How to judge the Dolphins’ special-teams play in Sunday’s 34-15 loss to Kansas City?
“Well, we didn’t turn it over like last week,” said Dolphins cornerback Will Davis, who downed the first punt of the game at the Kansas City 2. “We didn’t give up a touchdown like last week. So, I’d say it’s an improvement.”
That’s one perspective. The most pivotal play in the Sept.14 loss to Buffalo, C.J. Spiller’s kickoff-return touchdown, expanded the Bills’ lead to 16-3 in what had been a game of field goals. Later, Jarvis Landry fumbled a punt away to set up more Buffalo points.
But “better” isn’t always synonymous with “good enough.”
“No one phase played well enough to win,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said.
The day opened with Jarvis Landry’s 40-yard opening kickoff return on which he trucked Kansas City’s Chris Owens and kicker Cairo Santos.
“Just trying to set the tone every time we take the field,” Landry said.
Landry would later race away with a 74-yard return that the Dolphins would turn into a 51-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis. Sturgis missed a 48-yarder that preceded Kansas City’s first touchdown drive.
Kansas City struck the last blow in a strange battle of special teams that at times resembled a football version of Spy vs. Spy after Hallandale High graduate Frankie Hammond Jr. fielded a punt at the Chiefs’ 4-yard line, a no-no at almost every level of football. Hammond shot through a massive hole in the right side of the Dolphins coverage for a 47-yard runback.
Add in a pre-kick penalty for illegal substitution and the Chiefs, leading 21-15 with 9:14 left in the game, were only 44 yards from the death-blow touchdown. Which they got nine plays later.
What made Hammond’s decision more jaw-dropping: It not only was the third punt Sunday fielded inside the 5-yard line and the second by Hammond, but Hammond’s first one led to the Dolphins’ safety.
It was the same return as before, Hammond following blocking to the right, wide side of the field for 48 yards. But about three steps into his return, Kelcie McCray committed a pointless block in the back. That brought the ball all the way back to the 1. Jelani Jenkins and Randy Starks sacked Alex Smith in the end zone one play later.
Overall, however, Kansas City won the punting duel, which was what the game was for the first quarter and a half. Dustin Colquitt cranked off two 64-yarders and had a 48.3 net average for the day.
“It’s a cliché, but it’s real — it’s never as good as you think it was, it’s never as bad as you think it was,” Dolphins cornerback Michael Thomas said. “You didn’t give up a touchdown. But we gave up field position on some plays. I’m going to say it’s an improvement, but we’ve got to watch the film. There’s definitely a lot that we need to correct.
“A couple of things that still showed up on film that everybody’s been seeing,” Thomas continued. “Some guys not winning their one-on-one battles. That’s something we’ve got to fix and fix fast.”