First Half recap
The Dolphins came out and tried a few different things in their first possession, starting with a five-wide receiver lineup on the opening play. Jay Cutler was able to find Kenny Stills for six yards, but Stills slipped as he tried to pick up some more yardage. On second down, Cutler found Damien Williams on a swing pass, with the running back picking up the first down with a five-yard gain. On the subsequent first-down, Williams picked up two yards on an outside run, then linebacker Rey Maualuga was brought in as a fullback, lead blocking for Williams to pick up three yards up the middle. The Dolphins would be forced to punt, however, as Cutler scrambled on third down, buying time but badly missing a wide open Jarvis Landry.
The Dolphins would get lucky on Carolina’s first possession, with the Panthers able to move the ball on a 3rd-and-8 for 19 yards with Christian McCaffrey before a dropped pass from Russell Shepard on the next third down caused a Carolina punt.
Miami could not do anything on their next possession, going three-and-out.
Carolina was able to move the ball on the Dolphins on their next possession, going 42 yards before the Dolphins defense was able to force a field goal attempt. Miami nearly had a great play, with a diving T.J. McDonald, making his debut with the team, nealry coming up with an interception of a Cam Newton pass. However, the original call on the field was overturned in replay.
Panthers field goal. CAR 3-0.
The Dolphins’s next possession had some promise it in early, with Cutler able to connect with Stills for 12 yards on 3rd-and-8, then Cutler able to find DeVante Parker for another 12 yards just after the change of the quarter. The drive stalled right there, however, as Curler threw two bad incomplete passes around a Kenyan Drake run for no yards, with Matt Haack coming on to punt.
The Panthers came out and immediately picked up chunks of yards, with a 12-yard pass from Newton to Devin Funchess on a 3rd-and-7 getting the Carolina offense into a rhythm. Jonathan Stewart then ran for 12 yards on the next play, with a Newton to Curtis Samuel 23-yard pass two plays later. After an incomplete pass, Stewart picked up another 18 yards on a run. After a 7-yard run from Newton converted a 3rd-and-3, McCaffrey ended the drive with a four-yard touchdown run.
Panthers touchdown. CAR 10-0.
Miami’s offense finally showed up on the next drive, with Cutler connecting with Landry for 19 yards, then Williams running for seven yards. Williams then gained another 11 yards, with Maualuga back on the field as the lead blocker. Cutler then found Williams for 15 yards, then found Kenyan Drake for five yards. Cutler then connected with DeVante Parker for 13 yards, bringing Miami to the Carolina three-yard line. After a Drake run only picked up one yard, Cutler then found Julius Thomas for the score.
Dolphins touchdown. CAR 10-7.
The Panthers looked like they were going to answer right back on their first play of the next drive, with Newton finding Ed Dickson for 20 yards. After another first down, however, the Panthers would pick up a holding penalty, which they would not be able to overcome.
After the punt, Miami came out throwing with just 47 seconds left in the half. Unfortunately, Cutler threw the ball straight to linebacker Luke Kuechly, who tracked the route of Thomas perfectly, and the Panthers would score four plays later, assisted by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Julius Thomas, with a Newton to Dickson.
Panthers touchdown. CAR 17-7.
The Dolphins would kneel to kill the clock to end the half.
Frustration continues to be the best reaction for this version of the Dolphins. The defense is getting beaten up, allowing 220 yards in the half, 145 passing and 75 yards rushing. They cannot get to Newton, and they are allowing chunks of yardage all over the field. The offense, meanwhile, looks like they have a rhythm, then go back into their shell. The interception from Cutler was just a horrible play all around, and the penalty from Thomas - though what he did was not shown - did not help.
The touchdown was a good play design, with the shovel pass to Thomas getting points on the board, but Miami is once again down at halftime and having to try to figure out how to make adjustments.
The Panthers received the opening kick of the half. They did not miss a step with the ball back in their hands. Netwon connected with Funchess for 17 yards to start the possession, then Stewart ran up the middle for 15 yards. After a couple more runs from Stewart picked up a combined nine yards, Newton added nine yards on the ground. After two incomplete passes, Newton connected with Funchess on a bubble screen that went for 28 yards and a score.
Panthers touchdown. CAR 24-7.
The Dolphins lost five yards on their first play after the touchdown, but made up for it with a 17 pass from Cutler to Stills. On the next play, however, Cutler badly missed a wide open Stills, overthrowing him. After another incomplete pass, Cutler found Landry for six yards on 3rd-and-7, then the Dolphins tried to quick snap a 4th-and-1 attempt, only to lose one yard when seemingly the entire Panthers defense met Damien Williams up the middle.
The Panthers then picked up seven yards on a Stewart run on first down, followed by 16 yards on second down. Newton then found Shepard for 13 yards, before Cameron Artis-Payne ran for a 12-yard score.
Panthers touchdown. CAR 31-7.
Miami at least tried to stay in the game with the next possession. Cutler started the drive with a six-yard pass to Thomas, then a Drake run up the middle for three yards. Drake then busted a 66-yard run for the score, Miami’s first rushing touchdown of the year.
Dolphins touchdown. CAR 31-14.
Carolina did not take long to answer, however, as Newton rushed for 69 yards on the first play of the possession, going from the Carolina 13-yard line to the Dolphins’ 18-yard line. Newton then threw a pass to Funchess, with cornerback Xavien Howard being called for pass interference, giving Carolina a 1st-and-Goal from the two-yard line. After Stewart was stopped for no gain, Newton was able to find McCaffrey for a two-yard touchdown.
Panthers touchdown. CAR 38-14.
The Dolphins were able to move the ball slightly on their next drive, mostly with a 24-yard pass from Cutler to Parker. They also found a 16-yard pass from Cutler to Landry, but an illegal formation penalty negated that play and Miami was forced to punt again.
Carolina did not have the same difficulties. On the first play of the fourth quarter, McCaffrey picked up 16 yards, which was followed two plays later by Netwon finding Shepard for 12 yards. Ultimately, the drive ended with Newton finding Funchess, who caught the back-shoulder throw and basically walked into the endzone for a 32-yard score.
Panthers touchdown. CAR 45-14.
Miami again decided to look like they knew what they were doing on their next possession, just to randomly score points when they are meaningless. Cutler threw for 61 yards on a 10-play, 75-yard drive, including 15 yards to Parker, 32 yards to Stills, 5 yards to Drake, and 9 yards and a touchdown to Landry.
Dolphins touchdown. CAR 45-21.
The Panthers’ streak of five straight possessions ending with a touchdown was snapped on their next drive - because Derek Anderson, who entered the game, ended the game with kneel downs. Mercifully.
The Dolphins again looked bad on a prime-time game. They simply are not able to compete right now. The defense looks worn down, and the offense never gets into a rhythm. They will have a great drive, but then have Cutler make two terrible throws and a run that does nothing, and they will be punting - putting the defense back on the field. Carolina had over 10 minutes more possession time than Miami - and it should not have been that close.
Miami is a complete mess right now, with nothing working. This season was a throw-away year as soon as Ryan Tannehill was lost for the year in training camp, but Cutler was brought into the franchise in an effort to at least keep the ship righted. There has been no consistency this season, and the Dolphins now fall to 4-5 on the season.
The Dolphins move on to their Week 1 makeup game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. Will they show up for that game at least?