This Miami Dolphins season has hit the critical stage when we come to understand that so much about this team is wrong, it’s going to be very difficult to win against any good team.
Or against a great quarterback.
Or on the road.
No matter what the Dolphins try, no matter how long they juggle all the necessary balls, improbably keeping them all in the air, we know a mistake will eventually leave all the balls strewn all over the place.
Like your hopes for a salvageable season.
Colts 27, Dolphins 24.
This one saw the juggled balls drop to the ground with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter. That’s when Adam Gase engaged in some questionable late-game play-calling.
I call it questionable play-calling in that afterward, for the first time in the nearly three years Gase has been the Dolphins head coach, he was blitzed with wave after wave of questions about his play-calling.
And the questions were legitimate.
Leading 24-17 with 8:26 to play the Dolphins had the football at their 25 yard line. And at that point they had run the football 22 times for 114 yards — a 5.18 yard per carry average.
So what did Gase call on first and second down that series?
Which resulted in two incomplete passes, but more importantly took only 10 seconds off the clock. Why?
“They ran what we thought they were going to run,” Gase said of the Colts defense. “They pressured us both times. So we got guys wide open. We got to protect and you got to be able to make those plays. They’re pressuring because they don’t want us to run the ball.”
That is good reasoning. But what about imposing your will with all the “alpha dogs” that got added to the team in the offseason?
What about dictating to the defense instead of allowing it to dictate to you?
Anyway, the total amount of time the Dolphins gobbled up on that key possession was 43 seconds. And that is when you knew the avalanche of defeat had begun.
Because then the Dolphins asked their defense to do something it hasn’t done with any consistency this year: Rise to the occasion in game deciding moments.
Did this defense do that when the Colts, trailing by a touchdown, were pinned at their own 11 yard line?
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck threw four passes and completed all four. And soon this game was tied when Luck connected with Eric Ebron, another one of those tight ends the Dolphins always have trouble covering, for the tying score.
That was bad but not catastrophic because the Dolphins would get the ball back after the kickoff. Except Stephone Anthony was called for holding on the kickoff and so the Dolphins were pinned at their own 6 yard line to start the drive.
And with Ryan Tannehill playing quarterback for the first time in five games, did the Dolphins put the game in his hands? Did Gase ask Tannehill to go win this game, goshdarnit?
Now, the Dolphins ran the ball on first down. And ran a screen on second down, which DeVante Parker caught and acted like he wished he was elsewhere.
And then on third-and-10 Gase ran the ball up the middle. Four yards.
“Backed up,” the coach said, explaining his thinking on third-and-10. “We were struggling in that distance to begin with. We have to make something happen on those first two downs. Third and 10 on the minus-3 or whatever it is in not going to be good.”
Gase wants you to know his decision to not rely on Tannehill has nothing to do with his trust of his quarterback.
“It wouldn’t matter who is back there,” Gase said. “That’s a [crappy] situation to be in. It’s third-and-long, your backed up. It’s a bad situation. I’ve been in that end zone before and I watched a Hall of Fame quarterback [Peyton Manning] get sacked for a safety. In this building.
“We didn’t block anybody. That’s what bothers me more than anything. We haven’t really picked up a bunch of stunts in the four man rush and that’s what these guys do.”
I get that. I didn’t really have a problem with the third-and-10 call. It was the previous series I had a disagreement with. It was the first two plays of this series I have a big problem with.
But here is where it all devolved into utter nuttiness: Gase knew the Colts were on fire at that point. He knew a field goal would win the game.
“I had faith in our defense,” he said. “They stopped them a majority of the game.”
Did the Dolphins suddenly draft a great defensive end and a lockdown press cornerback to play opposite Xavien Howard before that final Colts possession? Because if they didn’t there would be absolutely no reason to think in the Miami defense that gave up 455 yards on the day would stop the Colts.
And, of course, the defense failed.
The biggest failure came on third-and-9 from the Colts 43 yard line. Defensive tackle Akeem Spence had Luck in his sights. He could have sent the game into overtime with a sack.
But Luck ducked under the defensive tackle and threw a 34-yard completion to the Dolphins 23 yard line. Four plays later the Colts kicked the game-winning field goal which was like a mule kick to the teeth of the Dolphins playoffs hopes.
“Can’t get it back,” Spence said. “Luck made a great move stepping up in the pocket. He’s a big guy, hard to get down with one hand. That’s a play I got to make.”