In my opinion

Armando Salguero: Dolphins’ puzzling collapse to Patriots is a familiar sight

 
 
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks unhappy in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on October 27, 2013.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks unhappy in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on October 27, 2013.
Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald Staff
WEB VOTE Which Dolphins player from last season would you most like to have back on the team?

asalguero@MiamiHerald.com

Feel like the season is starting to slip away? Like there are no real answers? Like no one on the Dolphins is really dependable, least of all the men most responsible for making things right?

In short, do you feel like you’ve seen this terrible scene play out before?

That may be because the Dolphins have been here and done all of that before and, by the way, it has never ended well in the past.

The Dolphins lost to the Patriots here on Sunday.

It was 27-17 in the end but that final score doesn’t account for the horrible collapse that preceded it.

It doesn’t account for another bad game by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It doesn’t account for (more) inconsistent play calling by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. It doesn’t account for a defense that saw things slipping away, knew why things were slipping away, and ultimately was helpless to keep the game from, yes, slipping away.

“There really isn’t any explanation,” receiver Brian Hartline said when he was asked why such a good start led to such a disheartening finish. “I would like to think if we knew what the explanation was we would have corrected it. We didn’t. We lost and they played better and now we have three days until our next game.

“To me, I thought in order to beat New England you have to score 30 points. We didn’t score 30 points so we didn’t win.”

The Dolphins haven’t scored 30 points all season and, true enough, coach Joe Philbin said before this game his team had to play its best game to beat the Patriots at a venue where they haven’t lost an October game since 2005.

But instead of delivering their best game, the Dolphins offered up this season’s worst quarter of football — a third quarter in which a 17-3 halftime lead evaporated into a 20-17 deficit.

The Patriots had been outscored 44-9 in the third quarter of their seven previous games. Then they outscored Miami, 17-0 in Sunday’s depressing third quarter.

And then fourth quarter follies followed.

Tannehill, who hadn’t previously thrown an interception, threw two. The defense, which previously limited the New England running game, gave up 61 rushing yards. And Sherman, who previously and finally seemed to discover Lamar Miller running the ball (16 times and 69 yards), called on Miller only two times despite still being in the game.

Really?

This is what the Dolphins had as response in a difficult moment?

“Second half I felt like we let up on them,” said linebacker Phillip Wheeler. “We got to look at the film to see why, but I felt we just let up. I just felt as team, not just a defense, as a team we let up. Not backed off purposely. We didn’t finish them. Like coach always says, he wants us to finish. We didn’t finish.”

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Dolphins.

This game, you see, had the exact same feel of the 2011 Dolphins trip to New England. That team led the Patriots 17-0 at halftime.

That team lost the game, 27-24.

Brady recovered from a poor first half. The New England defense suddenly stiffened. The Dolphins quarterback suddenly couldn’t move the offense. And that coaching staff had no answers.

The problem is that was a different Brady as Sunday’s New England quarterback is older and has fewer weapons and somehow seems to be increasingly inconsistent. And that long ago Miami quarterback was not Tannehill, who is supposed to be developing into a franchise player but instead continues to deliver unsteady play that simply doesn’t show significant improvement.

And that coaching staff was fired because they couldn’t correct issues — which is increasingly sounding like this staff amid the current four-game losing skid.

Sound apocalyptic?

Consider that these Dolphins are 3-4 after committing over $200 million in new contact obligations that included over $100 million in guaranteed money. Consider that this team traded up in the draft to the No. 3 overall selection. Consider this team has a second-year coach and second-year quarterback.

And then filter all those facts in the context that last year at this time, the Dolphins were 4-3.

With less talent and less experience at coach and quarterback and much less money spent on the roster the Dolphins were getting better results this time last year.

This team has regressed from a year ago.

It has regressed from a month ago.

And questions linger seemingly everywhere.

How, for example, has this team turned their best deep threat receiver and arguably one of the NFL’s most productive deep threat receivers of the past four years into an inconsistent possession receiver?

That’s what Mike Wallace, who caught three passes for 41 yards on Sunday, seems to be so far this season.

How is it that time and again the Dolphins go away from running the football even when they’re winning or in a close contest?

How is it that Tannehill, in his second season, doesn’t show great pocket awareness so he can at least get rid of the ball when he sees blitzes coming to avoid a sack in the red zone?

Tannehill started this season in promising manner. He was better than Andrew Luck against Indianapolis. He delivered a comeback win against the Falcons. But the last four games he’s thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns (seven) and in the last three games he’s completing only 52.1 percent of his passes.

Tannehill isn’t Miami’s biggest problem. But he’s supposed to be developing into a franchise quarterback. He’s supposed to be part of the solution.

“Obviously we aren’t at an all-time high right now,” Tannehill said. “We’ve got to get back on track. That’s the only option we have.”

Dolphins fans have heard this before.

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