Breaking Down the Biggest Flaws in the Miami Dolphins' Playoff Push
Entering the game with a 4-4 record, the Dolphins had no room for error against the inferior teams remaining on their schedule. With matchups against the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers looming, Miami couldn't afford a loss against a struggling 3-6 Titans squad.
Yet, not only did the Dolphins lose, they got absolutely dismantled.
In fact, that 34-point loss was the franchise's worst home loss since 1968.
Sunday's horrendous performance coupled with a Week 9 loss to the Indianapolis Colts suggests this Dolphins team isn't ready to make a playoff push quite yet. Of course, with seven games left on the docket, Miami is still alive. However, if these three flaws aren't addressed and resolved, then you can start looking ahead to the 2013 NFL draft.
What happened to the Dolphins defense?
Prior to Week 9, it was one of the NFL's most dominant units. Running against the Dolphins was a waste of time and even the secondary—led by the likes of Sean Smith, Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons and Nolan Carroll—was holding its own.
But something went horribly wrong when Miami visited the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9. Andrew Luck shredded the 'Phins for a rookie-record 433 passing yards. He literally shredded Miami's secondary apart at will and evaded countless sacks.
Then, on Sunday, Chris Johnson became the first running back since Week 2 of 2011 to rush for more than 100 yards on the Dolphins defense. Johnson, like Luck, flat-out abused Miami's defense at will.
And you can't talk about this defense without mentioning its puzzling ineptitude on third downs. In the last two weeks combined, the Colts and Titans converted 21 of 37 third downs. If you can't come up with stops when it matters most, then, well, you can't expect to stop anybody.
Sean Smith was enjoying a potential Pro Bowl season before these last two games and Jimmy Wilson has looked way in over his head.
Kevin Coyle needs to make some adjustments, and he needs to make them now.
In conclusion, well, I'll let Vince Lombardi take it from here:
Get This Man Some Help
Because Ryan Tannehill has played so well this season, it's easy to forget that he's still a rookie.
It's also easy to forget that he's surrounded by one of the worst supporting casts in the NFL.
Let's start at wide receiver.
Sure, Brian Hartline has emerged as a viable weapon for Tannehill, but he also disappeared when matched up with elite cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Cortland Finnegan. Hartline also isn't capable of single-handedly taking over a game or dominating defensive backs in the red zone.
Davone Bess is, well, Davone Bess, but behind him and Hartline the Dolphins literally have nothing.
Can you realistically expect to make a playoff run with Jabar Gaffney and Marlon Moore logging substantial snaps?
Although Daniel Thomas had a solid game on Sunday, he has been mostly pedestrian this season—averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. And while Reggie Bush is this team's most valuable skill player, he hasn't been the same since he suffered a left knee injury in Week 3. Since then, he too is averaging approximately 3.5 yards per carry.
Finally, let's take a look at the offensive line, which is getting progressively worse as the season wears on.
Jake Long isn't playing like the franchise left tackle we've become accustomed to watching. Maybe his chronic injury issues have finally caught up to him. Whatever the case may be, his seven penalties are most on the team, as are his three sacks allowed.
Playing opposite Long is second-round pick Jonathan Martin, who has already yielded 24 quarterback hurries this season. For perspective, that's 15 more than the lineman with the second-highest total, John Jerry.
The Dolphins defense was able to compensate for many of these shortcomings, but now that it's struggling, the offense is being exposed. Until Jeff Ireland surrounds Ryan Tannehill with a legitimate arsenal of weapons, Miami won't be making any deep playoff runs.
Where is the Love?
The Dolphins' reported attendance at Sunday's game was 60,165.
Take a look for yourself.
This first picture was taken by Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post right after kickoff.
And this second picture was taken by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald in the fourth quarter.
So, 60,000-plus fans? No, not even close.
Look, I was born and raised in south Florida. I understand the south Florida sports fan front-runner mentality. And this was a particularly beautiful day—in other words, a perfect beach day—during which the Dolphins played a very unappealing opponent.
However, the Dolphins are in the playoff hunt.
There is no excuse for such a poor turnout.
Home-field advantage is diminished when there's no crowd to rattle and disrupt the opposing team. The Dolphins looked completely lifeless from the get-go of Sunday's game—which also reflects very poorly on Joe Philbin, by the way. Without a crowd injecting life and energy into the stadium, the team had nothing to feed off of.
Step it up, Dolphins fans.
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