GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After this entertaining, frustrating, uplifting, depressing, heartwarming, heart-attack-causing, started great but ended terribly game it’s clear the Dolphins are a team traveling two roads at the same time with two different destinations.
The Dolphins that hoped to be a good team this year and refused to admit 2012 is about rebuilding lost again Sunday, this time 24-21 to the Arizona Cardinals. And that pretty much continues to prove the Dolphins are incapable of finishing and wildly inconsistent, not only game-to-game but even from one play to the next.
They play great.
They play terrible.
And at 1-3, mostly they lose.
That was the team I saw when I entered their locker room late Sunday evening. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, still wearing his uniform and the day’s sweat, had his face buried in his hands. He seemed crushed.
Center Mike Pouncey spoke in whispers, which, if you know Pouncey, is not his usual tone. And he declined to see much positive out of this loss.
“Nothing at all,” he said. “Not after a loss. Not after one like that were for two weeks in a row you lose the same exact way. It’s disappointing. It’s going to be a hard one to swallow.”
Yes, this one was hard. Painful.
But that’s only if you’re seeing this team and this season through an all-or-nothing right now prism. That’s only if you are seeing this game, and last week’s overtime loss to the Jets at home, as evidence this season is dying a slow but certain death.
But step away from that up-close view. Take a long view.
The picture becomes suddenly brighter.
If your view of the Dolphins is of a team that is building today for a better tomorrow, a team that is building for the future, then you can take solace because some good things are happening.
And that also was evident Sunday.
How else to see Ryan Tannehill light up the Arizona defense for 431 yards, including what seemed at the time like a game-clinching 80-yard touchdown pass, and not think the future promises better days?
How else to see Brian Hartline catch 12 passes for a team-record 253 yards while Davone Bess goes off for 123 yards on seven catches and not think the Dolphins are just one alpha receiver from having an actual 21st-century passing attack?
How can you not be encouraged when Cameron Wake awakens from a season-long sack slumber and shows how explosive he can be by collecting 4.5 sacks on the Cardinals?
All these players and all their plays this game suggested that with a little nip here, a tuck there, and a few more players over there, the Dolphins will be highly, highly successful team.
Of course, it was hard to make that case to these players on this day. This day was about making lots of plays — but not enough. It was about an offense collecting a lot of yards (480) but giving up too many turnovers (3). It was about a defense attacking with great pressure and getting eight sacks, but also folding under the pressure and giving up a lead at the end of regulation.
It was all about the Dolphins being close.
But not being able to close.
“It sucks,” Hartline said afterward. “You’re here to win. You’re here to produce. You’re here to take the next step. Are we getting somewhere? I hope so. Hopefully, we’ll turn the film on and we’ll feel that way. But in the end it’s wins and losses that count and we had a loss today.”