Miami Dolphins show fight – too much of it, actually – in loss to Bills to finish 6-10

Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills players get into a fight on the field late in the fourth quarter at the Hard Rock Stadium. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

MIAMI GARDENS — When the officials ran out of flags to throw, they threw caps. When they ran out of caps, they threw out players, but only after making a list and checking it three times to make sure they were penalizing the right players.

If this Dolphins season were searching for a fitting ending, it somehow found it.

Five months ago, the Dolphins gathered for training camp expecting to build on a double-digit, playoff season of a year ago. They ended up opening the season without their starting quarterback and playing their “home opener” thousands of miles away.

Sunday night, they ended it 6-10 after a bizarre 22-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills in which they sleep-walked through three quarters, then showed plenty of fight at the end.

Too much for the officials’ tastes, because with six minutes remaining, a wild brawl broke out that resulted in the ejections of Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (who flung the helmet of a Bills player 20 yards upfield) and receiver Jarvis Landry (who was ejected for roughness and, odd as it sounds, a received second ejection for “disrespecting an official”).

Six penalties were detected in the ugliness, so many that it was almost lost in the mix that it came on a 1-yard touchdown pass pass from David Fales to Landry to cut the deficit to 22-9. Landry had plunged up the middle into a scrum, breaking the plane by extending the ball outward, which apparently set off safety Jordan Poyer. Next thing you knew, Landry and Poyer’s facemasks were on top of one another as scores of other players joined in the fracas.

“Despite the whistle, he kept grabbing me by the neck like he was trying to tackle me,” Landry said. “The whistle had been blown. He put his hand inside my facemask and I was just defending myself. I guess the second person always gets caught-type thing.”

Referee Jeff Triplett kicked off the afternoon by roaring “Let’s play football” over the P.A. following the coin toss. His Michael Buffer impression would have been more prophetic had he simply said, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” The fight was ugly enough that Triplette initially said he was penalizing Bills guard Richie Incognito, the ex-Dolphin, who wasn’t even on the field.

“It seemed like he was having some trouble figuring it out,” Dolphins tackle Sam Young said.

Young wasn’t necessarily being critical.

“I was trying to count,” Young said of the flags and caps. “I lost count.”

Fales, who had a choice ringside seat, said he didn’t know what happened.

“I just saw a lot of bodies and tried to stay out of it,” he said.

After a three-and-out, the Dolphins made a game of it with a 10-play, 68-yard drive ending in Fales’ 1-yard touchdown run. Bobby McCain recovered the ensuing onside kick — the Dolphins’ fourth such recovery this season — but the rally ended with Fales throwing an interception to — of all people — Poyer.

That means the Dolphins hold the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft. The last time they drafted 11th was 1969, when they selected defensive end Bill Stanfill, their all-time sack leader until Jason Taylor came along.

The Bills, meanwhile, finished 9-7 and squeezed into the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

The day’s results were a mixed bag for Landry. He ended with season with 112 receptions, a team record and tops in the league. But he barely missed a chance to become the first Dolphin with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He finished with 13 yards shy, and given that Miami had two possessions following his ejection, there’s every reason to think the disqualification cost Landry the milestone.

“I regret putting my teammates in a bad spot,” Landry said. “I regret putting myself in a bad spot. But again, I do have a career to protect. If somebody tries to jeopardize that, I have the right to defend myself.”

Coach Adam Gase was vague about the entire affair, especially whether Landry disrespected the officials.

“I know what he did but it’s not something that I want to say right now,” Gase said.

Gase will have plenty of time to think about it. So will all his players, who begin a long offseason pondering where it all went wrong.

“How do I describe the season? That’s a good question,” Young said. “It’s been a little bit of everything.”

Grading the Dolphins for their loss to the Bills

[Dolphins throw away strong seasons by five of their star players]

[Dolphins QB Jay Cutler says he won’t be a backup]

[A resurgence for Dion Jordan–and a warning for future Dolphins]

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Bills-at-Dolphins photo gallery