Dolphins vs. Patriots: Miami Grades, Notes and Quotes
The Miami Dolphins have pulled the ultimate Miami Dolphins move, taking two gigantic steps back with a 36-7 loss on Thursday to the New England Patriots after taking a huge step forward with their two-game winning streak.
Miami lost this game thanks mostly to an inept offense that gave up on the run game way too quickly, thus leaving the defense on the field for far too long. This set up a cataclysmic set of events that we'll call the second half, which saw the defense run out of gas and suffer a devastating injury.
In fairness, said injury could have just as easily occurred had the Dolphins been up by three scores instead of being down three, but it was that kind of night for the Dolphins.
Here's a look at what the nation saw when the Patriots slaughtered the Dolphins.
Postgame Grades for Miami
This was an embarrassing performance at every position except one—the opposite of Miami's game against Houston.
Ryan Tannehill was terrible, completing 28 of 44 passes for 300 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The only good news is he did look good throwing the ball deep, especially when he rolled out.
His protection was worse, leading to five sacks and plenty of rushed throws, and his receivers couldn't hold onto the ball, as Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews each had crucial drops. When they weren't dropping the ball, they were running bad routes, which resulted in bad throws and miscommunication.
New England's offense picked on the Dolphins linebackers and secondary with aplomb. Missed tackles on receivers and backs led to Tom Brady completing 26 of 38 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns.
New England ran the ball well, primarily toward the left side. LeGarrette Blount ran for 72 yards on 15 attempts, while Dion Lewis ran five times for 19 yards.
Miami's running backs couldn't get going, but part of that had to do with the fact that the team abandoned the run early on despite the fact that up until late in the third quarter, the Dolphins were within two scores.
The coaching on defense was hampered by bad personnel, mainly at linebacker and in the secondary. The defensive line did their job, especially Ndamukong Suh. On offense, the play-calling was atrocious.
It was not Miami's best effort, but the biggest losses didn't come on the field.
Ja'Wuan James Leaves Early with Toe Injury
Part of what set into motion this blowout was a key loss in the first quarter for Miami: the loss of right tackle Ja'Wuan James.
Per Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel, James injured his left big toe early in the game. He was replaced by Jason Fox, who was terrible. By my count he allowed two of the five sacks on Ryan Tannehill; Chandler Jones had another outstanding game at Fox's expense.
After the game, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, James wore a boot and declined to discuss the injury, stating he had spent the entire second half in the locker room.
This isn't good news. Miami is thin as it is along the offensive line, and as we have seen from Fox, it's not pretty.
The fact that James isn't discussing his injury is a scary thought for the Dolphins and one we'll have to look at in the next week between now and their showdown with the Buffalo Bills.
DeVante Parker Hurt Despite Playing Limited Snaps
Miami's injury problems continued on Thursday, as DeVante Parker left the field in the fourth quarter.
The injury concerns his foot, the same one he had surgery on back in June, yet the reports are hazy at this time.
According to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post, Parker said the injury was "not serious" and the tests came back negative. However, Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel reports Parker stated he didn't suffer a foot injury, yet he was favoring his left foot while limping into the training room.
If Parker didn't suffer a foot injury, why would he limp? Either way, the severity of the injury isn't as concerning as the frequency of the injury he suffered. Parker hurt his foot last season at Louisville and missed the start of the 2014 season. He then had surgery to re-insert a screw in the same foot in June, and now there's this.
This is an injury that takes a while to recover from, and with Miami's depth at receiver as well as Parker's issues with this injury, it might help him to sit out the rest of the year, regardless of the severity.
Keep in mind, I say this as a fan of the Parker pick. I'll stand by why I liked it and could still see him breaking out, but he's an investment in the future. It would be better if that investment was protected going forward.
Cameron Wake Hurt, Could Be Extremely Serious
The worst news of the game wasn't the final score.
It wasn't the injuries to Ja'Wuan James and DeVante Parker either.
It was Cameron Wake's injury, one that right now isn't looking too good.
Wake was helped off the field in the third quarter after what we would find out was an Achilles injury, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
His teammates were already feeling Wake's loss. Mike Pouncey was clearly shaken, per Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post. Pouncey said, "When you see a guy like Cam Wake go down (long pause)...it's hard."
Ndamukong Suh, who along with Wake has helped Miami's defensive line become a destructive force the last two games, said, per Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald: "I don't know what the situation is. ... Obviously you never want to lose one of your teammates."
From the looks of it, Wake's season is over, and his career with the Miami Dolphins could be over as well. He is owed $9.8 million in 2016, and releasing him would only cost the Dolphins $1.4 million. It would be a horrible way for Wake to leave Miami if this were to be his final game, but for right now all one can do is hope that the injury isn't as severe as it seems.
"We Didn't Pull Our Weight"
For much of the first half, Miami's defense was getting it done.
It held New England to only two touchdowns, with the offense being responsible for a safety and a field goal thanks to an interception.
It was 19-0 at the half, with the score being as lopsided as it was because of the offense shooting itself in the foot.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill explained the offense's performance to a tee, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald: "Our defense kept us in the game when we shouldn't have been in the game (early). We didn't pull our weight."
Tannehill was correct. Had it not been for the defense, New England would have likely scored 36 points in the first half alone. The offense was that atrocious, and Tannehill shoulders a good part of the blame.
But let's not forget that the offensive line was atrocious, while his receivers weren't as reliable as they had been the last two weeks. Add in their inability to run the ball, and the Dolphins are lucky the Patriots only forced two turnovers.
"We Didn't Play Good Enough"
Dan Campbell is going to get a lot of criticism for this game.
I've already given him some, grading the coaching during the game at a "D," but it's not all on him.
We didn't play good enough. I told them I don't believe one bit that's really who we are. I told them I don't want them to forget that feeling. I hope it eats away at them like it eats away at me, so they don't have the feeling ever again. You can't make mistakes against that defense.
Succinct yet true. This is something you wouldn't hear out of Joe Philbin, and something the players need to hear.
The offense made mistakes against the defense, and New England capitalized on them early and often. The Patriots would have capitalized more had the defense not played as well as it did in the first half.
Will the Dolphins remember this feeling? They should know it well already, but at 3-4 they still have plenty of time left. Despite everything that went wrong, both self-inflicted and otherwise, they might crawl back into playoff contention.
Statistics provided by NFL.com.