The turning point of the Dolphins’ 2012 season came at halftime in Indianapolis.
As they jogged to the visiting locker room on Nov. 4, the Dolphins were beating the Colts, Ryan Tannehill was going toe-to-toe with Andrew Luck, and a playoff run seemed a real possibility.
Then the offense unraveled, and with it hopes of a winning season. Miami managed just a field goal in the second half, the Dolphins lost the game and would score just 11 offensive touchdowns the rest of the season.
“We need to score more points,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said bluntly Tuesday.
“We can’t rely on the defense. We need to score more points and hopefully we’ll find our way into the end zone.”
To that, coach Joe Philbin later said, “Amen.”
The Dolphins’ offense last year would have sent many a coach looking to the heavens for answers.
They were 27th in points per game in 2012 (18.0) and reached the end zone just once every 6.6 offensive possessions. In today’s pass-happy NFL, that simply won’t cut it.
In response, the Dolphins spent tens of millions of dollars on new offensive weapons, bringing in Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller.
They have tinkered with the offense, Sherman said, with an increased emphasis on throwing the ball deep down the field.
And they’ve practiced at a breakneck speed in organized team activities and in Tuesday’s minicamp, in hopes the tempo will wear down opposing defenses come fall.
But none of this will matter if the light doesn’t come on for Tannehill.
Sherman said Tuesday that his star pupil is ahead of where he was last year. Then, he was a rookie in the early stages of a quarterback competition he would ultimately win.
Now, Tannehill is the incumbent starter with a full offseason to improve fundamentals, master the offense and mesh with his teammates — both new and returning.
Both Sherman and Philbin made a point Tuesday to praise Tannehill’s defensive recognition at the line.
“I definitely think we’ll progress,” Tannehill said. “I think that’s a natural progression not only a quarterback but an offense, the more time you’re in a system the more comfortable you can get, the more you can do. It’s more reaction and not over thinking.
“I’m excited about this upcoming year.”
Having Wallace in the fold certainly helps.
Wallace had what was, by his standards, a down year in 2012 — and still grabbed nearly three times as many touchdown catches as the entire Miami wide receiver group had combined.
“That’s why they brought me here, to score points,” the former Steeler said. “But at the same time, I think it’s a group effort. It’s not just on Mike or just on Ryan or just on Brian [Hartline].
“It’s on everybody, it’s going to be a collective effort.”
The same could be said for last year’s failures.
When asked why the Dolphins were so bad at scoring touchdowns last season, Philbin ticked off a string of deficiencies.
Sometimes, drives stalled in the red zone. Sometimes, the protection broke down. And sometimes, the plays drawn up simply weren’t good enough.
“I wish it was one little thing that we could fix immediately,” Philbin added. “We’re working on it.”
The clock is ticking. The season opens in 88 days.