Does anyone remember such a promising season going down hill as fast as this season has for the Dolphins? Two weeks into the season, the Dolphins were 2-0 and excitement for Dolphins football was very high. Since then, the Dolphins are 3-5. Their latest set back, a 16-0 loss to the Bears on Thursday night, all but ended any chance the Dolphins might have had at the postseason. They are again sitting at .500 on the season as they fall even more behind the playoff contenders in the AFC.
This was also the first time the Dolphins have been shut out at home since the 2001 season against the Jets, coincidentally on the same date as Thursday night's loss - November 18.
The Dolphins fall to 0-3 this season in prime time games as well - two of which being very ugly performances - all but assuring they won't get many, if any, prime time games next season.
Some thoughts on Thursday's loss:
Injuries too much to overcome
The Dolphins were already a team hit hard with injuries entering the game. But things only got worse once the game started. Just five minutes into the game, center Cory Procter - who was only starting because starting center Joe Berger missed the game with an injury - went down in what appeared to be a serious non-contact knee injury (early reports indicate it's likely an ACL tear). This forced the Dolphins to reshuffle their already banged up offensive line.
So for essentially all of Thursday night's game, the Dolphins were playing with a left tackle who had a dislocated shoulder (Jake Long), a center who is really a left guard (Richie Incognito), and a left guard who is really the backup right guard (Pat McQuistan).
So it shouldn't come as any surprise that an offensive line that was among the best in pass protection heading into this game allowed a season-high six sacks to Chicago's defense - including three by Julius Peppers.
And it shouldn't come as any surprise that an offensive line that struggled all year with their run blocking did a terrible job of giving Miami's backs any lanes to run the football against the second best run defense in the NFL.
Miami's offensive line right now is in shambles and I'm ready to just let Jake Long pack it in for this season to avoid any potential long-term damage to his shoulder.
We can't forget about the other major injury of the night - Brandon Marshall's hamstring issue that caused him to miss the entire second half. Hopefully it's not serious. But at this point, would you be surprised if it was?
The stats don't lie
I don't think that statistics can often tell the whole story. But in regards to this particular game, they paint a fairly accurate picture. Consider these numbers. The Dolphins put up season lows in rushing yards (39) and first downs (10). They were 1 for 11 on third down. They held the ball for only 22 minutes. And they never moved the football beyond Chicago's 35 yard line - which happened to occur on their first possession of the game courtesy of Nolan Carroll's 46 yard punt return that set up the offense at the Bears' 47 yard line.
On the flip side, the Bears were 10 of 18 on third down - converting both short conversions and long conversions. None were more pitiful, of course, than Jay Cutler's 16 yard scramble on 3rd & 16 from Miami's 25. And the Bears held the ball for nearly 38 minutes, including over 11 minutes in the second quarter and over 10 minutes in the third quarter.
The other telling statistic? Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for only 11 yards rushing on 6 carries. That's right - the Dolphins decided to put the game in Tyler Thigpen's hands. I said Tyler Thigpen's hands, people. Now I know that the Dolphins had to get away from the run because their dinged up and depleted offensive line was awful and Chicago's run defense is among the best in the league. But there's got to be a little bit more balance on offense, right?
Thigpen struggles in first start with Dolphins
A lot of people are going to put tons of blame for this loss - and the offense's overall ineptitude - on Tyler Thigpen. Quarterbacks always take the heat and Tyler certainly didn't play well. But to be fair, he wasn't exactly put into a situation conducive to success, either.
He only had a couple of days to prepare as the starter. He was under constant pressure because his offensive line morphed into a turnstile. He had absolutely no help from the running game. And his best receiver dropped two easy catches before missing the entire second half with an injury.
With all that said, I'm finding it hard to come up with any positive out of Thigpen's performance other than the fact that he actually made it through the entire game without suffering an injury.
He was inaccurate on a number of throws. A few more were tipped or batted at the line - something I thought might be a problem for the shorter quarterback. And he just never seemed comfortable out there.
In fact, he looked really out of place - kind of similar to how John Beck looked when he took over in 2007. Obviously that's not a good thing.
A few more quick thoughts on Thursday night's loss:
- Starting with a positive, how awesome is Cameron Wake? Seriously, he's a beast. The Dolphins lucked out by landing him two offseasons ago. Wake picked up another sack, bring his season total to 9.5. He also had two additional tackles for losses and a quarterback hit. He drew a couple holding penalties as well - and should have gotten a few more. Simply put - I love me some Cameron Wake.
- The defense really didn't play bad at all in this game. Considering they were on the field for nearly 38 minutes and saw Chicago run 68 plays from scrimmage, holding the Bears to just 268 yards of offense and 16 points is quite an achievement. The defense just wore down as the game went on and their offense gave them no time to rest on the between Chicago possessions.
- The defensive line - and in particular Tony McDaniel and Kendall Langford - played very well for most of the game. But again, they got worn down as the Bears ate up the clock.
- Karlos Dansby is also pretty darn good, too. Ten more tackles for Karlos, including two for losses as well as a sack, a quarterback hit, and a pass deflection that could have been an interception. Just another day at the office for Dansby.
- What the hell was Quentin Moses thinking doing the "sprinkler" after sacking Jay Cutler when his team was trailing 16-0 late in the game on national television? Stupid display.
- Speaking of stupid, let's talk about Brandon Marshall. Not only does he drop two catchable passes from Thigpen - he also gets called for two costly penalties. The first wiped out an 8 yard scramble on 3rd & 5 - making an illegal block on a man who was not going to impact the play. Then he makes a catch and nifty move for a first down before flipping the ball at former teammate Jay Cutler on Chicago's sideline, resulting in a 15 yard taunting penalty. I'm getting tired of these costly mistakes already. I really am.
- Boy has Koa Misi been quiet or what?
- Is there some kind of Bill Parcells documentary on NFL Network soon? I may have heard something about it during the game. And will they be discussing Bill's decisions to draft guys like Pat White, Phillip Merling, and Koa Misi in the recent second rounds?
- I like Mike Nolan's aggressive nature when he calls blitzes on 3rd downs. But can we at least have the corners play tight at the line of scrimmage to prevent easy quick slants from being completed? Just an idea sometimes, that's all.
- Matching up Benny Sapp with Devin Hester one on one. The same Sapp who couldn't keep Cutler from getting the corner on his 16 yard scramble. Probably not the best idea. No - definitely not.
- John Denney led the team with two special teams tackles. Brandon Fields also had one. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
It's a good thing the Dolphins have some time to regroup. They sure need it. And us fans need it as well. It'll be relaxing being able to watch some football on Sunday without worrying about how this team is going to disappoint us again.
One closing thought? Chad Henne - get well soon!