It’s been getting tougher each week over the last five consecutive losses to come up with new perspectives on a team that has every opportunity in front of them, but opts for squandering. Squandphins doesn’t have a great ring to it, but I got a bunch of barbecuing aprons made up with it anyway. Your (as in, not my) Miami Dolphins dropped yet another winnable game, this time against the New England *Patriots, to make certain that they can’t make the playoffs on their own merit. As is tradition. A long, painful tradition.
I’ll start with a note that has nothing to do with the Dolphins’ game. On Monday night, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered an extremely serious incident on the field against the Cincinnati Bengals. As of this writing on the afternoon of 1/3, there haven’t been many updates on his condition. Hopefully by the time it’s published, there will be good news.
In the meantime, donations can be made to his Chasing M’s Foundation toy drive at this GoFundMe link.
Injuries finally won out against Miami
Yes, all teams have injuries. Yes, Miami has had injuries all season. And also yes, the injuries Miami had working against them this week were a pretty significant part of their undoing.
Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out, still in the concussion protocol, to be replaced by Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy then injured his throwing hand in the third quarter and was taken out for the remainder of the game, thus continuing the Dolphins’ preposterous streak of games started by backup quarterbacks not being finished by the same backup quarterback. Skylar Thompson came in and appeared to be in some kind of Speed situation where if he threw the ball further than five yards downfield, the bus he was on would explode.
2022 Pro Bowl (for some reason) cornerback Xavien Howard missed the game, joining his never-to-be-seen-again compatriot Byron Jones, leaving Kader Kohou and Keion Crossen to man the boundaries, which did not go unnoticed by the opposition.
Left tackle Terron Armstead didn’t play and his replacement, recently signed Kendall Lamm, too came off the field during the game. Eric Fisher was also not present, leaving Brandon Shell and Greg Little as the only available tackles.
Finally, former Denver Bronco and current Artful Dodger Bradley Chubb didn’t play, which isn’t necessarily a loss of production, but is certainly a continued loss of ROI.
I understand that New England is just okay. I understand that good teams can still win games when injuries make an impact. What I now understand additionally is that the Dolphins’ depth isn’t as good as the other playoff-hopeful teams and against the *Patriots, that was a major problem.
The Fins are still failing to do the little things
Mike McDaniel has suffered from his inexperience throughout Miami’s five game skid. Some things he can’t control, like his backup quarterback being less accurate than his starter or his kicker having a mental block that looks to start exactly 50 yards away.
He can, however, control the other aspects of the game that are the responsibilities of the head coach. There were penalties. There were wasted timeouts, yet again. And, of course, the team lost. Sure, that last one isn’t exclusively on the head coach, but losing five in a row has to ultimately fall on him in the end.
If all of the big things went well, i.e. the offense was healthy and putting up 30+ point per game while the defense wasn’t bending, let alone breaking, it’s possible that not accomplishing the little things like managing the clock and showing discipline could cost the Fins late into the postseason. Obviously, nothing has been going right at any scale, but the point remains: really excellent teams focus on the little things and, right now, Miami isn’t doing them. It likely won’t matter this season given the present state of things, but it will likely matter if/when the team pulls it together going forward.
Everything should be able to be challenged
It’s not often I agree with Bill Bay-ee-li-check. But he’s advocated since the advent of replay that everything, including penalties, should be able to be challenged and, if the challenger is correct, there should be infinite challenges until they’re wrong. I’m completely on board with that approach and I wish the league would join me on the caboose.
The Fins were the beneficiaries when Raheem Mostert clearly fumbled on the opening drive, but the ball stayed with Miami. The Fins were the losers in a number of other instances, however, like: a non-existent holding call to extend a drive on 3rd down, a catch ruled a completion for Tyquan Thornton on a play nearly identical to one ruled an incompletion for Tyreek Hill, and, my personal favorite, an offensive pass interference on a pick play that the announcers so kindly referred to as a “moving screen” that allowed for a free New England touchdown as Noah Igbinoghene got blocked out of the play.
I’m not blaming the refs for the Dolphins’ loss. The Dolphins are to blame for that.
That being said, there are missed calls all over every game. People argue that too much replay will make the games longer. I say: they’re already three-and-a-half hours long so that every advertiser on earth can shove their products down my throat, so what’s another 20 minutes if it actually forces the game to be called properly?
Nothing. Just like what the Dolphins came away with on Sunday.
Miami has no momentum
This team is the most disappointing in decades. If that sounds like hyperbole, it shouldn’t. There have been recent teams in the same position as this year’s group: win x of the last y games and into the playoffs you go. They’ve all fallen short. Miami can still technically back their way into the playoffs if Buffalo beats New England and Miami beats New York (the Jets; the bad ones). Buffalo winning is a reasonably likely outcome unless the Bills sit a bunch of starters. Even if they don’t, it’s just as reasonably likely that the Dolphins lay an egg and miss the postseason in the exact same way as years’ past.
So what’s the difference this time?
This year’s team was 8-3 and sitting on top of the entire AFC earlier in the season. They were #1 in the power rankings (despite them being worth almost nothing, it was just nice to see). Most importantly, this year’s team isn’t just a pile of potential. Every past season, we fans say “If we could just get two more linebackers, a shutdown corner, one pass rusher, a number one wide receiver, a franchise quarterback, and five new linemen, boy, would we be at .500.”
This season didn’t require any of those mental gymnastics. Miami had beaten top teams like Baltimore and Buffalo, they had put up 30+ points four games in a row, and they had held opponents under 20 points five times. They were at the top of categories on both sides of the ball at certain points. Nothing was hypothetical this time around. It all came down to consistency, not ability. That’s why this colossal meltdown is such a massive let down.
It’s still possible that they sneak into the playoffs. Based on how they’ve performed lately, they’ll be heading in with no confidence, no momentum, and, at the current rate, maybe no healthy starters. I’ll still always hope for the best and always hope for the Dolphins to play as far into the postseason as possible. But they’re going to have to blow the Jets out of the water and get some outside help to prevent this year from being the saddest in a storied tradition of sadness.
Will the Bills beat the *Pats? Will the Fins beat the Jets? Will Tua come back for the postseason? Find out all this and more next week on As the Fins Flail. Post your fan theories in the comments below.