The Miami Dolphins' (7-7) season is virtually over as the team's playoff hopes were crushed in what has become a typical showing for the Joe Philbin-led team. The New England Patriots (11-3) beat the Dolphins 41-13 after leading at halftime by only the slim margin of 14-13. Not many expected the Dolphins to leave Foxborough victorious, but it's the way this team lost that has so many irked.
Here are my six thoughts on the loss that has essentially ended the Dolphins 2014 season short of the playoffs for the sixth straight year:
Collapse is the word I would use describe the Dolphins 41-13 defeat at the hands of their division rival Patriots. That is the way I would describe nearly every loss this season for the Dolphins. And that is the way I would describe Miami's December the past two years under Joe Philbin.
How else could you describe these events? The Dolphins have made a habit of consistently shriveling up in big moments under Head Coach Joe Philbin.
The 2013 season ended in a historically bad collapse as the Dolphins lost two games by a collective margin of 39-7 to miss the playoffs. Two games to decide the season, only one of which needed to be a victory for the Dolphins to earn a playoff spot, and the Dolphins were outscored by 32 points.
2014 seemed to be a much more promising year considering how close this team was last season with inferior talent. But since the early-November rout of the San Diego Chargers 37-0 in what was seen as a statement game for this team, the Dolphins have gone 2-4, including back-to-back losses in December.
In those December games, the Dolphins were outscored a ridiculous 48-3 in the second half. Four quarters of crunch time football and that is what the 2014 Dolphins team, that had supposedly turned a corner, produces.
That performance is unspeakable awful in all phases of the game. And perfectly illustrates the Dolphins' habit of coming up small in big moments.
2. Dolphins were better team in the first half despite shooting themselves in the foot
The Dolphins actually seemed to be in control of this game in the first half despite basically gifting away 14 points on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and an interception returned inside the 10.
The Dolphins were down only 14-13 at halftime to the Patriots due to rather dominant play defensively, including a highlight-reel interception by Jason Trusnik that he tipped to himself.
The Dolphins offense was moving the ball efficiently and consistently but was victimizing itself with penalties, a turnover, negative plays and poor third down performances.
However, the Dolphins had their best sequence of the game right before half. The Dolphins two-minute drill had failed, and instead of going for it on the New England 46-yard line with 47 seconds left in the half, Joe Philbin, who still had all three of his timeouts smartly decided to punt.
After forcing a three-and-out and a nice 32-yard punt return by Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins got the ball back on the Patriots 32-yard line with 11 seconds left in the half.
Ryan Tannehill threw a perfect pass to Mike Wallace in the endzone, who reached up with one hand to snag the ball. After being initially ruled incomplete, the play was called a touchdown and the Patriots' lead was cut to just one point at halftime.
Unfortunately this sequence was followed by...
3. Sequence of the game
The defining sequence of the game started early in the third quarter.
The Patriots received the opening half kickoff after allowing the Dolphins to score a last second touchdown before half. The Patriots, in typical Patriot fashion, forced an eight-play touchdown drive down the Dolphins' throats to extend their lead back to eight points.
The Dolphins then responded with a three-and-out, failing to convert a 3rd-and-3.
The Patriots took over with an eight-point lead and went on a ten play drive that eventually ended in a field goal to extend their lead to eleven.
On Miami's very first play after the kickoff, Ryan Tannehill threw an interception off of the hands of Lamar Miller, who seemed to be interfered with before the ball arrived (but we won't get into that).
The Patriots scored a touchdown on the first play after the interception, extending their lead to 18 points.
The Dolphins then went three and out once again. Three plays after Miami's punt, the Patriots scored yet another third quarter touchdown. And, just like that, the score was 38-13 and the game was out of reach for Miami.
That sequence shifted this game from a competitive contest to a blowout in just one quarter of play.
4. Dolphins failed to show up in the second half
The Dolphins were outscored 27-0 in the second half of this game. The proper adjustments were made by Bill Belichick to which Joe Philbin and crew never responded too.
A wild third quarter put this game out of reach entirely, to the point where the entire fourth quarter was basically garbage time.
It was an gut-wrenching performance that had many screaming "same old Dolphins". And the people who screamed that, well they weren't too far off...
5. Dolphins fail to put together 60 minutes of football (AGAIN)
This really is the most puzzling and infuriating aspect of Joe Philbin's team. And possibly the most damning in regards to Philbin's job security (besides, of course, losses).
The Dolphins have played a full 60-minute game of consistent, smart, high-intensity football only two times this season, against the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.
The Dolphins have had notable lapses in at least 10 games this season, most of which last an entire half. Some of the more notable game lapses have happened against the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, New England Patriots (twice), Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos.
60 minutes. That was the great teams believe in. Leave everything you have in between those white lines for 60 minutes. But, for whatever reason, the Dolphins cannot seem to do that.
6. Where do the Dolphins go from here?
Like I said after last week's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Dolphins keep playing. What other choice do they have? Players play for their resumes, coaches coach for theirs.
However, this week has a different feel to it. Philbin's job didn't feel particularly safe after last week's loss, but, after the collapse to the Patriots, Philbin's departure from the Dolphins seems like a forgone conclusion.
When you couple Philbin's crunch time failures with Philbin's comments that he was "queasy" at the end of the Green Bay Packers game, which was a devastating last-second loss, it's clear that "Queasy Joe" has to go.
Philbin does not have a leaders mentality. And Philbin doesn't have a winners mentality.
Dolphins players don't seem to want to blame Philbin. They want to blame themselves, saying it is on them to produce.
That is natural and admirable.
But if Philbin held them to a higher standard, a higher expectation than "being competitive", would this team respond differently in these high pressure situations? If "winning" and "playing better than the opponent" were the expectations, then would the team's mental lapses consist of "being competitive" instead of completely breaking down due to a higher standard being held?
Coaches really shouldn't have to get players fired up for a game. However, they do need to have them prepared in every situation. Philbin's teams seem mentally checked out and lost at times in football games, just like Philbin himself.
Obviously injuries have played a large part in the collapse of the 2014 Dolphins, but this December story has been told too many times.
Philbin has done good things for this team, but to truly get over that hump that Miami has gotten near the top of but slid back down every time, the Dolphins will need to make some changes at the top.
What that means as far as collateral damage? Who knows. Who knows who else would lose their job. Things will get ugly before they get pretty for these Dolphins, but good things lie ahead for this team.
Enjoy these final two games of this disappointing 2014 season, change is coming.
QUICK HITS & QUOTES:
- Ryan Tannehill was 3-8 on passes over 20 yards according to PFF. But with at least two of these being drops, and one being a good throw lost in the sun by Brian Hartline, Tannehill was really 6-8 accuracy-wise on deep passes. Tannehill proved he could throw deep accurately this game and changed the mindset of many in regards to the deep ball. Now the question bears asking-- why haven't the Dolphins been taking shots deep all season?
- The Dolphins made far too many mistakes to win this game. Blocked field goal for a Patriots touchdown on the Dolphins opening drive was a huge swing in the game. As were both of Tannehill's interceptions. As were drops. Too many mistakes to beat a playoff team.
- Drops were devastating today. Rookie running back Damien Williams dropped a perfect touchdown pass after running a beautiful double-move on linebacker Jamie Collins, who was matched up with Williams on the boundary. Rishard Matthews also had a touchdown pass knocked out of his hands. It wasn't a great day for the Dolphin offense, but a few touchdowns were left on the field do to drops.
- The Dolphins turned in a subpar performance in the trenches yet again, allowing over 100 yards rushing and sacking Tom Brady zero times defensively and paving the way for only 3.3 yards per carry and allowing four sacks offensively.
- The Dolphins first third down was a weird play. On 3rd-and-6, the Dolphins ran a toss play to the left for only three yards. It was an odd play call because normally, when going the conservative route on that down, the plan is to go for it on fourth. But the Dolphins decided to kick the field goal, which was blocked and returned for a touchdown.
- Now is the time of year Dolphins fans have grown accustomed to. Looking ahead to the NFL Draft instead of looking ahead to the playoffs.
- The Dolphins aren't technically eliminated from the playoff race, but they'll need a gargantuan amount of help to get in.
- "It’s tough. Like I said, we didn’t make the plays. We had a lot of opportunities. [We] felt good coming in, thought we matched up well. We were right in there. I felt like we outplayed them in the first half. You look at the blocked field goal for a touchdown and then miscommunication on the coverage and the pick and [we] put them inside the 10. You take away those two plays and we were definitely out-playing them. I think we came into halftime confident and what happened in the second half is totally on the players and kind of unexplainable. We didn’t perform." - Quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
- "I’m not sure what they really did different. They just ran their offense. Tom Brady made some great throws, and they made some great catches. It just came down to us making more mistakes than they did, and a team like that, when you make mistakes they’re going to capitalize." - Cornerback Brent Grimes.
- "That’s a question that is totally irrelevant to me and the team right now. Whether there is a sliver of hope or a mountain of hope, either way, you have to still fight to see what happens and how this plays out. We can’t think about next year until this year is over."- Defensive lineman Jared Odrick on the future of Joe Philbin.
- "Coach Philbin is our coach; we’re rocking with him no matter what. We’ve got a lot of things to deal with in the next two weeks. We know we’ve got to stay together, that’s our coach." - Mike Wallace.
- "It was awful; we didn’t come out there to play. They [Patriots] whipped us from start to finish in the second half; from the first play to the last play. We just got our butt whipped, that’s it. Bad! They dominated us the second half, totally." - Wide receiver Mike Wallace.
"The dictionary isn’t big enough. There aren’t any words to describe it. Dumbfounded. To come out the way we did in the second half; it’s pretty bad. It is disappointing again; it’s the same as last year, we had the season in our hands, we could have done something about it, it was up to us and we dropped the ball again. There isn’t too much to say, we got dominated, we got outplayed totally in the second half. We went in there with a little momentum in the first half and in the second half it was no contest." - Defensive end Cameron Wake.
- "I just told the team we got to play 60 minutes of football. And even though we were losing at halftime, I thought we were playing competitively and certainly we would have a good opportunity to win the game but you have to play 60 minutes, and you can't make the mistakes that we made… getting field goals blocked, they had an interception, I think they started possession on our eight... I think they started a possession on our 25 or 30. Yeah, this is an excellent football team. It's hard to do that stuff." - Head Coach Joe Philbin.