One touchdown isn’t going to beat the New England Patriots.
One touchdown isn’t going to beat Tom Brady when he’s having a good day. One touchdown isn’t even enough when Brady’s off and the Patriots’ output is down because their bad day is equivalent to an offensive outburst for many teams, including the Dolphins. One touchdown against the Patriots, even when the final score seems close in hindsight, is reason for serious scrutiny rather than moral victory satisfaction.
“That’s not going to get it done,” receiver Brian Hartline said Sunday afternoon after the Patriots beat the Dolphins, 23-16 and clinched another AFC East title and the postseason berth that comes with it.
“Our defense did a good job causing field goals. I always say every time you kick a field goal on the road you’re that much closer to losing so I think our defense did a good job providing opportunities for us.
“On offense, I don’t think we capitalized very well. And against a team like the Patriots, you have to capitalize.”
You have to score. And you have to score touchdowns.
Kicker Dan Carpenter needs to be a factor only if he’s kicking extra points, but too often for the Dolphins he’s the guy putting most of the points on the board. That’s losing football.
And that’s what the Miami Dolphins offense is delivering too often this season.
Yes, there are some days the sun shines and the stars align and the Dolphins actually make it into end zone twice, and on more rare occasions, three times. But the narrative for this Dolphins offense is more often a game in which it scores in the teens.
Coach Joe Philbin said he envisioned the Dolphins winning this game in 27-24 fashion. Except that vision is a mirage because the Dolphins have scored 27 points or more only twice this season and one of those was in a loss.
“I can’t sit here and tell you, analyze every throw,” Philbin said, “but I would say overall offensively our production wasn’t good enough to win.”
The problem Sunday didn’t require a long drawn out analysis to see what’s wrong.
The Dolphins gave Reggie Bush (4.3 yards per rush) too few carries and Daniel Thomas (2.0 yards per carry) got too many.
Davone Bess dropped a pass on the first play of the game and wasn’t much of a factor the rest of the day, with one catch for 13 yards.
Miami’s tight ends are ghosts and inconsistent ones at that.
Remember last week’s breakout game by Charles Clay when he caught six passes? He was back to his more typical production Sunday with only two catches. And Anthony Fasano had as many holding calls (one) as catches (one for 14 yards).
But the biggest offensive problem the Dolphins endured Sunday was right there in the middle of it all in the person of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is not only important to the team now but is supposed to become the face of the franchise in the years to come.
Well the franchise’s face was wearing a frown Sunday because he was inaccurate and off-target much of the day. Maybe it was the wind, which also played a factor in Brady not being at his best. Maybe it was the different looks the rookie saw from the New England defense.
But Tannehill’s day was disappointing beyond his poor statistics. Tannehill completed 13 of 29 passes and his 44 percent completion rate marked the third time this season he fell below the 50 percent mark.
It was actually worse than that. Tannehill threw for only 186 yards with 56 of them coming on a last-second desperation drive against a prevent-defense that was mostly interested in letting the clock run out. That series of downs ended in a field goal, as did most of Miami’s scoring drives.
The frustrating thing is the Dolphins should have had two and perhaps three touchdowns if Tannehill had been on target.
He missed an open Hartline by five yards down the middle of the field in the first quarter. It happened again in the second half when Hartline was again behind the New England defense and actually had to turn and wait to catch a pass as he would a punt.
Two certain touchdowns erased.
One pass overthrown.
Another pass underthrown.
“You’ve got to hit those,” Tannehill said of his first throw. “You don’t get too many shots like that. He runs by the safety, and I’ve got to hit him and make the play. The second one was designed to be a hook up, so I looked off the safety and set my feet to throw short. He stuck his hand up and went deep.
“I just didn’t get enough on it.”
The trouble is Tannehill was wild high or behind or short or long on a handful of other throws. And this was not the right day to have accuracy problems.
“It’s tough, it’s tough because we’re a team right now that can’t miss those kind of plays,” center Mike Pouncey said. “We have a low margin of error.”
That’s the truth with these Dolphins and no amount of coaching is really going to fix that. The Dolphins will have to wait until the draft and free agency to correct those issues.
This team needs more help at wide receiver. This team needs tight end play that makes a difference. This team needs to use Bush more and Thomas less or — a better idea given the future is the highest priority — turn Lamar Miller loose and see what he’s got.
Because one touchdown isn’t going to beat too many teams. It certainly won’t beat the Patriots.