The Buffalo Bills' string of winning the time of possession battle for five straight games looked like history after the first quarter.
Miami ran 20 plays to just six for the Bills. The Dolphins held the ball for 11:47.
Poor third-down offense by Buffalo was one reason for the disparity. The Bills' offense went three plays and out on both of its possessions. On the first drive, J.P. Losman had Josh Reed open on third-and-5 but his throw was too low. On the second, Marshawn Lynch was stuffed for a 4-yard loss on third-and-1.
The 3-0 lead had to feel like a big advantage for the Fish. They had been outscored, 62-16, in the first quarter.
Key plays: The Bills' defense came up with a big stop on a fourth-and-1 play from the Bills' 34. Safety Donte Whitner beat a block from receiver Marty Booker on the right edge of the defense and shot into the backfield to stuff Jesse Chatman for a 1-yard loss.
Second guess: The Bills' short-yardage offense still was not in midseason form. When Lynch was stuffed, it was the fifth time in seven tries this season he had been stopped on third-and-1.
Eating up yards
Jesse Chatman ate his way out of the NFL last year. In the first half Sunday, he ate up the Bills' defense. Chatman finished the first half with 87 rushing yards on 17 carries for a 5.1-yard average. Jesse who?
He's a 5-foot-8, 225-pounder from Eastern Washington who was picked off the scrap heap by Miami this year.
Chatman, a backup in San Diego for three years, sat out most of the 2005 and '06 seasons after being cut by New Orleans in 2005. He had a tryout with Carolina in the spring of 2006 but the Panthers passed. Why? He weighed 268 pounds.
Unsung: Bills punter Brian Moorman had punts with hang times of 5.2, 5.1 and 5.0 in the first half.
Key plays: J.P. Losman underthrew an open Lee Evans in the end zone and Will Allen intercepted the ball to snuff out the Bills' best scoring chance.
Second guess: You're 0-8. Your defense has been stuffing the Bills. So on fourth-and-1 from the Bills' 48, you played it safe and took an intentional delay of game penalty. Then the punt went into the end zone for a touchback. Bad call, Dolphins.
>THIRD QUARTER - Salvage operation
You figured the Bills would get things straightened out at halftime and come out swinging, right?
The offense continued to sputter and the Dolphins continued to control the clock.
The silver lining for the Bills was the special teams. Brian Moorman's pooch punt was downed at the Miami 2 thanks to a good coverage play by Justin Jenkins, who kept the ball out of the end zone.
Three plays later, Chris Kelsay sacked Cleo Lemon in the end zone for a safety and the Bills were within 3-2.
But the Dolphins mounted an 18-play, 80-yard drive to eat up the final 9:45 of the quarter. Lemon's 5-yard scramble put Miami up, 10-2.
Key plays: A wide-open Michael Gaines dropped what should have been a touchdown pass from Losman on a throw down the seam at the Miami 15.
"If we had come in with a loss, I'd be feeling real terrible right now," Gaines said after the game.
Fickle Fins: Midway through the quarter, the fans were shouting "We want Beck!" in reference to Miami's rookie quarterback, John Beck.
Second guess: Losman held the ball too long on a third-and-11 play from the Buffalo 43. He was sacked by Joey Porter.
>FOURTH QUARTER - Marching orders
The Bills needed a near-perfect fourth quarter. They got it.
First they marched 66 yards to a touchdown with 9:46 left. Then they got a two-point conversion to tie the game, 10-10.
Then the defense made Miami quarterback Cleo Lemon look like the fourth-year, undrafted, scatter-armed journeyman that he is. Then the Bills drove to the winning field goal. Then they stopped Miami's last-chance drive.
Wait a minute. Are these guys learning how to win?
"Guys really understand it is crunch time," safety Donte Whitner said. "Either we do it now or we don't do it at all. That's what we said in the huddle. We got off the field on third down on defense. The offense went down. They ran some time off the clock and we got out of here with a win."
Key plays: Too numerous to count, but Marshawn Lynch's runs were the biggest.
Unsung: Defensive end Aaron Schobel didn't have a sack. All he did was play his position all day, chase down runners and harass the quarterback.
Clutchless: Miami punter Brandon Fields picked a bad time for his worst punt of the day, a low, wobbling 39-yarder that Roscoe Parrish brought back 40 yards.