The aftermath of Sunday’s gut-wrenching defeat to the Jets delivered some good news at Dolphins camp on Monday: Reggie Bush’s injury is not serious, and he could play Sunday at Arizona if his knee improves and the swelling diminishes.
As much as the Dolphins wanted to put that loss behind them, questions lingered Monday about coaching decisions. Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman addressed several, excluding the popular strategy of calling a timeout to ice the opposing field-goal kicker:
• What about the play-calling in overtime? After Brian Hartline’s 41-yard reception took the ball to the Jets’ 35, Daniel Thomas ran for 3 yards; Ryan Tannehill threw an incomplete pass to Hartline, deep down the left sideline, that was well defended by Kyle Wilson; and Thomas ran 2 yards on third-and-7.
“I don’t think the calls were bad,” Philbin said. “The result wasn’t what we wanted. There are always calls you want to have back. I’ve never seen an NFL player play a perfect game or a coach coach a perfect game.”
On the decision to throw deep on second down, Philbin said: “They played a specific coverage, so we took a shot. Geez, would it have been better if we had completed a 7- or 8-yard crossing route? Absolutely. And get a first down? Sure. We thought we had a good call, and they played the situation better and we weren’t able to get a first down and get an easier kick for Dan Carpenter.”
On the deep incomplete pass to Hartline, “the pass I called was a stick route in the flat, which we had completed earlier,” Sherman said. “Ryan ended up giving a signal to the outside receiver to go vertical.”
• Why did Philbin play Thomas ahead of Lamar Miller in the fourth quarter and overtime, considering Miller has been the more productive player? This season, Thomas has 80 yards on 22 carries (3.6 average). Miller has 113 yards on 19 carries (5.9).
Philbin said “some of it was protection-related. Daniel, pass protection-wise, gives us a little bit more, bigger guy.” Philbin said the Dolphins prefer to keep most of the same personnel in the game during a drive so they can play faster, rather than switching between running backs.
Philbin said Miller “is showing some real positive qualities” but confirmed he was at fault for a botched play in the third quarter. Miller went the wrong way, torpedoing a potential handoff before Tannehill could give him the ball.
“That’s a wasted play,” Philbin said. “I don’t know that that’s going to inhibit him from getting more snaps. The next game, we don’t want him going the wrong way or him and the quarterback not being on the same page.”
‘Paid to play’
Sherman was clearly irked.
“I reminded [Miller] he’s now being paid to play football, and it’s inexcusable to make those kind of mistakes,” he said. “I don’t think he’s going to make it again. He takes coaching very well. He’s a very smart player.”
Thomas, who fumbled in the third quarter, was hardly immune from criticism, either.
“You can’t fumble the ball. Two in three games is too much,” Philbin said. “He’s a good player, but you can’t fumble the ball and play running back in this league.”
• Why did the Dolphins give the ball to Bush on the play that he was injured as opposed to taking a knee? The Dolphins had a first down, from their 20, with 36 seconds left before halftime.
A similar decision also went horribly wrong during the opener against Houston, when Thomas sustained a concussion and fumbled on a carry late in the first half, and the Texans immediately scored a touchdown.
“You certainly could argue I’ve made some mistakes,” Philbin said. “You have to argue as a coach: Do you have faith in your players to execute a base play in your offense and run the ball, or do you want to take a knee? Sometimes, I struggle with that a couple times, obviously already this year.”
Sherman said he and Philbin will discuss whether to change the team’s approach in that situation.
As for Bush’s injury, an MRI revealed no structural damage, and Bush tweeted: “Received some great news today! Praise the Lord!”
Philbin said even though Bush has “done a very, very good job,” he does not believe his second-half absence Sunday “really changed the game a whole lot. That might be as deep a position as we have on the team.”
Sherman said Bush’s injury “didn’t affect the play-calling necessarily.”