With the score tied and the Dolphins holding momentum and the football Sunday, Terrell Suggs began one of Miami’s final possessions by actually grabbing left tackle Jonathan Martin by the shoulders, carrying the 300-pound man back into Ryan Tannehill’s face, and while still holding on to Martin, tackling Tannehill for a sack.
And two plays later, Suggs moved over to the right side and pushed Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo aside as if swatting a fly before collapsing Tannehill for another sack.
A drive that began hopefully at the Dolphins’ 26 yard line, was a wreck at the 16 when Suggs finished his work. And when the Ravens used the field position gained in part by those sacks to drive for a field goal that would win this game, you saw how offensive line play matters.
Ravens 26. Dolphins 23.
And, yes, this loss is on the offensive line.
Oh, it’s not on the offensive line merely because of that embarrassing snapshot Suggs took late in this game. It’s on the offensive line because this group was bad all day.
And last week.
And the week before that.
And in the season-opener.
These guys, good men all of them, prideful men all of them, are simply a terrible offensive line.
How else to describe a group that came into this game on pace to give up a team-record 72 sacks for the season and actually got worse? The Dolphins yielded six sacks against Baltimore.
That means Miami is now on pace to give up 77 sacks this year.
David Carr holds the NFL record for absorbing the most sacks of any quarterback when he was sacked 76 times while playing for the expansion Houston Texans. Do you know what that did to him?
It helped ruin him.
“It’s hard to function,” a weathered Joe Philbin began, “offensively when you’re going backwards. It makes your job … it makes it tougher. It makes it tougher, no doubt about it.”
Philbin is being kind. The Dolphins offensive line play lately doesn’t make winning difficult. It’s next to impossible.
The passing game and the running game start fundamentally with Miami’s offensive line and, unfortunately for Philbin, the linemen responsible for getting Tannehill hit more than any other quarterback in the NFL also are struggling to give Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas any running room.
The Dolphins did not pick up a single first down running the football against Baltimore. Not one. It’s impossible to do worse than that.
And we’re not even to the point Tannehill, a tough Texan with a heart as big as his home state, takes that fateful blindside hit that knocks him onto the injured reserve list.
That is coming as surely as 11 more games are scheduled after this week’s bye because the Dolphins have simply put too much evidence of their offensive line’s ineptitude on film for opponents to ignore.
Tannehill is now wearing a target as much as he is No. 17.
And Miami’s offensive line is responsible.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Martin said. “It’s a long season. We’ve got a lot of ballgames to be played and we’ve got time to turn it around. But it is a concerning trend so far and something that we need to get corrected now.
“You never want to give up a sack and 20 is a high number. I don’t like hearing that. It’s definitely something that we need to turn around now.”
Some corrections are in order here:
It’s not 20 sacks. It’s 24 sacks this line has allowed.
It’s not a concerning trend, but rather a budding disaster.
And the time for a turnaround is not in the coming 11 games, but the coming few days during the bye.
That’s right, this Dolphins coaching staff and personnel department need to figure something out during those days before the blitzing of Tannehill’s skull resumes Oct. 20 against Buffalo.
That means general manager Jeff Ireland has to trade for someone or Philbin needs to find bodies on the roster that change the direction of this line before this line changes the so-far positive direction of this season.
Obviously wholesale changes are impossible. Richmond Webb in his prime isn’t coming out of the shadows and no teams are going to trade away an excellent player unless the Dolphins pay a premium — and it’s not Ireland’s way to give up prime draft picks.
But perhaps a mediocre guard or tackle is available. Maybe someone is out there that can add some poor protection and run-blocking to upgrade from the awful protection and run-blocking the Dolphins are so far getting.
Maybe the Dolphins can look internally for answers. Maybe John Jerry is better suited for right tackle. Maybe Nate Garner can be part of the answer either at right guard or right tackle.
Anything is better than the status quo.
The status quo, by the way, is not just bad but historically bad. Remember the team record for most sacks allowed is 53 set during the Lyndon Johnson administration. That record is about to be shattered.
Remember in 2011 fans grew to dislike right tackle Marc Colombo because he was a virtual turnstile to the quarterback. Well, Colombo gave up nine sacks that year. Clabo this season is on pace to give up 16 sacks.
The Dolphins, in short have to do something about this offensive line so as to not become a butt of jokes, which is exactly what Suggs made them after he collected his three sacks.
“My wife told me to bring momma home three sacks and it came down to the stretch in the fourth quarter and I said, ‘Alright, momma said she wanted three sacks,’” Suggs said. “So I went and got it.”