Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was steamed. And it had nothing to do with the cramped, sweaty visiting locker room at Soldier Field.
Philbin had just watched his Dolphins put together a second half as inept as their first half was impressive in a 27-10 preseason loss to the Bears.
“It has to be better,” Philbin said late Thursday, adding later: “We had a lot of penalties and turned the ball over. That’s not the way we want to play football, for sure.”
Here’s just how deflating the Dolphins’ finish was.
Miami in the final two quarters: outscored 23-0 and outgained 216-112. It turned the ball over four times and didn’t have a takeaway.
The second-line stats were even worse. In the first half — when the starters looked like a potential playoff team — the Dolphins averaged 5.9 yards per offensive play and 4.5 yards per carry, while limiting Chicago to 4.9 and 3.1, respectively.
After halftime, the script flipped.
The Bears gained 5.5 yards per play, including a staggering 5.9 on the ground. The Dolphins averaged 3.5 and 2.8.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw two ugly interceptions. Josh Freeman threw one, too. And Mike Gillislee lost a fumble that Philbin, unprompted, ripped in his postgame news conference.
“As I said to the team after the game, he was carrying the ball in the wrong arm,” Philbin said. “There’s a time to move the ball to his right hand. It’s the first fundamental that we teach if you’re a football player with the Miami Dolphins, and the first thing we practice every single day. Those kind of mistakes, they’ll beat you.”
The second-half smackdown was thorough enough to concern even those not prone to overreaction.
“I don’t want to start panicking now, because it is quite early, but that’s the way the league is,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “You have to play a full 60 minutes, no matter who’s out there. Their threes vs. our threes, that’s just the reality of the business. You’ve got to go out there and win the down, win the series, win the quarter, win the half. We had opportunities to finish the half off. We didn’t. Again, that’s something we have to look at.”
It’s a given that a few of the players responsible for Thursday night’s eyesore will be thrust into an unexpected role at a critical time this season. Injuries are inevitable in football.
Thursday was a reminder of that. Chris McCain and Jordan Tripp, linebackers expected to see the field from scrimmage this fall, both left with ankle injuries.
McCain’s appears minor; he sent out optimistic and encouraging posts on Twitter late Thursday. But Tripp could miss significant time; he left the locker room on crutches and in a walking boot.
Other takeaways from late Thursday:
▪ There was tempered optimism that the team’s guard situation isn’t as dire as the first two weeks of training camp suggested.
Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas got plenty of exercise; they were on the field for 33 and 24 snaps, respectively. The first-team line played together for just 17 snaps. The reviews at guard were mostly positive because, aside from a holding penalty by Turner, they were largely invisible.
“I thought our protection overall was relatively good in the first half,” Philbin said.
Said center Mike Pouncey: “You can’t really tell in just 17 plays if that problem’s solved. We’ll see how the preseason goes as we start to get more snaps during the game.”
▪ Will Davis was more relieved than anything after surviving his first game post-ACL surgery.
The third-year corner, who logged 32 defensive snaps, said of his knee: “It stayed alive. It held up, and I was happy about it. ... I was definitely relieved. It was a breakthrough to see how it would hold up.”