Dolphins Not as Close to AFC East Contenders as It Seemed

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IDecember 22, 2013

Getty Images

Dropped the ball.

The Miami Dolphins did a lot of it in rain-soaked conditions against the Buffalo Bills in a 19-0 loss on Sunday, and the phrase also accurately describes what the Dolphins did with their playoff fates in their own hands.

All they had to do was win two games to close out the season, and all they did was put up a doughnut in one of the worst offensive showings of the season. That's a situation they put themselves in with a momentous win over the New England Patriots just seven days ago.

Just a week ago, the discussion was whether they were contenders to the crown in the AFC East. 

Now? What a difference a week makes.

Where to begin? 

Miami Dolphins offensive struggles
Time frame3rd %Yards/carrySacks allowed/gamePoints/game
Weeks 1-1535.84.23.622.1
vs. Bills15.41.270
Yahoo Sports

It would be difficult to win with any one of these stats. Put all of them together in one game, and you get the result: a shutout.

"We didn't protect the quarterback well on offense, we didn't run the ball well on offense, we didn't convert third downs," said head coach Joe Philbin, according to

Truth be told, these problems shouldn't be too surprising. A lack of a running game and poor pass protection were the paramount issues for the Dolphins earlier this season, but they had corrected them in recent weeks.

They couldn't protect Ryan Tannehill, as the Dolphins quarterback was sacked seven times, the most in a game this season. The Dolphins had rushed the ball for an average of 109.6 yards per game over the past nine games, but picked up just 14 yards rushing on 12 carries, for an average of 1.2 YPA. 

On Sunday against the Bills, those problems were right back at the forefront. 

How did it all fall apart? Only film review will give us the real answer, but three of the seven sacks were logged by defensive backs (two by cornerback Nickell Robey, one by safety Da'Norris Searcy), suggesting that the Bills employed a more blitz-heavy approach to get the pressure on Tannehill. 

It nearly cost the Dolphins dearly, as Tannehill was sacked seven times and missed some time in the third quarter with a knee injury.

Unless the Dolphins fix their pass protection woes this offseason, they can bank on their quarterback taking more ugly shots like that in the future. He's not up to 58 sacks on the season, the most in the league and the most in Dolphins history. 

That's not the only area their offense struggled on Sunday. 

Daniel Thomas had run roughshod through defenses over the past two weeks, but the holes were simply not there for him in the running game and the Bills were able to stop him short or for no gain on many of his carries; there weren't many carries to begin with, but the few successful ones he had were wiped away by negative runs.

All teams have bad games, but the timing couldn't have been much worse than for it to come after what was supposed to be a statement win. The narrative all week long was how the Dolphins were proving themselves to be legitimate contenders with the Patriots in the AFC East. 

Now, the Dolphins are back to scoreboard watching as the season hits the home stretch. 

Their playoff scenario is as follows: win next week, and hope the Ravens lose to both the Patriots and the Bengals. Not out of the question, but a far cry from win-and-you're-in, which was the case on Sunday morning. 

Now, not only are the Dolphins playing for their playoff lives, they're also playing to get above .500 for the first time since 2008. 



Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.