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MIAMI – The whistle had blown and Reggie Bush stood in the end zone, holding the ball for a touchdown as he wiggled his right leg to free it from the annoying grasp of a Buffalo Bills defender.
Bush repeatedly shook loose Sunday, catching passes for two scores and running for a third to help the Miami Dolphins beat the hapless Bills 24-10.
The win kept Miami's slim playoff hopes alive for another six minutes. By the time they reached the locker room they had been eliminated because of Cincinnati's victory at Pittsburgh.
"It's hard to win in this league," Bush said. "We've got to a do a better job obviously next season."
Miami will sit out the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 years.
"The NFL has a system in place — six teams earn a spot in the playoffs," first-year coach Joe Philbin said. "It is what it is."
The Bills (5-10) came into the game assured of missing the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season. Coach Chan Gailey's team reached a double-digit loss total for the third year in a row, but he said he's not worried about his job security.
"No, I worry about getting better ... playing to our abilities, which we haven't done," he said. "And that's my responsibility to get that done."
The Bills missed a chance at a sweep of the season series with Miami.
"We came into this game playing for pride," said C.J. Spiller, who rushed for 138 yards. "We were just trying to get the respect that we know we don't have right now."
Respect has been elusive for the Dolphins, who need a win in Sunday's finale at New England to avoid their fourth consecutive losing season. There were signs of progress against Buffalo, with an efficient offense and a stingy defense that suddenly began forcing turnovers.
Safety Reshad Jones recovered two fumbles and made an interception at the Miami 1 with 71 seconds left to seal the victory. The Dolphins managed four takeaways playing with a patchwork secondary that included starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson, acquired Tuesday after being waived by Cleveland.
The Dolphins took advantage of Buffalo's woeful run defense by netting 182 yards on the ground while averaging 5.2 per carry. Lamar Miller had 73 yards, Bush 65 and Tannehill 44.
The Dolphins recovered three fumbles, doubling their season total, but their most spectacular takeaway was Jones' interception. Jones leaped at the line of scrimmage to snare Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass and clinch the win.
"He just made a heck of a play," Fitzpatrick said.
The Dolphins' flurry of takeaways came after they had one in their previous seven games.
"They come in bunches," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We stuck with it."
Along with the turnovers and 11 penalties, missed chances hurt the Bills. Stevie Johnson lost a fumble at the Miami 17 and dropped a pass in the end zone, when Buffalo settled for a field goal.
"Especially the first half there, I think that's as poor as we've played offensively since I've been here," Fitzpatrick said.
Buffalo settled for a field goal after Johnson's dropped pass. The ruling appeared questionable, but the Bills didn't challenge the call.
"If the ball rolls out without (the receiver) coming up with it and giving it to the official, they're not going to ever give it to you," Gailey said. "So you're wasting a challenge there."
NOTES: Miami CB Sean Smith hurt his left knee in the second half. ... For the Bills, TE Scott Chandler left the game in the first quarter with a left knee injury. FB Dorin Dickerson was carted off the field late in the fourth quarter with a right ankle injury. ... SS Da'Norris Searcy hurt his groin in the second quarter. CB Stephon Gilmore left with a head injury in the third quarter. ... TE Michael Egnew, Miami's third-round draft pick, was active for the first time and played seven snaps.
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