This outcome should not surprise because the better team, the team with more talent, the one that made fewer mistakes, won the game. So there really is nothing anyone can complain about because the only folks who thought a Miami victory was possible were wearing aqua uniforms Sunday.
But the truly disappointing thing about this Dolphins’ 30-10 loss is that we’ve seen everything that led to this outcome before.
This script has played out before.
This was all an ugly rewind to last season or an unacceptable replay of what we already witnessed this preseason.
This game, in short, showed that the Dolphins have so far taken precious few steps toward improvement since last year and, in some cases, since this preseason.
How else to put it when this game came down to passes batted at the line of scrimmage — a problem that bedeviled quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the offensive line and Miami’s offensive coaches during training camp practices and in preseason games?
What else to think when Miami linebackers or safeties or both couldn’t cover the other team’s tight end — with Owen Daniels catching four passes for 87 yards — in an ongoing problem that has been around for seasons now?
Where else to turn to when Miami’s red zone offense shows itself as ineffective as ever, getting inside the Houston 20-yard line three times and managing only one field goal?
(By the way, the red-zone problems on offense will last until the Dolphins find a dominant tight end. Anthony Fasano is a nice in-line blocker and an efficient player in the passing game, but no one is mistaking him for Tony Gonzalez or Rob Gronkowski. And Charles Clay is developing and all, but his zero receptions Sunday aren’t going to advance that development too much.)
And, yes, the lack of dominant tight end play also has been an ongoing issue for the Dolphins since, since, geez, since Keith Jackson’s days.
When it was over, coach Joe Philbin said this game came down to turnovers.
The Dolphins had four, and Houston didn’t commit any.
Those three interceptions and a fumble resulted in three touchdowns during a frenzied final four minutes of the first half.
“We had emphasized to our players all week the importance of the turnover margin,” Philbin said.
Yeah, well, even that lament is a repeat problem of sorts.
How many times did former coach Tony Sparano complain that something coaches had covered time and again in practice during the week simply didn’t get executed correctly on game day?
To be fair, Philbin and his staff seem confident they can fix some of the issues the Dolphins had Sunday. Here’s hoping.
They should start with the batted passes. J.J. Watt had three of them, and two of those got picked off.
When that was a problem in the preseason, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said the ones on a three-step drop are the offensive line’s fault and the ones on deeper quarterback drops are the responsibility of the quarterback.
Well, right tackle Jonathan Martin said all of the batted passes by Houston, two of which he gave up to Watt, were on three-step drops.
“J.J. Watt is a heck of a player,” Martin said. “He was making plays, and we have to be able to react to their jumping and have them get their hands down. We have to time the jump and hit him in the stomach or something.”
This sounds like an easy fix, right? Stop using three-step drops and utilize the five- or seven-step drops instead. Except those take time. They require better protection up front.
And Jake Long’s assessment of the protection in this season opener was not good.
“We got [Tannehill] hit too many times [Sunday] and pressured too much,” he said. “We have to improve on that.”
The Dolphins offense has tons of improving to do across the board, and it was a theme throughout the game.
The unit didn’t get in the end zone, and after suffering the late first-half meltdown, Miami’s offense came out in the third quarter and did worse than nothing. Actually, the Dolphins finished the quarter owing yardage.
Miami ran three offensive plays for minus-5 yards in the third quarter.
After the game, defensive players were generally speaking as if they had played well, and perhaps the case for that can be made in that Houston only generated 337 total yards.
But the Dolphins yielded a too-high 41 percent on third-down conversions.
The unit, admittedly placed in a tough spot three times to end the first half, gave up touchdowns every one of those times.
And the third of those touchdowns came when everyone knew the Texans had no timeouts and had to throw into the end zone.
“Disappointed,” was what Philbin said. “It was 12 seconds left on the clock, I believe. They didn’t have any timeouts. You know the ball is going to the end zone. That’s not good football.”
Yes, we know. We’ve seen it before.