Branden Albert quietly slipped out of the locker room, shook his head to an interview request and limped to the team bus.
Every step of Ryan Tannehill’s journey from the shower to his locker came with a grimace.
And the team’s only dependable running back smartly wore slip-on shoes with his suit.
It would have been tough for Lamar Miller to lace up with his ankle in a bandage.
The Dolphins are beat up — both physically and emotionally. And there’s no sugarcoating it: Either they heal up fast or the season could be the next casualty.
The Dolphins’ 23-20 loss to the Jacksonville on Sunday was as bad as the result suggests. For the second week in a row, they played down to their opposition. This time, it bit them in the backside.
The Dolphins (1-1) didn’t show up defensively in the first half. They couldn’t hold up physically in the second.
And with the game on the line, their supposed strength — the defensive line — failed them.
Officially, kicker Jason Myers won the game when he nailed a 28-yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining. But the knockout blow came a few plays earlier.
The key sequence: defensive end Olivier Vernon shoved Jaguars tight end Clay Harbor after the whistle, drawing a personal foul that turned a long pressure kick for Myers into a chip shot.
“It was just a dumb play by me,” Vernon said. “We lost.”
Did Harbor say something to provoke him?
“It’s over with, man. We lost. They played better ball than us. I take full responsibility for my actions. On to the next week.”
Was something brewing between the two of them?
“We lost, man. That’s the end of it.”
Not quite. Vernon’s gaffe typified an undisciplined game by Miami and directly led to the loss.
The penalty was Miami’s 13th for a total of 112 yards.
The offensive line was responsible for four of those penalties, including two holding penalties by Ja’Wuan James and another by Dallas Thomas. Tannehill was also sacked twice — including once by former teammate Jared Odrick — and hit several other times.
Albert didn’t play in the second half after tweaking his hamstring earlier in the game.
Tannehill never missed a snap but only because he has a high threshold for pain.
Asked about his injured right ankle, Tannehill — who completed 30 of 44 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns Sunday — answered: “It’s been better.”
The same could be said for the Dolphins’ defense, which is somehow worse with Ndamukong Suh than it was without him in 2014.
Going off script
A big reason why: Suh, who for the second straight week was a nonfactor, strayed from Kevin Coyle’s script.
The Miami Herald has learned that Suh freelanced at times Sunday, creating confusion on the defense. By taking matters into his own hands, the Dolphins’ $114 million man took a bad situation and made it worse.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Suh said, when asked to explain his uninspired play. “At the end of the day, we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we want to run so guys can make plays and go from there.”
Priority No. 1 is showing up for the opening kick.
The Dolphins allowed 396 yards — including 273 before halftime — and made Blake Bortles look like a competent quarterback. Bortles completed 18 of 33 passes for 273 yards, two scores and — most importantly — no interceptions.
He should have had at least one. Brent Grimes had a pick in his hands late in the first half but couldn’t hang on.
Like most every other mistake the Dolphins made Sunday, it was costly. Instead of having the ball in Jacksonville territory late in the first half, the Dolphins allowed the Jaguars to move into field-goal range.
Myers drilled a 58-yard kick as time expired in the second quarter. That swing was ultimately the difference between “two-and-O” and “Oh no!”
“I don’t think there’s a lack of urgency from us,” Tannehill said. “You ride together, you die together. That’s the kind of mentality we have.”
Buckle up. The ride could be a bumpy one.