If this year has proven anything, it’s that these Dolphins are barely good enough to beat the league’s average teams.
But when they beat themselves?
Forget about it.
That was the case again Sunday, when the Dolphins tripped all over themselves in a 24-14 loss to the woeful Cowboys.
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Ryan Tannehill threw a pick-six.
Jarvis Landry’s risky gambles in the return game finally caught up to him.
Miami committed nine penalties — many of them either killing a drive or extending one for Dallas.
And Dan Campbell again made a game-management decision that backfired spectacularly.
Any one of these issues would ruin most games for the Dolphins. Combined, they gave Miami (4-6) no chance against a healthy Tony Romo and the Cowboys (3-7) on Sunday.
“Certainly not what you expected and what we expected,” said a deflated Campbell, who waited nearly 30 minutes to speak to reporters after the game.
“Too many mistakes.”
He was responsible for at least one of them.
Yeah, we shot ourselves in the foot all day.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins quarterback
The Dolphins had the ball at their 47, down 10, with just over six-and-a-half minutes remaining. Miami, needing two scores, faced fourth-and-6.
Simple math suggested the Dolphins should go for it. Campbell decided instead to punt. In doing so, he basically doomed his team. The Dolphins would get the ball back with just 64 seconds remained in the game.
Campbell famously challenges his players to play on the edge. So what’s his explanation for going conservative at the game’s most crucial moment?
“Because I knew we’d pin them down there and our defense would stop them at three downs, and I wouldn’t have to use our timeouts and then they would punt it back to us,” Campbell explained.
Miami allowed Darren McFadden to run for 15 yards on third-and-14.
“It’s not my call,” Landry said, when asked whether he agreed with Campbell’s decision to punt.
“We punted, and really didn’t get the ball back with time enough to do anything.”
It’s not like Landry was without blame.
With the Dolphins down 21-14, he badly misplayed a kickoff that bounced out of the end zone and into the field of play. Campbell was at a loss for words when asked about his young receiver’s most recent lapse in judgment.
Because of Landry’s misplay, the pivotal drive began at the Dolphins’ 4. The possession ended three plays later at their 5.
That gave the Cowboys amazing field position. They turned it into a field goal and a 10-point lead with just over nine minutes left.
The way Miami's offense played Sunday, the lead might as well been 100.
Here’s the Dolphins gruesome stat line: 210 yards from scrimmage. Nine first downs. One of 10 on third downs.
The Dolphins controlled the ball for just 21:10 and made it past midfield on just four of their 11 possessions.
Yet again, Tannehill's performance was flattered by his final numbers. Tannehill had a passer rating of 90.3 — by completing 13 of 24 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns — but those numbers were hollow.
The play everyone will remember was the first-half interception he threw to Rolando McClain, which the Cowboys linebacker returned 12 yards for a touchdown.
McClain fooled Tannehill by faking a blitz, and then dropped into coverage. Tannehill appeared to never see him.
“Yeah, we shot ourselves in the foot all day,” Tannehill acknowledged.
Both on offense and — late in the game — on defense, too.
Coordinator Lou Anarumo thought he could cover Dez Bryant in the red zone with an undrafted rookie linebacker (Neville Hewitt) and a safety (Walt Aikens).
Nope. Bryant slipped open for a 16-yard touchdown, and the Cowboys took the lead for good.
In a normal year, the Dolphins would be all but dead at 4-6. But the AFC’s mediocrity is keeping most every team in it.
Nine — or even eight — wins might be enough for some team to qualify for the postseason this year.
Here’s Kelvin Sheppard’s bold guarantee after the game: The Dolphins will get to 10-6, pledging that Miami will win its final six games.
“If you don’t have that mindset,” said Ndamukong Suh, “you shouldn’t be on this team.”
Before they beat anyone, however, the Dolphins must stop beating themselves.