A lot of things led to a 20-16 loss for the Miami Dolphins against the Carolina Panthers today, a loss that dropped the Dolphins to 5-6 on the season. The Dolphins led 16-6 at halftime, but could not put together another scoring drive and watched the Panthers come back for the win.
The second half saw a lot of things go wrong, and a lot of people will point to different things. Ryan Tannehill missed on three throws to Mike Wallace that could have been touchdowns. Charles Clay dropped some key passses on the day. The refs picked up a blatant helmet-to-helmet call in the first half that could have been the difference between a field goal and a touchdown. Wallace dropped a ball at the goal line on the final drive. The offense in the second half could not do anything, and the team was held scoreless. The defense looked to tire out during the second half, and Carolina got hot.
Whatever reason you want to point to the loss, you're probably right. But, in the end, it doesn't really matter. That was another game the Dolphins could have - and probably should have - won, only to watch it all slip away in the second half. It's a story line we are all tired of hearing, and it's one that has been repeated over and over.
The Miami defense dominated the Panthers in the first half, literally bloodying the mouth of Cam Newton and getting after him on nearly every pass. The secondary was rocking, and the Panthers simply looked confused. Then, the second half arrived and Miami took on the confused role.
Statistically, it was a good game, with Ryan Tannehill finishing the contest with a 28-for-42 for 310 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 86.4 passer rating day. Wallace had five receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown, while Brian Hartline added five receptions for 78 yards.
Tannehill did blow the final play of the game. With 10 seconds remaining, he scrambled out of the pocket and, rather than throwing away the ball and saving some time, he continually spun in circles until he was sacked for the third time on the day, ending the game.
At least it was under the team's 3.7 sacks per game average.
On defense, Philip Wheeler made nine tackles for a game high, while Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan each recorded a sack. Nolan Carroll had an interception, along with three tackles and four passes defensed.
Of course, the running game wasn't in existence yet again, with Tannehill leading the way with four carries for 36 yards. Daniel Thomas carried the ball three times for eight yards, and left the game with an ankle injury, while Lamar Miller was held to eight yards on ten carries. The Dolphins running backs averaged 1.23 yards per carry.
The Dolphins also need to consider replacing Marcus Thigpen as the return man. He consistently attempts to return kicks out of the endzone that he has no business returning. He averaged 19.7 yards per kick return on three tries.
Another disappointing loss for the Dolphins, when they had the game, and the playoff positioning, set for them. The team is still absolutely in playoff contention, thanks to a loss by the New York Jets this week as well, and two games against the Jets remaining, but a win this week would have put the Dolphins in the sixth seed, and set up the game next week to, effectively, kill any chance for the Jets. Instead, both teams will be in the knot of sub-.500 teams trying to find a way back into the playoff picture.
Losing to the Panthers, who are a better team than the Dolphins, is not surprising. But, losing like that, when the game was Miami's to win, is disappointing.
More from this game later.