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Dolphins offensive play calling kills any chance of win against Cowboys

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The Miami Dolphins offensive play calling effectively prevented the team from being able to win against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins defense showed up to play on Sunday, trying to will the entire team to victory. Unfortunately for the Dolphins defense, the Dolphins offense has to play half the game. and, the Dolphins defense is not only not up to winning the game at this point, they seem intent on actively losing it.

Drops. Penalties. Interceptions. At least for the first time in four weeks, there was not a safety. That's got to be a plus.

The Miami offense is not executing. They are making mistakes, killing themselves, and losing games.

Lamar Miller ran for an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Everyone knew the Dolphins needed to ride their running back to force the Cowboys to respect the ground game, which would open up the passing game. Your starting running back is averaging 6.3 yards per attempt - so you give him seven total attempts. The Dolphins ran the ball a total of 14 times on Sunday. They averaged 5.0 yards per attempt, with Ryan Tannehill carrying the ball three times and Jay Ajayi four times, to go with Miller's seven. A 5.0 yards per carry average is great. Only recording 14 attempts is not.

Miller's last run of the game came on a 2nd-and-6 play with 14:16 left in the fourth quarter and Miami trailing 21-14. He ran the ball on the first down play just before that one. Miller also had a carry in the third quarter, a five yard gain on 1st-and-10 from the Dallas 42 yard line. Those are the three times Miller carried the ball in the second half, a half which, Miami was either tied or trailed by just one touchdown, until 9:09 remained in the fourth quarter. But, the offense simply did not want to give the ball to a running back who was averaging over eight yards every time he carried the ball before those three carries.

The opening drive of the game featured three of Miller's four first-half runs. He gained 12-yards on the first play of the game, 9-yards on the second play of the game, and 2-yards on the fourth play of the game. Miller's final carry of the first half came four-minutes into the second quarter, on Miami's fifth possession.

Why does Bill Lazor call a game plan where he takes out one of Miami's best offensive weapons? What is the point of abandoning the run so early, and so often? When you are averaging 5.0 yards per carry as a team, and your running back is gaining chunks of yards for you on your first drive, why do you wait until your fifth possession to give him the ball again? Why only once more in the entire first-half, and only three more times in the second-half of a game in which you are within a score most of the way?

The Dolphins have lost six games this year. In all six of those games, Miller had fewer than 12 carries.

Change the play calling.

Why do the Dolphins refuse to convert third downs? Directly tied to Miami's abandoning the running game is their inability to ever get ahead of the chains. An incomplete pass on first down, followed by an incomplete pass on second down, turns third down into 3rd-and-long every single drive. Miami will then call a 2-yard screen pass, and expect Jarvis Landry or Miller to dance their way through the entire opposing defense if they want to stay on the field. On Sunday, Miami finished the game 1-for-10 on third down (and 0-for-1 on fourth down).

Third-and-long is not the position you want to put your offense, but the play calling continues to land the team in that exact position, and, not surprisingly, the team struggles at picking it up.

Change the play calling.

The Dolphins recorded nine first downs during the game. The Cowboys recorded six first downs on one drive in the second quarter.

Change the play calling.

The play calling is not the only thing at fault for the Dolphins' offense. Wide receivers continue to drop passes. The offense was called for six penalties on the day (two holds by Jason Fox, a hold on Dion Sims, an illegal formation on Fox, a chop block on Mike Pouncey, and a false start on Jordan Cameron).  Ryan Tannehill threw a pick-six, so even though the offense broke the three-game allowed-safety streak, they still gave up points. The offensive line allowed three sacks, with Tannehill often being caught running backwards to lose 48 yards. The execution of the offense is bad. Work has to be done by everyone.

But the play calling is doing this team no favors, and, unless offensive coordinator Bill Lazor changes it soon, this team will continue to fail. For all the positives Dan Campbell as the interim head coach seems to be bringing to the team, a team that is suddenly playing with emotion and aggressiveness, the offensive failures have continued to crush the team.

The individual offensive skill-players are doing well. Tannehill ended yesterday's game with a 90.3 passer rating. Miller with the 6.3 yards per carry average. Jarvis Landry caught four passes for 66 yards and Kenny Stills added 52 yards and a touchdown on two receptions. The talent seems to be there, with more coming in players like Ajayi, Rishard Matthews, and, maybe one day, DeVante Parker. But, that talent is being wasted in an offense that is not getting the job done.

Change the play calling.

Or change the play caller.