The Dolphins couldn’t find much silver lining from watching the film of their worst performance of the season Sunday at Buffalo.
And they know they have very little time to fix their issues with a must-win game against the Jets coming up with a still slightly favorable chance of making the playoffs.
“We have to move on, but you have to make corrections,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “You can’t just throw things out the window and pretend they didn’t happen. The problems that popped up in this game need to be fixed and we need to make sure that our players understand that they can’t happen again.”
The Dolphins could not run the ball, stop the run, protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill, harass Bills quarterback Thad Lewis, get off to a fast start or “be better in ball security,” as Philbin said Monday, than Buffalo.
The inexplicable part is how the Dolphins had done these things effectively enough for three consecutive games to put themselves in position to secure a postseason bid without help.
But after totaling 103 yards, not crossing the Bills’ 35-yard line all game, allowing seven quarterback sacks, and watching the Bills rack up 203 rushing yards, the Dolphins must beat the Jets and hope either the Ravens lose to the Bengals or the Chargers upset the Chiefs in order to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“We’ll make some corrections, but right now we are focused on getting ready for the Jets and playing the most important game since we’ve been here together probably right now coming up this week,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.
The Dolphins’ inconsistency running the football has been one of the biggest problems in their defeats this season. But Sunday was one of the worst and broke a trend of solid games in that category.
The Dolphins ran for 125 yards or more against the Jets and Steelers and mustered 89 yards against the Patriots before a dismal 14 yards on 12 carries against the Bills. The Dolphins are 6-1 when rushing for more than 100 yards as a team this season.
The Dolphins rank 26th in rushing yards overall and 25th in rushing yards allowed.
“I just did not feel at any point that of those 12 carries our longest run was 3 yards,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “We really haven’t had many explosive runs this year, which is not good. We need to continue to build towards that. A lack of productivity in the run game caused me to veer off into another direction.”
Buffalo ran for 203 yards on 51 carries. During their recent three-game winning streak, the Dolphins held all three opponents to 89 rushing yards or less.
“That’s unacceptable, as far as we’re concerned,” Coyle said of the Bills game. “That’s a lot of rushes. There was some good run defense at times, but there were too many instances where we didn’t tackle well [Sunday]. We missed tackles that enabled runs to continue. We let the ball get to the perimeter on occasion, which they’ve got real speed in the backfield.”
Coyle said it wasn’t easy to pinpoint why a seemingly improved group at the start of the season has still not been able to shut down the run.
“We just, as I’ve mentioned a few times here throughout the year, we’ve been in games where we’ve gone stretches of playing outstanding run defense,” Coyle said. “We’ve had more runs break out at different times, whether it be by tackling, whether it be by a fit that wasn’t correct. We are going to have to do a real, hard study of this.”
So here come the Jets, a team that can both run well and stop the run.
Although eliminated from postseason contention, the Jets (7-8) have won two of their past three games and are still one of the best teams in the league at running the football (sixth) and stopping the run (third).
The Dolphins held the Jets to only 99 yards in their first meeting Dec. 1.
Ryan Tannehill had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 331 yards and two touchdowns.
Jets starter Geno Smith was benched after a horrible first half in which he went 4 for 10 for 29 yards and an interception. Backup Matt Simms didn’t fare much better, going 9 for 18 for 79 yards and an interception.
But since then, the Jets have won two of their past three and Smith has improved, going 51 of 89 for 600 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Smith also has been more involved, rushing for 142 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns during that stretch.
“We felt going into the first game they are a physical running team,” Coyle said.
“They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve got good running backs. Now they are featuring the quarterback in the run game, running a lot of the similar plays we saw yesterday. We can’t allow them to run the football against us. That is going to be our big challenge.”
The average price for the Dolphins game against the Jets this week as of Monday is $271.99, which is up 6.6 percent from Sunday morning ($255.14) and 61.20 percent from what it was on Dec. 1 ($168.73). The “get in” price is $88.
This game is the most expensive Dolphins home game since at least the beginning of the 2010 season (average price and get in). The average price of this game is 101.4 percent higher than the Dolphins home average ticket price ($135.06). The most expensive ticket currently listed is in section 143, row 1 (behind the Dolphins bench) for $2,200-plus.