was no fluke.
The announced crowd of 54,305 — nearly 20,000 below capacity — sat through a windy, rainy afternoon and was rewarded with a record-setting performance against a Dolphins team that seemingly played uninspired and disinterested.
Buffalo, which led the NFL in sacks coming in, logged seven more, the new total of 56 shattering the franchise record of 50.
Tackle Kyle Williams got two, so did undrafted rookie cornerback Nickell Robey, with ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes plus safety Da’Norris Searcy logging one each.
In addition, the Bills, who ranked third in the league in interceptions, picked off two more, one by safety Jim Leonhard and the other by cornerback Leodis McKelvin.
IN TOTAL performance, the effort by defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s crew was outstanding.
Before Sunday, Buffalo’s lowest points surrendered was in a 37-14 victory over the Jets and the fewest yards given up was a 210 in a loss to Kansas City.
The Dolphins totaled 103 — subtracting the 46 sack yards — their previous low, 231 against Tampa Bay.
Beleaguered Miami quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Mike Moore combined to go 12-of-33 through the air for 135 yards, those two picks, and a puny passer rating of 24.2.
When asked about the performance his unit turned in, Pettine said, “That was a pretty good beating. They were flying around. They were getting off the ball ... they just looked a step faster than Miami did all day.”
Buffalo’s pass rush pushed the Dolphins season sacks surrendered to 58, the most in franchise history, and worst in the league.
OF THE BILLS’ biggest, single-game sack output this season, Kyle Williams admitted, “It’s a nice consolation to where we are (out of the playoff race). But I think you saw today, potentially, what we can do. We have a good scheme and we have some really good players.”
Is there a regret that defensive reality didn’t materialize until Game 15?
“You try not to kind of dwell on what you could’ve done different,” Kyle said. “You kind of fight human nature worrying about that. I think that we’ve got a chance to be really, really good because of the combination of schematically what we’re doing and the players we have.
“I feel more excited about what’s ahead of us than (the) regret looking back.”
TO PETTINE, the shutout was merely a bonus.
“It’s important to win, regardless (of the score),” he said. “We focused on the little things, capitalized and were efficient.”
As for the sack standard, Pettine added, “You look at each game week-to-week (not at a record total). Every game has a story to it. That’ll be our lament of this year, that we ended up out of the playoffs (despite the number of sacks) when we felt like we were a playoff team.”
But he pointed out there’s always next year.
“That was our challenge to the guys this week ... it’s always tough to stand in front of them, hey, we have nothing to play for. But that’s not the case,” Pettine maintained. “We’ve built a foundation from the beginning, but we wanted to finish it. We wanted to have momentum going into next year.
“I think the guys really took that to heart, and said, ‘Hey, listen, this is our playoff game.’”
And first-year head coach Doug Marrone shared his coordinator’s view.
“We’re going to build on that,” he said of Sunday’s performance. “We’re going to get after it next year. You always have to move forward, keep working and building. After this season is over (we’re) going to look at things and kick (ourselves) in the butt again.
“We, as a team, are disappointed in where we are from a record standpoint. But I told the guys these last two games (including next Sunday at New England) are critical. There are some things we’ve done very well that we’re proud of.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)