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It was disappointing, discouraging and depressing. The Dolphins had a chance to feel good Monday night, a chance to show there can be on-the-field success despite off-the-field issues.
But instead what we got was a painful loss against a previously winless team. You can point to so many reasons for this 22-19 defeat.
• A lethargic start in almost every area that resulted a 15-0 first half deficit. I really expected this team to come out with a sense of urgency, a real excitement, after what they have endured over the past week. But instead we got the opposite. Hard to understand.
• The total disappearance of the running game that produced a franchise-low 2 yards. That’s 2 yards on 14 carries. You absolutely can’t win games this way. One week there is life in the running game; the next week there is nothing.
• The inability of the defense to do its part after the Dolphins battled back to lead 19-15 in the fourth quarter. Costly penalties. Missed tackles. Poor rushing defense. An impressive Tampa Bay drive. It just didn’t add up for the Dolphins.
• The struggles of the new-look offensive line. Certainly this contributed to the lack of a running game. But two sacks late in the game stopped a Dolphins comeback and the line had a major communication problem on the Tampa Bay safety when nobody touched a blitzing linebacker.
Win three. Lose four. Win one. Lose one. This has been the roller-coaster ride that has become the Miami Dolphins.
And now they have clearly reached a crucial juncture in their season. They are 4-5 with back-to-back home games next up against San Diego and Carolina. There is still time to keep things interesting, still time to make December matter. But the weeks are running out. There can’t be many more uneven performances like the one against the Bucs.
Looking for a bright spot? Introducing Rishard Matthews. Sure, we’ve seen him before. But not like this. Never like this. Matthews did his best Jerry Rice impersonation, catching 11 passes, two of them for touchdowns. He was a slot machine, catching everything thrown his way. On one drive, he had seven catches. A nice way to debut as Brandon Gibson’s replacement.
Too bad there weren’t more performances like his.
Just a few days before the Bucs game, Coach Joe Philbin spoke candidly about the unique situation this team is in. “In life, in football, in your professional life and in your personal life, within your families, a lot of things happen,” he said. “Sometimes you have control. Sometimes you don’t have control. The big thing is, how do you respond to those things?
The response wasn’t what Philbin was hoping for, certainly not early on when the Dolphins could do little right. Granted, this is a difficult situation given the controversy that has gripped this franchise.
It will test these players, no doubt about it. Test their resolve. Test their character. Test their resiliency. This team has already endured more distractions than any team should ever expect. But that’s not going to change. What must change, though, is how they respond to that adversity. What we saw Monday night won’t suffice over the final seven games.
A few more observations:
• Inexplicably, Ryan Tannehill continues to struggle on the deep pass to Mike Wallace. Against the Bucs, he had Wallace wide open midway through the second quarter. Lead him and he scores. But Tannehill threw a poor pass that sailed out of bounds. This has been a concern all season. “I have to make that throw,” Tannehill said afterward.
• Speaking of Wallace, we’re nine games into the season and he has yet to be a significant factor on a consistent basis. Very disturbing.
• Game after game, there is always Brent Grimes.
• Punter Brandon Fields was his usual remarkable self. One punt travelled 55 yards and took an abrupt turn out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Hard to teach stuff like that.
• Big defensive plays: A Nolan Carroll sack for an 11-yard loss. A Jimmy Wilson interception. A Jared Odrick tackle for a loss. There just weren’t enough of them.
• Dimitri Patterson missed another game Monday because of a groin injury that just won’t heal properly. This is unfortunate. He has now been sidelined for five of the nine games. The few games he has played, Patterson has played well. Leads the team with four interceptions. Has really displayed a go-for-it mentality. Makes you wonder what he could do over 16 games.
On Wednesday, AC in the AM answers fans questions.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.