Miami Dolphins: Can They Make A Playoff Run?
The Miami Dolphins are walking a thin line. A win over the New York Jets two weeks ago, sandwiched between losses to the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens this past weekend has left Miami in a bind with a 7-6 record and on the outside looking on a playoff berth.
This week, the Dolphins travel to New England, one of the hotter teams in the NFL. Miami won the first encounter and hope the mojo of earning a win over the Patriots carries into this weekend. The sting of falling to the Ravens on Sunday may still play games in the minds of the Dolphins in their preparation. The season is shortening, there are jobs on the line and yes, head coach Joe Philbin may need to get this team into the post season to come back next year.
Here are three observations from this past weekend as the team plans to move forward this weekend, according to miamidolphins.com.
The goal of reaching the postseason is still attainable for Miami, but it will have to start with a win over one the NFL’s best teams, the New England Patriots. After jumping out a 10-0 lead to start the game, the Dolphins were outscored, 28-3, in the game’s final three quarters as Baltimore executed better from the second quarter on in all three phases of the game.
1. Protection Breakdowns
It was a tale of two halves, for not only the Miami Dolphins played as a team, but the way they executed, especially at the line of scrimmage. The pass protection breakdowns seemed to be both physical and some mental breakdowns, allowing the Ravens defenders a clear path to disrupt the timing of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill was sacked six times on the day.
It all seemed to be clicking early in the game with the mixture of running back Lamar Miller and the accurate short passing game from Tannehill. As the running game went away, so did the pass protection and the ability to even attempt to throw the football down the field. If the offensive line doesn’t improve in a hurry, it could be a very long afternoon in Foxborough on Sunday against the Patriots.
2. Frustration Up Front
Not only did the Dolphins had chances on the offensive side of the football to win on Sunday, but it seemed like the defense had started on script, producing three 3-and-outs to start the game. Somewhere after a backbreaking 12 play, 97 yard drive, the defense couldn’t come up with a couple of plays to change the momentum and throw Joe Flacco off of his rhythm.
The Ravens dictated the tempo and pace of the game in the second half by spreading the football around, utilizing eight different receivers catching a pass from Joe Flacco. It also seemed like the Dolphins couldn’t get the Ravens off the field in critical situations, where Dolphin defenders weren’t close enough to make a play on the Ravens receivers. The run defense continued to struggle, giving up 183 yards, making it a total of 661 yards on the ground that’s been allowed the past three weeks. Football starts in the trenches, and neither the offensive or defensive lines could win up front.
3. Better than Average
The game against the Ravens represented an opportunity for the Dolphins to stand up, and put the rest of the AFC on notice to show that they had enough talent to make it into the playoffs. The performance of the last two weeks simply hasn’t been good enough to show that they could make a run in the postseason, let alone make the playoffs.
There’s just not enough explosive plays on the offensive side of the ball to create separation on the scoreboard. Defensively, it seems like the Dolphins are getting beat up front, which was thought to be the strength of this team. We’ll find over the next three games if this team is has enough talent to be better than average, and if they do, that still doesn’t guarantee them a spot playing in January.
In losing to the Ravens, the Dolphins gave up all control of their destiny, but they still have control on how they play to close out the season. It will be something to look forward to these next three weeks to see what this team is made of and how they will respond from this form of adversity.
News & Notes
Miami’s leading receiver, Jarvis Landry, continued to be the focal point of the Dolphins’ passing offense. Landry made six catches for 55 yards, to add to his team lead of 61 in the reception category.
Safety Reshad Jones led the Dolphins defense in tackles, racking up 10 of them, including eight solo plays.
R.J. Stanford, who made his first career start this week, recorded an interception.
Tight end Charles Clay made two catches for 41 yards in his first game back after missing the last two weeks due to injury.
Punter Brandon Fields tied his season-long punt today, booming one 60 yards. Fields averaged 51.4 yards per punt on five punts.