ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- One in 6 million. Well, one in approximately 6 million.
That was the probability, according to ESPN Stats & Information, that the Buffalo Bills would miss the playoffs from the 2000 through 2016 seasons. For mathematical purposes, that calculation assumes each team had an equal chance of qualifying for the postseason each year.
The Bills, with their dramatic, 34-31 overtime loss Saturday to the Miami Dolphins, beat the long odds against their run of futility and extended their postseason drought to 17 seasons. Already the longest drought among North America's four major professional sports leagues, it is now tied for the fifth-longest postseason drought in NFL history -- and already stands as the only drought that took place entirely after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
The loss came in typically crushing fashion for the Bills, who drove 89 yards for a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter only to have the Dolphins kick a 55-yard field goal to tie the game with six seconds remaining in regulation. The Bills' bench was incensed after the score that their timeout wasn't recognized before Andrew Franks' field goal, but in overtime, the Bills blew it when Dan Carpenter missed a 45-yard field goal wide right. After coach Rex Ryan opted to punt with four minutes remaining in overtime, the Bills allowed a 57-yard run by Jay Ajayi that effectively ended their season.
After their loss to the Dolphins, the Bills' focus now shifts to how they can end the drought in 2017.
The questions for Buffalo start with Ryan, whose future has been in question since the Bills' second-half collapse to the Oakland Raiders in Week 13. Ryan's defense came up with some fourth-quarter stops Saturday, but ultimately should be docked for four big plays by the Dolphins, including two in which his players couldn't wrap up Miami ball carriers for potentially shorter gains.
Saturday also marked the sixth time that Ryan's defense has allowed 28 or more points this season, and overall Ryan's team is now 1-7 this season against opponents with current records over .500.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor did more than Ryan to secure his future for 2017. Taylor, who has $30 million in contract guarantees due by March, led a fourth-quarter comeback to give the Bills a 31-28 lead with 1:20 remaining. On fourth-and-goal, Taylor tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay to cap an 89-yard drive and put the Bills in position to win -- before Buffalo's defense again allowed the Dolphins to respond to tie the game, and later, to win it in overtime.