The Miami Dolphins lost to the Indidnapolis Colts on Sunday in a game that featured a pass rush harassing Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill all game. Tannehill was picking himself up off the turf more often than not, and the majority of the time, it was Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney getting the hit on Tannehill after beating Miami's former Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long.
Long allowed a sack, three quarterback hits, and three quarterback hurries last Sunday, the worst day of his career, according to Pro Football Focus. Long, who has made the Pro Bowl in all four years he's been in the NFL, has struggled throughout most of this season, not playing up to the level that had him listed among the best tackles in the game.
"I hate it," Long, who has already allowed three sacks on the year, said. "It kills me. I'm going to make sure I don't let it happen again."
Before every season, Long looks over the Dolphins' schedule and calculates how many sacks he will allow on the year. "It's zero," Long said. "You never want to have sacks. I've had a few this year."
Sunday's performance of the offensive line was not all on Long, but he clearly had the weakest performance. "It starts with me," Long said. "I've got to do better. That wasn't good enough."
"We had an off day, and it's tough to get into a rhythm when you're getting hit," left guard Richie Incognito added. "I just know as an offensive line, we got him hit way too much."
When asked after the game about the pass protection, which resulted in Tannehill being hit six times, head coach Joe Philbin described it as, "average, at best."
Incognito agreed with that assessment. "I totally agree with that," he said. "We've proven if we protect [Tannehill], he can pick defenses apart. We give him time back there, and he's extraordinary. We just have to get on the same page."
The Dolphins have to find a way to fix the pass protection this week if they want to continue to be in the AFC payoff picture. Sitting at 4&4 on the year, Miami currently is the eighth seed in the playoff hunt, with only the top six making the postseason tournament. They are one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card hunt, as well as a game behind the AFC East leading New England Patriots for the division title.
The team plays the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. They play the Buffalo Bills four days later, in Miami's only nationally televised game this season. While the pass protection is only one issue the Dolphins have to solve this week, it's one that could be a major step in the right direction for the team. And, since Long knows it starts with him, it will probably be a step that happens quickly.