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Bills stifle Miami 21-0 to keep hope alive

Now that the Buffalo Bills are playing their best, they're left with one lament: Is it too late for the playoffs? "The coulda, woulda, shoulda," receiver Lee Evans said, nodding in disappointment. "But you can't really dwell on that."

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (Dec. 17, 2006) -- Now that the Buffalo Bills are playing their best, they're left with one lament: Is it too late for the playoffs?

"The coulda, woulda, shoulda," receiver Lee Evans said, nodding in disappointment. "But you can't really dwell on that."

No, because the Bills aren't done yet.

J.P. Losman's latest efficient outing and a stout defensive effort combined to keep the Bills' slim playoff hopes alive in a 21-0 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Overcoming wet and blustery conditions, Losman threw for three touchdown passes while the defense limited the Dolphins to 118 yards through three quarters and 212 overall, helping Buffalo (7-7) win for the fifth time in seven games.

It was Buffalo's first shutout since a 2003 season-opening 31-0 win over New England, and its first against the Dolphins since a 29-0 win in November of 1987. Most satisfying, perhaps, the win eliminated Buffalo's AFC East rival from postseason contention, with Miami dropping to 6-8.

"It's an awesome feeling," linebacker London Fletcher-Baker said. "Obviously, we didn't think we would shut them out. But to get the type of victory that we got today, says a lot about the character of this team."

After hosting Tennessee (7-7) next weekend, Buffalo closes its season at Baltimore (11-3).

The Dolphins' playoff hopes ended with a thud, the team unable to overcome a 1-5 start to the season.

"We made a good run at the end of the season, but you're also going to kick yourself for not playing that way all year long," quarterback Joey Harrington said.

Harrington had his worst outing in 10 starts -- and statistically the worst of his five-year NFL career -- since taking over for injured Daunte Culpepper.

In registering a career-low 0.0 passer rating, Harrington finished 5 of 17 for 20 yards passing and two interceptions before being benched in favor of Cleo Lemon early in the fourth quarter.

"Let's not pretend it was a huge shock," Harrington said of his benching. "I wasn't playing well."

The Dolphins went three-and-out on five of six possessions -- the other ending in a Harrington interception -- spanning the second and third quarters while managing 15 yards offense.

The game turned in the opening minutes of the second half when Jason Taylor forced a Losman fumble, the quarterback's only miscue, giving Miami the ball at the Bills 44.

Down 7-0, the Dolphins immediately gave the ball away when Harrington was intercepted by Nate Clements, who jumped the route and stepped in front of Chris Chambers.

It was Clements' 23rd career interception and ninth against Miami.

Losman responded by capping a 55-yard drive, hitting Josh Reed for a 27-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Losman finished 13 of 19 for 200 yards and matched a career-high with three touchdown passes, rounded out by a 33-yard strike to Robert Royal and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Evans.

"We lost the game on three big plays," Taylor said. "I'm not going to buy into this, 'They kicked our butt up and down the field.' They just got a few big plays on us."

Unlike the Dolphins, the Bills were not bothered by the weather conditions.

The game was played in a persistent rain and with winds gusting up to 25 mph. But at least it was relatively balmy -- the game-time temperature was 54 degrees -- for Orchard Park in December.

The Dolphins twice elected against testing the wind with field-goal tries, but failed to convert fourth-down attempts -- including a fourth-and-1 at the Bills 24 -- on their first two possessions.

Losman provided further proof why he's earned the Bills' starting job beyond this season. Earlier this week coach Dick Jauron said the second-year starter has earned the No. 1 job heading into next season.

That's a significant departure after Losman went 1-7 last year, and twice lost his starting job.

"He's grown a lot," Evans said. "You can see him starting to get it. There's still some things we left out there, but you can see it. And when you have your quarterback in control of everything, it helps your offense out a lot."

Notes: The Bills, who beat the Dolphins 16-6 at Miami in Week 2, swept the season-series for the fourth time since 1999. ... Dolphins TE Randy McMichael had four catches to give him 53, becoming the fourth Miami player to reach 50 receptions this season. That matches a franchise high previously set in 1986 and '95. ... Dolphins WR Marty Booker twisted his ankle in the third quarter and did not return. LT Damion McIntosh hurt his elbow, but coach Nick Saban said X-rays were negative.

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