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MIAMI (AP) – Despite another disappointing season, the Dolphins still might be in better shape than the reeling Buffalo Bills.
Playing their first game since former head coach Tony Sparano was fired, the Dolphins look to hand the Bills a seventh consecutive loss Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
After opening with seven straight defeats, Miami (4-9) won three in a row and four of five before losing 26-10 at home to Philadelphia last Sunday. Though the Dolphins have shown improvement, a third straight losing season ended Sparano’s tenure Monday after he went 29-32 in almost four years as coach.
“The results speak for themselves,” owner Stephen Ross said. “We’re looking to becoming a winning organization, and I thought this was the best time to make the change and let us go in a direction that will allow us to become that.”
While marquee names like Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden almost immediately popped up as potential long-term replacements for Sparano, assistant head coach and secondary coach Todd Bowles will guide the team in the final three games on an interim basis.
Bowles is the sixth coach since 2004 for the Dolphins, who haven’t won a playoff game since 2000.
“Obviously, everybody in our business understands the nature of it,” defensive back Will Allen said. “We’re graded on wins and losses.”
Bowles could find it hard to win if quarterback Matt Moore is unable to play after he left last Sunday’s loss with a head injury. Moore, who had thrown eight touchdowns and one interception in the previous five games before tossing one of each while being sacked four times against the Eagles, was replaced by veteran J.P. Losman.
Losman, who threw his first NFL completion since 2008 and was sacked five times, has a chance to face his former team Sunday. He was drafted by Buffalo in 2004 and started 33 games in five seasons with the Bills, throwing 33 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions.
“J.P. has been around for a while,” Bowles said. “He understands what we’re asking him to do and understands the game. We’ll just try to make sure that (we give him) the game plan that he can work with.”
Losman might be best served handing the ball to Reggie Bush, who is coming off consecutive 100-yard rushing performances for the first time in his underachieving six-year career.
Bush rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries against the Eagles, one week after he gained 100 on 22 rushes in a 34-13 win over Oakland. He has run for a career-high 770 yards this season but was held to 32 and a TD on 15 attempts during Miami’s 35-8 win over Buffalo on Nov. 20.
Miami has won five of the last seven meetings with the Bills (5-8), who are in the midst of their longest skid since losing the first eight games of 2010.
Buffalo averaged 30.1 points per game while starting 5-2, but has put up 12.8 per contest during a six-game losing streak to fall out of playoff contention. The Bills’ only touchdown in last Sunday’s 37-10 loss at San Diego came on a fumble recovery in the end zone.
They failed to reach the end zone at Miami last month.
“Unfortunately, the last six games, we’ve had a lot more questions than answers,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “It’s something we’re going to continue to try to figure out and continue to try to work through.”
While nine regular players on injured reserve have contributed to the Bills’ problems, Fitzpatrick’s regression – which began almost immediately after he signed a $59 million extension in late October – has been particularly troubling.
He threw for 1,739 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the first five games but 1,274 with six TDs and nine picks over the last six. Fitzpatrick was 13 of 34 for 176 yards with two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, last week.
“I know that these guys still have confidence in me,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not the first bad game I’ve ever had. I’ve had plenty of good ones, and I’ve rebounded from my poor performances.”
He was 20 of 39 for 209 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions at Miami last month.
Stevie Johnson was held to two receptions for 16 yards in that contest, but the Bills are hoping their breakout star from last season is back on track after catching four passes for 116 yards in San Diego.
While the offense has struggled for more than a month, Buffalo’s defense has not helped by giving up 32.3 points per game over the last six.
With a 4-2 mark at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a victory Sunday would secure the Bills’ first winning home record since they went 5-3 in 2004.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)