Well that was painful, yet fitting. The Miami Dolphins finished their 2018 home schedule with a 17-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team led by a combination of Cody Kessler and Blake Bortles. The promise of a young season, just 16 weeks ago, seemed like the Dolphins would finally have the offensive line, the quarterback, and the defense ready to push forward toward the playoffs.
On Sunday, it all finally crashed as the Dolphins blew up their slim payoff chances on their own. Instead of playing a game in Week 17 which could mean January football, they will now head to their second meeting with the Buffalo Bills with just a .500 record as their best finishing spot.
The locker room after the game was rightfully subdued. This was the end of what the team had tried to build toward since April. The offseason training program, the minicamps, training camp, the preseason, all came down to 15 games over 16 weeks. And, on Sunday, the Dolphins crashed and burned as they hit the end of that journey.
And, they still have a game remaining.
“That’s why you play the game,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said after the defeat. “Try to get to the playoffs and win the last game of the year. Unfortunately we lost today. It really sucks.”
He added, “Ultimately, we’ve just got to play better. That’s it.”
The Dolphins tallied 183 total yards on Sunday. That makes the fifth time this season the offense has failed to reach 200 yards. The offense has been stagnant all season, and Sunday definitely did nothing to suggest better days are coming.
It is not like the defense has dominated this year, either, however. While they held the Jaguars to 244 yards this weekend, that was their lowest total allowed of the year. They were over 400 yards allowed each of the last four games, and nine times on the year.
The Jaguars simply outplayed the Dolphins. They out-executed them. They out physicaled them.
“They just dominated us up front and holes were closing quick,” head coach Adam Gase said after the game. “I know the backs were trying to get as much as possible but we were 2-3 yards a clip and then we just kept leaving ourselves in third-and-long. Penalties crushed us. We could not get in any kind of rhythm.”
He continued, “They dominated us up front. We got sacked. We couldn’t run the ball. There were no holes. We were getting pushed back. We just didn’t do a good job.”
He was not done. Asked about the defense getting sacks on the Jaguars quarterbacks, and if that amplifies the frustration with the offense, Gase replied, “It’s terrible. I mean, the offense was awful. It was brutal to watch, to be a part of.”
Gase was then asked if he is getting winning football from the quarterback position. He answered, “I think sometimes we are. I think today was a rough day for [quarterback Ryan Tannehill]. I wish he would have played a little better. I wish he would have made a few more decisions that were different. I think there’s been games that he has – that he’s played really well – and there’s been some games where we haven’t played well. And it’s as much on me as it is on him. I have to do a better job of making sure that he’s doing the right things at the right time.”
Tannehill was asked about the inconsistencies for the offense. He explained, “I think they’ve been all over the place. I think every position has its faults. Start with me and just go right down the line. I think when you have that, it all stacks up and you’re not moving the ball. We have to be cleaner, every position, starting with me and that will give us our best chance, obviously, to put the ball in the end zone.”
“We put a lot of work in throughout the off season and not making the playoffs, it’s tough,” safety Reshad Jones said. “It’s part of it, though.”
“We just didn’t get the job done,” running back Kenyan Drake said. “We started off hot, and then didn’t catch that momentum. The defense played great, on the offensive side of the ball, we just didn’t get the job done. They have a great defense and they had a great plan against us. They were able to create a little pressure. We’ve got to be able to adjust and go out there and make the most of the plays.”
Miami was broken this year. Offense, defense, even special teams all struggled at times - or throughout - the season. And, now, sitting at 7-8 on the season, the team is looking toward one remaining game, hoping to finish a sweep of the Bills on the year.
When asked how difficult it is to go into Buffalo, knowing they are already eliminated from playoff contention, Drake simply said, “It’s not difficult at all. We are paid to play football and that is what we are going to do.”
Can the Dolphins show that professionalism and finish the season strong? Can they put 15 games behind them and give one strong performance heading into an offseason that will likely include plenty of change?