Well, we probably should have seen this one coming. Take an improving Miami Dolphins team that, although entering Sunday’s game at 3-0, easily could have lost two of its first three games, a still formidable New England Patriots squad that, after having lost two straight games, had something to prove and yet another contest at dreaded Gillette Stadium, where the Dolphins haven’t won in a decade and you have a ready made recipe for disaster.
How bad was it? At halftime , the score was 24-0 and the Dolphins had nearly as many penalty yards (89) as total yards of offense (105). Once again -- stop me if you’ve heard this one before -- Miami could neither convert a third down nor stop the other team on third down. The Patriots had a blissfully easy time pushing the ball down the field, being able to choose between gashing the Dolphins on the ground, to the tune of 178 yards on 37 carries before backup QB Bryan Hoyer’s three kneel downs at the end, or throwing at will against Miami’s feeble pass rush. Meanwhile, while the Patriots were averaging 4.8 yards per rush, the Dolphins could only muster 3.1 YPC themselves.
Sure, the Dolphins are still in first place in the AFC East, but does anybody really expect them to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati next week after the way they played on Sunday? As Troy Aikman used to say in that commercial back in the 90’s, get real.
I come away from this game with several cursory observations: number one, both of the Dolphins’ top two picks from the 2017 draft, defensive end Charles Harris and linebacker Raekwon McMillan, look like busts so far. I’ve been one of Harris’ biggest supporters to this point, but in extended action on Sunday against a banged up New England offensive line, he was virtually invisible. We can make excuses about McMillan’s knee still not being 100%, etc, but after a full year of meetings, film study and preparation, he still looks lost out there. Perhaps he’ll improve as the season wears on, but right now he’s much more of a liability than an asset on the field for Miami, and that’s been true in all four of the Dolphins’ games this season, not just this one. Being slow and having poor football instincts is a bad combination, especially for a guy who is the supposed quarterback of your defense.
In the clip-and-save-for-future-reference department, the Dolphins still need an awful lot of help along the offensive line. The only two players they seem to be able to count on are their starting offensive tackles, and Tunsil didn’t exactly look good on Sunday, either. Miami needs to go into the off-season looking to acquire two or three starters at guard and center; both Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore were little more than band-aids to stop the bleeding coming into this season, while Ted Larson has done nothing to distinguish himself as Sitton’s replacement. If I were Dolphins GM Chris Grier, I might be tempted to use all my 2019 draft picks on linebackers and offensive linemen, with a couple of DB’s thrown in.
Sunday’s thrashing should serve as a reminder of just how far away from contention the Miami Dolphins still are at this point, and let’s face it: squeaking into the playoffs as the fifth or sixth seed, only to be routed in an away game at the first or second seeded team’s venue is not what we, as fans, should be rooting for. If we were to lose a couple more games and start having to look forward to the draft and next off-season, I for one would not be heartbroken. Yeah, I’ll take some heat for saying that, but that’s the way I see it. Hey, at least the team is headed in the right direction, which is something we couldn’t say with a straight face a couple of years ago.