How many more times will it be like this?
How many more times will the Dolphins make just enough plays to lose by a whisker?
How many more times will the offense plod along until the game is all but out of reach?
How many more times will the defense fail when all it needed was one stop?
The Dolphins’ record isn’t just broken. It’s been fed through a wood-chipper then pureed to dust.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Dolphins couldn’t make enough plays early or late, falling to the New England Patriots 31-24 here Sunday.
The names don’t really matter. No Tom Brady and no Jimmy Garoppolo in the second half? No problem.
The year on the calendar is irrelevant. The seasons change. The outcome of Dolphins-Patriots in New England does not.
All that mattered, when a backup safety named Duron Harmon came down with Ryan Tannehill’s 45th and final pass, was an eighth loss in as many years at Gillette Stadium.
“I hate to say it, but we can't be an almost team,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “We can't be a team, 'We almost won. Let's build off this.' That [expletive] is over with. Got to find ways to win the game.”
They didn’t a week ago in Seattle. And they didn’t here Sunday. The Dolphins (0-2) have now played in the two toughest stadiums in the world. And they’ve lost by a combined nine points. In the standings, however, it’s no different than 90.
As always, blame is shared. The offense could have managed more than 12 yards in the first half. Special teams could have provided a spark.
But the blame for this one, more than anything, rests at the feet of the defense.
The Dolphins made Garoppolo look like Joe Montana in the first half.
And they made LeGarrette Blount look like Jim Brown in the second.
And for the second time in eight days, the defense failed at the game’s most critical moment. No, it didn’t allow a touchdown on the Patriots’ final drive, like Miami did against the Seahawks in Week 1.
But the Dolphins, after cutting a 28-point deficit to 7 with 6:06 left, couldn’t get off the field fast enough. The Patriots (2-0), with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, weren’t going to throw the ball. Everyone in the stadium knew that.
And yet, the Dolphins couldn’t stop Blount, who had 35 of his game-high 123 rushing yards on that last possession. And when Miami finally got the ball back, its timeouts had been exhausted and just 1:04 was left on the clock.
“This is a bottom-line business,” said Dolphins corner Byron Maxwell. “At the end of the day, we were at the minus-30 or whatever, but we have to make that stop. We have to play better and come out with a victory. It's on our back.”
It was a credit to Tannehill that the Dolphins even had a shot at the end zone on the final play.
The Dolphins would have been blown out of the Commonwealth if Tannehill didn’t take the game over in the second half.
Miami scored touchdowns on three consecutive possession in the second half, and Tannehill was the catalyst. He found Kenny Stills for 24 yards on the first one. He hooked up with Jordan Cameron for 12 on the second. And his accuracy set up Kenyan Drake’s 7-yard run on the third. Both Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker went over 100 yards receiving Sunday.
“He's awesome,” Cameron said. “He definitely had control in the huddle, making plays. We were moving fast. We got the ball rolling. You kind of saw what we were capable of doing in the second half.”
Tannehill, who was 32 of 45 for 389 yards with two interceptions, added: “We were in a tough situation and at that point you can go one of two ways. You can pack it up for the day or battle, and those guys battled.”
Just not early enough.
And to be frank, the Dolphins might have been blown out if Kiko Alonso didn’t fall on Garoppolo’s shoulder in the first half, chasing Brady’s understudy from the game. Garoppolo was ridiculous before the injury, throwing touchdown passes on New England’s first three possessions.
“We have 14 [games] left,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “We got to start faster, but this is the NFL, man. You know, this is what it is about. It’s hard.”