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We saw how well the Dolphins can play on Sunday; we also saw how poorly. Two halves. Two different games. So much promise in the first half; so many headaches in the second. It was as baffling as it was disappointing.
New England 27, Miami 17: Clearly, one of the strangest games this 47-year series has seen. And a game that in many ways was a microcosm of what this entire season has been about: The Dolphins looked so good on their way to a 3-0 start, as they did in the first half Sunday, and then so out of sorts in these four straight losses, as they did in the second half Sunday.
The bottom line: After seven games, this football team isn’t close to where we thought it could be.
And now there are just questions on top of questions. What happened in the second half? How could the Dolphins look so poised, so in control, leading 17-3 at the half, and then get outscored 24-0 from there on out? What happened to the confidence? The execution? The pass protection? The ball security? Where did it all go?
It would be one thing if the Patriots dominated throughout. But for the Dolphins to come out so strong, to clearly have the formula to pull off the upset, and then to see it all inexplicably crumble in the second half makes this loss even more difficult to swallow than most. And even more difficult to explain.
That first half was a thing of beauty. Tannehill was so sharp, the line with newly inserted left tackle Bryant McKinnie, could do little wrong. Dimitri Patterson intercepts a pass, Jared Odrick gets a sack, the running game is clicking. After a couple of touchdown passes and a long-distance field goal by Caleb Sturgis the Dolphins are up 17-3.
And I’m thinking to myself: This is where the season turns; this is where the Dolphins pick up where they left off at 3-0 in late September. This is the moment you circle and at the end of the season look back at as a real turning point, a real springboard to the rest of the season.
And then it was gone. All of it. All the feel good stuff evaporated before our disbelieving eyes. Everything that was right suddenly turned wrong. The Patriots became the Patriots again and the Dolphins sunk deeper into this massive hole they are digging for themselves.
The numbers are ugly. In only one forgettable half, the Dolphins gave up six sacks, three turnovers, a blocked field goal and didn’t score a point. The Patriots changed their schemes, blitzing a lot more, and the Dolphins had no answer for it. Those six sacks were difficult to watch.
Sure, there were some highly questionable penalty calls and each one seemed to go against the Dolphins. But that is not why the Dolphins lost this game. They lost this game because they couldn’t sustain, because they couldn’t protect Ryan Tannehill and because, plain and simple, they weren’t proficient enough to put together a complete game.
You can point to a missed Sturgis field goal early in the third quarter, a kick that would have put the Dolphins up 20-3, as the beginning of the end. You can single out the penalty on Olivier Vernon where the officials ruled he batted a Tom Brady fumble forward when it appeared he was trying to simply recover it. Both had an undeniable impact on the final score. But one or two plays can’t define what happened to the Dolphins on Sunday. Not with all those sacks. Not with all those turnovers. Not when the Patriots had all the answers and the Dolphins all the questions.
The good news and the bad news is that the Dolphins have to turn this around in a hurry with a game Thursday against Cincinnati at Sun Life Stadium. It’s good news because they won’t have time to let this linger; it’s bad news because there is so much that needs to be corrected, so many areas that demand careful scrutiny and not much time to complete that task
“There are a lot of things that we have to improve upon,” said Odrick. “We have to figure this out fast.”
The season is not lost, but it is slipping away. With the defense healthy again, with McKinnie hoping to fortify the left side of the line, with Tannehill learning some valuable lessons, with the running game showing some life, the Dolphins still have the ability to turn this around. There is too much talent on this team not to suggest that it’s at least possible.
But not if they play the way they did in the second half on Sunday. Not if they can’t put four quality quarters together. That’s the challenge right now. Find some consistency. Cut down on the glaring mistakes. Get back to the things they were doing right during that 3-0 start, which sadly now seems like so long ago.
On Tuesday, AC in the AM takes a close-up look at John Offerdahl, the newest inductee in the team’s Honor Roll.
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.