Thank goodness for the United States military. I don’t just mean that as a patriotic American. I mean that because — if not for hundreds of troops being honored here on Veterans Day — Dolphins fans surely would have set an NFL single-game record Sunday for least reason to cheer in a home stadium.
It was that bad.
No. It was worse.
I did not think it possible that a team considering itself to be a playoff contender could lose this badly, at home, to a bad opponent.
The thought kept occurring, as the Dolphins’ 37-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans imploded, that our military personnel here to be honored might have preferred immediate deployment overseas rather than keep sitting through this football torture.
It was this franchise’s worst home defeat since expansion-era 1968, and all the worse because of the stakes in play.
There is a phrase for a home team favored by six points that loses by 34, if you’ll permit me one last military allusion:
Shock & Awful.
“Oh yes. By far,” linebacker Karlos Dansby put it plainly.
“I’m embarrassed [by] the way we played,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill agreed.
Miami’s promising rookie QB bears his share of that embarrassment, of course. It is never a good sign when your team’s most outstanding play of the game might have been Tannehill’s touchdown-saving open-field tackle following his third interception.
The Dolphins were lost in a 24-3 crater by halftime and by then all that kept fans from complaining more audibly was that they kept showing soldiers and patriotic images on the giant video screen and no self-respecting fan wants to take a chance being caught booing the flag.
“That team I watched for [the first] 30 minutes was not the team I coached for eight games,” said coach Joe Philbin.
The team he watched in the second 30 minutes wasn’t much better.
I cannot recall another team and its fortunes plummeting from one extreme to the other more dramatically than the Dolphins, who in a span of 14 days have gone from the euphoria of a 30-9 beat-down of the hated Jets to Sunday’s monstrosity.
(Both extremes are the “real” Dolphins, a team both deeply flawed but capable of re-starting a fight for playoff contention.)
Likewise, I cannot recall another pro/college doubleheader delivering more disappointment upon Miami in a single weekend than Saturday’s last-second 41-40 Miami Hurricanes loss at Virginia followed by Sunday’s Dolphins surrender.
Putting a positive spin on it, at least the 1972 Dolphins had a very good day Sunday, watching the last-unbeaten Atlanta Falcons lose.
Meantime the 2012 Dolphins’ day ended in an emptied stadium with the Titans’ backup quarterback kneeling.
That was what the Dolphins had spent the entire afternoon doing.
Tennessee entered this game having just lost at home 51-20, after which longtime owner Bud Adams said his team had been “grossly outcoached and outplayed.” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross should have been thinking something similar Sunday.
Miami receiver Marlon Moore noted rather defiantly afterward that two weeks ago fans and pundits were talking playoffs while now, two losses later, the record sunk to 4-5 and “everybody’s going to try to pull us apart now and say we’re nothing.”