Shooting Themselves in the Foot
The Miami Dolphins were once again on the wrong side of an overtime contest this weekend. After Miami dominated the majority of the game, the Arizona Cardinals rallied and were able to steal one from the Phins in overtime. The final score from Glendale read 24-21. For the second straight week, agonizing defeat ails the Dolphins fan base.
Coming into this season fresh off of Hard Knocks and a downright embarrassing preseason, the Dolphins we’re projected to be the laughing stock of the NFL. Analysts and Experts scoffed at the idea of Miami being competitive, but that’s exactly what they are. The Dolphins are a competitive football team. Though it doesn’t make two heartbreaking losses any easier to swallow, remember that the expectations for this team were in the toilet from the beginning. Yes, they have been in close games against some pretty darn good football teams, but that doesn’t negate the fact that this roster is still in desperate need of talent. Both of these consecutive losses for Miami prove one thing: the Dolphins are about five plays per game away from being a good football team. Not great, but good.
This game against Arizona came down to about five plays: the four turnovers and Dan Carpenter’s missed field goal. The Dolphins are starting a rookie under center so growing pains and turnovers are going to be part of the game. It then becomes the rest of the team’s responsibility to pick up the slack and forbid any more turnovers. That just wasn’t the case on Sunday. Legadu Nannee had a key fumble that coughed up possession when the Phins were driving and could’ve ultimately put the game away. Though technically not a turnover, Carpenter’s miss in essence was exactly that. The missed field goal erased an opportunity to put more points on the board as well as give Miami an even tighter strangle hold on the game. Had Dan made the kick, the Phins would’ve gone up 16-0. Instead, he missed and Arizona drove down the field for a touchdown bringing the score to 13-7. When a team has inferior talent, it’s the little things that make the difference. Unfortunately for Miami, Carpenter has squandered three opportunities where the fate of the game rested on his right foot. The most accurate kicker in Miami Dolphins history has not been able to convert on critical field goal opportunities thus far.The defense played exceptionally well for most of the game. They accounted for eight sacks and two interceptions. Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb was wearing Cameron Wake like a JanSport the entire afternoon. Wake tallied 4.5 sacks on the day after having come in without one in the previous three games. Sean Smith took on the daunting task of defending Larry Fitzgerald and did a pretty bang up job. Smith picked Kolb off twice and held Fitz to 64 yards on the day but did unfortunately give up a score. In Smith’s defense, the score came off of a bubble screen so there really wasn’t much the Dolphins corner could have done. Now, having said all that, the defense also had a chance to put this one away. They simply could not get it done. On the final possession in regulation Miami’s pass rush suddenly was non-existent. Kolb was able to convert on two separate fourth down passes, one of which went for a touchdown to tie the game and send it into over time. All the Dolphins needed was one more stop but couldn’t get it.
Offensively, Miami couldn’t ask more of their franchise rookie quarterback. Ryan Tannehill had a sensational day passing for 431 yards and breaking Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s single game rookie franchise record. The Dolphins rookie signal caller did this against a defense that completely shut down Tom Brady and Michael Vick. Tannehill looked sharp; he was making throws that Dolfans haven’t seen in over a decade. He was fitting the ball into tight windows and putting his two receivers in positions to make big plays. Davone Bess ended his day with 7 catches for 123 yards. His counterpart, Brian Hartline, set a franchise record for single-game receiving yards as he hauled in 12 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown. Tannehill was connecting with Hartline down the field Sunday; his deep balls were perfectly placed with touch and precision. Hartline is now the NFL leader in reception yards ahead of Cincinnati’s AJ Green (the two face off head-to-head this week in Cincy). Running back Reggie Bush was virtually ineffective this game. It seemed like the knee wasn’t really bothering him. He was running hard; there just weren’t many holes for him. Credit that to a very stout Arizona defense.All in all the Dolphins played a really good football game against a good team. Arizona had no business even being in that game until Miami handed it to them. With a rookie quarterback at the helm, mistakes are to be expected. In essence, this season really isn’t about the win/loss column for the Dolphins as sad as it is to say. This season is about finding out whether taking Tannehill was worth the 8th overall pick in the draft this past offseason as well as evaluating the rest of the guys on the team. Dolphin fans knew coming in that this was a rebuilding year. Because the team has suddenly been competitive doesn not change that. The coaching staff deserves praise for having the team ready to play week in and week out. But the reality is this season is a season of evaluations. Good news for Miami is that in just four games, they have found their franchise quarterback.