Dolphins coach Joe Philbin didn’t want to call the stapling of running back Reggie Bush to the sideline for the last 23:23 of Sunday’s first half a “benching.” But Bush did.
And Bush said he agreed with it.
“I didn’t deserve to be back in there,” Bush said. “I fumbled the ball and I’ve had two fumbles lost this year. I have to do a better job of protecting the ball. I’ve been in this league long enough to know protecting the ball is the most important thing as a running back.”
Bush was back for the second half. By then, Tennessee had scored on the first possession of the third and the Dolphins were down 31-3. His one third-quarter carry, for no gain, got erased by a holding call on center Mike Pouncey. He dropped his next chance for a touch, a short pass from Tannehill.
Bush finished with 21 yards on four carries and one catch for 8 yards. The Dolphins running game again contributed loose change, 55 yards on 14 carries if you don’t count quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s kneel down at the end of the first half.
The play that ended Bush’s first half and started the disaster train rolling over the Dolphins was a draw play on third-and-13 from the Dolphins’ 12 on their first possession of the game. Bush swerved out to the right as he broke through the hole and had the first down as Tennessee’s Jason McCourty came on the scene for a strip and tackle.
McCourty also recovered at the Dolphins 28. Four plays later, Tennessee had a 7-0 lead.
“He surprised me a little bit,” Bush admitted. “But, still, I’ve got to protect the ball.”
The last time Bush got benched for a half, he … well, actually, he couldn’t remember the last time it happened.
Asked about Bush after the game, Philbin said, “We’ve got a game coming up really fast. We had planned to use guys. We’d been using Daniel Thomas and we used [running back] Lamar [Miller] sparingly last week. Our hope was to spread the plays a little bit.”
Thomas and Miller combined for eight carries and 33 rushing yards and seven catches and 47 receiving yards.
“I think we have our plays to be run no matter who is in there,” Tannehill said. “Obviously, Reggie brings some things to the table, but we’re not thinking about who is in the game and who isn’t in the game. We’re just calling plays to be run.”
What Bush brings is single-play combustibility, which the Dolphins lack overall. Few can do what he can with a swing, screen or checkdown. And Tannehill admitted Tennessee’s defensive scheme took away deep throws. So, obviously, the decision to bench Bush could have had a big effect on the Dolphins first half production (three points).
Then again, recently, Bush has brought the pedestrian, aside from the shifty Tecmo Bowl 18-yard touchdown run against Indianapolis last week: 40 rushes for 138 yards (3.45 per carry) and eight catches for 83 yards in his past four games. Bush denied injuries have played any part in his recent slump.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I’m not hurt at all.”
Less than an hour after the game, Bush tweeted: “I have to apologize to Dolphin Nation. [My] performance these past few weeks has been poor & I’m embarrassed right now. You guys deserve better.”