The Miami Dolphins just couldn’t compete with the firepower of the New England Patriots in the second half of today’s game, as a 14-13 halftime deficit turned into a 41-13 final score in Foxborough. Despite hanging tight with the AFC East champs through two quarters, the Pats’ 24 point third quarter, combined with a costly mistakes on both sides of the ball, did the Dolphins in. Going into the AFC East clash, Miami needed to be on their “A” game against an elite team like New England. Unfortunately, they couldn’t execute well enough in the second half to hang close to, or threaten the Patriots.
Here’s a few observations from Sunday’s loss to the Patriots:
1. Disastrous Start
It’s one thing to have a field goal blocked, but a completely different situation when it’s blocked, scooped, and scored, resulting in a touchdown for the opposing team. There’s probably no more of a deflation play than to hear a thud on special teams going against you. The Jamie Collins block on the Caleb Sturgis 41-yard attempt early in the first quarter just adds to the frustration Miami has had for most of the season in trying to create fast starts. Although they did respond with the next score in the game on a 24 yard field goal, a team that is in the top 5 in the league in red zone opportunities needed more touchdowns against a New England team that you felt was going to score more at home. Elite teams score touchdowns in the red zone, and the Dolphins couldn’t convert for seven in that area enough.
2. Half Needs To Be Whole
The first play of the game was a surprise to many, and the only disappointing thing about it is that that type of success didn’t continue throughout the remainder of the game. It seemed like that play was going to signify the aggressiveness and the way the Miami Dolphins were going to attack the New England Patriots for sixty minutes, but that just didn’t happen. I guess when you’re a .500 football team, you’re going to have just as much good execution as you’re going to have mistakes, and it seems like the Dolphins lack execution when they need it most. On offense, Miami was only 3/16 on 3rd downs all game.
A perfect example of this execution problem on defense is the way they played against Baltimore last week, and New England this week in the 3rd quarter. Miami did a great job in the first half of making Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski look pedestrian. They held Gronk to zero catches, and really tightened up on Brady, restricting him to 82 yards passing. But on the first play of the 3rd quarter, Brady immediately hooked up with Gronkowski for a 34 yard catch, and simply outran the Dolphins defense. That led to a LeGarrette Blount 3 yard TD after 8 plays. Miami then went 3 and out, New England kicked a field goal, and then the Dolphins imploded, throwing an interception which led to an immediate response from Brady, hitting Gronkowski on the first play of the drive for a 27 yard score. Miami was held scoreless in the 3rd quarter, while allowing 24 points in that very same period. The lows can’t be that low when the stakes are that high.
3. What Now?
Now the Dolphins return to Sun Life Stadium to face the Minnesota Vikings in a game that for all intents and purposes will likely have no impact on the AFC playoff race. The big challenge for this football team will be not to repeat the final two game finish of the 2013 season. The month of December hasn’t been kind to Head Coach Joe Philbin, where he is one game under .500 in his career. He will need to prepare his team to continue to play hard for the remainder of the schedule. If the Dolphins are going to win and play efficiently offensively, they have to find a way to get back to scoring in the 20s, after only scoring a total of 42 points in December. On defense, they have to find a way to sustain a good half, and turn it into a solid four quarter performance. Inconsistency seems to be the issue surrounding this Dolphins squad, and that remains the theme with .500 teams throughout the league.
News & Notes
- Sunday’s game was Ryan Tannehill‘s best passing yardage output of the season as Miami’s signal caller threw for 346 yards.
- Wide receiver Mike Wallace had his best game of the year, catching five passes for 104 yards, including a ridiculous touchdown catch to close out the 1st half.
- Wallace wasn’t the only Dolphins receiver to post season best numbers, as Jarvis Landry caught 8 balls for 99 yards, both career highs.
- Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, in his first start in a Dolphins uniform, tied for the team lead in tackles with 10.
- Linebacker Jason Trusnik, who tied with Sheppard for the team lead in tackles, recorded his first career interception.
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