The Dolphins secondary doesn’t want to let one game, even a 3 1/2-hour surgical procedure by a pretty good rookie quarterback, define its season. Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle even spoke to the whole defense on that topic Monday.
What might be a concern, however, isn’t that Sunday’s strafing by Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck isn’t defining, but that it might be a preview of what could keep the Dolphins out of the playoffs in an AFC without a dominant team besides Houston.
Luck completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 433 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. St. Louis’ Sam Bradford hit up the Dolphins for 315 yards and completed 66.7 percent. And left on the schedule are two dates with New England’s Tom Brady; a trip to Seattle, where rookie Russell Wilson sometimes imitates an elite quarterback; and a visit to San Francisco, where Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and a rejuvenated Randy Moss run under the Alex Smith passes that don’t go to tight end Vernon Davis.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty solid on the defensive side of the ball,” safety Reshad Jones said. “That was just one game [Sunday] where we didn’t go out and perform our best, which killed us.”
Coyle took some responsibility for not making the best defensive calls Sunday. But it wasn’t as if the Dolphins were completely out of position. On T.Y. Hilton’s 36-yard touchdown, the 5-10 Hilton outleaped two defensive backs. At least two potential interceptions were dropped.
Cornerback Nolan Carroll said, “It was just a lot of mental mistakes we had. Just not executing properly. It showed up on film. We gave up a lot of big plays. We didn’t get off the field on third downs.
“It’s ultimately what changed the outcome of the game.”
The Dolphins went into the game leading the league in third-down defense and remain fourth after the Colts converted 13 of 19, including six third-and-longs.
Though they’re 29th in pass defense, the Dolphins are 16th in yards per pass play allowed.
That points to something Coyle noted: Opponents average 44.5 passes a game on the Dolphins, second in the league. Between not wanting to challenge the Dolphins’ stingy No. 3-ranked run defense — and not getting much when they do — teams turn to the passing attack to dent the Dolphins.
Also, it’s not only the secondary’s fault, though the absence of cornerback Richard Marshall for three games has not helped. The Dolphins rank 18th in sacks per pass play.
“We’ve been building something here since Coach [Joe] Philbin has come here and our first meetings with the players in April,” Coyle said. “One game is not going to set us back. I mean that and I told the players that. I said we’ve got a body of work where we were making a lot of progress and the secondary is one area where we have made a lot of progress.
“I don’t know if there’s anybody that has played the game or coached the game that hasn’t had a game where you come off and say, ‘How did that happen?’ ” he continued. “Well, this is one of them and, I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m disappointed. I’ve never seen us get in a situation where we had a team in third-and-long and weren’t able to cash in.”