"Playing a team like San Diego, that's something that you can't do," Dolphins tailback Ronnie Brown said. "You can't come out and get down by 21 points. They're a great team. We have to look at all of the things we did wrong as far as eliminating all of the mistakes."
One of them was struggling to get on track early, which has been a season-long trend. Overall, the opposition has outscored the Dolphins by a 77-30 margin in the first quarter while Miami has enjoyed a 105-48 advantage in the fourth quarter. San Diego (8-4) has outscored its opposition 69-29 in the first quarter and 82-63 in the fourth quarter.
"You'd like to be game-ready in terms of how you go out and execute and perform relative to the sense of urgency and intensity that you have so that you can start fast and finish strong," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "The starting fast part of it was something that we didn't demonstrate in this particular game. We ended up digging a hole for ourselves.
"It is great to have that kind of tenacity (in the fourth quarter). It is great to have that kind of attitude. But it also great to have it from the start so that you can dominate the game for sixty minutes, which is certainly our goal."
Saban's words weren't lost on his players, who were given an earful before the game even began because he was concerned the Dolphins were taking the Bills lightly. Saban's fears were affirmed when Bills quarterback J.P. Losman threw three touchdown passes to wide receiver Lee Evans in the game's opening 13 minutes.
"The first quarter was ridiculous," Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said. "We didn't play very good at all. You always hear the cliche, 'Play for 60 minutes.' Well, that is a good example of it right there."
The defense is a major part of this problem, as the Dolphins have surrendered a score on the opposition's opening drive in nine of their past 11 games.
"This is an opportunity for us to show where we are, what we want to do and accomplish, and how we can play for 60 minutes against what is a pretty good team," Saban said.
The Dolphins need the victory to remain alive in the AFC East race. A Miami loss combined with a victory Sunday by New England (7-5) at Buffalo (4-8) would clinch the division for the Patriots.
"This is a good game to go out and show what our season has been about," Dolphins quarterback Gus Frerotte said. "It has been up and down. We really have to go back out to California again and play a really good game."