Carolina Panthers vs. Miami Dolphins: 7 Takeaways from Collapse Against Carolina
The Miami Dolphins had the chance to take command of the final playoff spot in the AFC on Sunday.
In true Miami Dolphins fashion, it would be a chance that they would easily squander thanks to lack of offensive execution, bad plays at the worst time and settling for field goals.
The Dolphins leave their contest with Carolina at 5-6, yet they are still in control of their playoff destiny—if they can finish strong.
The problem is that the Dolphins have had a hard time finishing strong this season, and Sunday's game was another example of this.
Here are some of the things I took away from Miami's performance against the Carolina Panthers.
Dolphins Connect on the Deep Ball
Let's start with the good news with the Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill formed a connection with Mike Wallace.
Dolphins fans have been waiting since the start of the season for this, as Tannehill hit Wallace with a beautiful 53-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Later in the first half, the two connected for a 57-yard catch that set up a Caleb Sturgis field goal.
Overall, Mike Wallace had his best game with the Dolphins, catching five passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
One heck of a game by Wallace.
Ryan Tannehill Still Has Some Problems
Despite Wallace's great performance and the fact that the two connected deep, you can't deny that Tannehill still has some problems.
First, the nitpicks. On both of those deep passes, Wallace had to go back to adjust to the pass in order to catch it. It was great to see him finally do it, but on the 57-yarder, Tannehill could've led Wallace just a bit more forward (if he does that, that's six points for Miami and a totally different ballgame).
But Tannehill was also fairly inaccurate with some of his throws and seemed to have communication problems with his receivers throughout the afternoon.
He would often miss open receivers to pass it to covered receivers, and after his first interception (a poorly thrown ball that was almost caught by a Panthers defender before being tipped at least six or seven times prior to the ball being picked off), he almost threw another one in the second quarter when the better idea would've been for him to run (which would've at least gotten him the first down).
Some of you may think I'm being too hard on Ryan Tannehill. The truth is, I'm being very fair. If he plays better, the Dolphins win this game. He couldn't put together a final drive to ice the game late in the fourth quarter (prior to the last Panthers drive), and he couldn't get anything going at all in the second half.
That's not what I want to see out of my franchise quarterback.
Dolphins Settling for Field Goals-Costly Strategy
Tony Sparano would've been ecstatic with Miami's first-half performance.
Plenty of field goals to go around, three to be exact.
That's three field goals that should've been touchdowns—which is why Miami had a 16-6 lead at halftime instead of a more insurmountable 21-6 lead.
Remember, the Panthers only scored 20 points.
This is something that has been typed so much by me since I started writing about the Dolphins on Bleacher Report back in 2010 that I still have it saved in a word document on my computer to copy and paste when needed: The Dolphins are too field goal happy, and against a good team, it cost them the game.
Miami's Run Game Still MIA
I talked about Tannehill's issues as well as the Dolphins being too field goal happy.
Luckily there's something that would be able to fix—or at least mask—both of those issues.
Sadly, that solution is something the Dolphins don't seem to have: a competent running game.
Once again, Miami couldn't run anywhere. Ryan Tannehill was their leading rusher with 36 yards on four attempts, but that should not be your leading rusher.
Outside of Tannehill's scrambles, Miami's backs ran for 16 yards on 13 carries.
Pathetic is the best word I could use to describe this sorry excuse for a running game.
Dolphins Special Teams Not at All Special
Take away Brandon Fields and you have a very mediocre unit that we call the Miami Dolphins special teams unit.
You have Marcus Thigpen, who seems to have lost any returning ability he may have had last season. His play was once again atrocious.
The punt coverage team wasn't any better: Brandon Fields has a great leg, but you need to contain the return man and make sure he doesn't scorch you for 41 yards (like Ted Ginn and his family did on one return this game.)
Then there's Caleb Sturgis, who missed a 53-yard field goal. That's not so much on him, but the coaches, who on fourth-and-three should've gone for it or punted, should not have asked Sturgis to hit that field goal.
Overall, not a good day for the special teams unit.
Dion Jordan: Believe the Hype
When Dion Jordan plays, good things happen.
Today, there was a lot of pressure on Cam Newton, including a sack from Jordan himself and a few bad Newton throws.
When Dion Jordan plays, good things happen. That's why Miami traded up for him.
So, why aren't they playing him more again?
Dolphins Defense Turned in a Tremendous Performance
I'm going to finish this piece off with a positive: This defense was tremendous.
Miami's defense almost single-handidly won the Dolphins the game. They stopped the run (until the final drive), they got pressure on Newton throughout the ballgame and the secondary was on fire throughout the afternoon (especially Nolan Carroll).
I have no complaints about the defense other than their lapse at the end of the first half.
Miami's defense struggled at times, but it looks like they're finally getting it together, and I feel terrible for them because they did what it took to win, but the offense let them down.
Sadly, that seems like the destiny of this team this year.