One gut punch in a season might be more than enough, but two overtime losses in winnable games for the Dolphins have made South Florida gloomy.
Some may take them as moral victories—after all, the team was an underdog in both contests and had a late lead—but there are distinct, fixable reasons why they lost.
Last week's loss against the Cardinals was brought about by two costly turnovers. Here is a breakdown of what happened on those plays and what the Dolphins can do better in the future to prevent these kinds of mistakes.
Ryan Tannehill Fumble
This was quite the costly turnover for the Dolphins. Had they been able to sustain the drive they might have scored to ice the game. Even if they merely punted after second and third downs, the Cardinals would have likely not had enough time to go the length of the field to score a touchdown.
At the very least, they would have made things much more difficult for Kevin Kolb, who had been under fire from Cameron Wake and that defensive line. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Unfortunately, they left themselves very little time when they finally lined up to run the play.
The Cardinals, as the announcers have mentioned just before the play, have been "selling out" against the run. On this play, Paris Lenon is lining up to blitz the A gap, something the Cardinals seem to be fond of doing.
Fortunately the Dolphins have a pass play drawn up, right? All Tannehill has to do is make an adjustment before the snap—call a five- or seven-step drop instead of a three-step drop, make sure the line is adjusting to the blitz and/or have Bess shorten his out route, perhaps. He could also send Reggie Bush out to the flat for a quick pass, considering the defensive alignment.
Unfortunately, that is not possible at this point. If you have not noticed the little red doughnut at the top right of the screen encircling the play clock by now, you will see there are two seconds left. Tannehill cannot adjust the play.
With little time to think, Tannehill snaps the ball when he probably should have used Miami's final time out. Perhaps the coaches should have intervened. Here is the scene just after the snap:
Most troubling is the fact Reggie Bush does not seem to know what to do on this play. It is doubtful he would have been able to help, but either he needs to be upfield blocking or out in a pattern. It seems something was lost in translation before the play.
Had he gone to his left and Tannehill read that as a hot read, Bush would have caught the pass with plenty of green in front of him—perhaps enough to get the first down.
Unfortunately, Tannehill is locked on to Legedu Naanee for some Marino-forsaken reason, Lenon hits him before he can even fully plant his back leg and he fumbles the ball. The Cardinals take possession at midfield with three minutes left, which is just enough time to send the game into overtime.
This, of course, was the game-clinching play for the Dolphins. The defense was gassed, and all Miami had to do was move the ball within Dan Carpenter missed field-goal range to attempt the game-winning kick.
Many say Tannehill cost the game with this interception, but it is not that simple. Here is why:
This time, there are no clock issues. Tannehill sees the blitz coming and points it out. The next best thing he could have done was keep Fasano in to block, making it easier for the offensive line to pick up the extra defenders.
(Incidentally, had this been Chad Henne, max protection would have likely been called. Tannehill does not leave Fasano in to block, which was actually the right call.)
Regrettably for the offense, things do not work out as planned.
Miami is sending all the receivers on "go" routes while sending Anthony Fasano on an out pattern. It is not a quick-developing play; Tannehill needs at least a little time.
The Cardinals send three blitzing linebackers into the B gap. The heavy blitz does its job.
The announcers mention that Arizona sends too many defenders for Miami to block, but they actually have enough. There were six defenders rushing the passer, and six blockers including Reggie Bush.
Bush picks up one of the blitzers, and there are enough blockers for each defender coming at Tannehill. Instead of picking up the blitz properly, however, Richie Incognito is helping Mike Pouncey with blitzing Sam Acho, leaving Paris Lenon—who else—with a free run at the quarterback.
You will note why letting Fasano run his route was the right call—Kerry Rhodes is focused on Fasano and trying to prevent a first down. That left Brian Hartline one-on-one going deep, and he beat his man down the sideline like he had for much of the game.
Had Incognito left Pouncey to his own blocking devices and slowed Lenon enough for Tannehill to get the pass off, Hartline might have caught the game-winning touchdown. Instead, Lenon hits Tannehill as he is releasing the ball and Rhodes happens to be in the perfect spot to intercept the ball.