Adam Gase is running out of people to bench.
The Bengals showed the country Thursday that no amount of message-sending and lineup-changing by Gase can hide this indisputable fact:
The Dolphins simply aren’t good enough. They’re not talented enough. And they’re not disciplined enough.
On a night in which Gase tried most everything to spark his team, his Dolphins were lifeless.
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Final score: Bengals 22, Dolphins 7.
It wasn’t nearly that close.
If Cincinnati (2-2) was any good in the red zone, the result would have been way worse.
The Dolphins (1-3) Thursday night couldn’t:
▪ Stop making dumb mistakes.
▪ Hold onto the football.
▪ Hold the interest of national audience.
The Dolphins debuted their Creamsicle-orange Color Rush uniforms Thursday. The glow-in-the-dark jerseys were just about the only thing bright after Miami’s first drive.
“We have to go back to work,” Gase said. “... We have to figure out what we do well and start working on that a little more.”
It’s tough to pick just one rock-bottom moment out of all the Dolphins’ ugly plays Thursday.
But this one, which came late in the third quarter with the Dolphins still presumably in the game, will do:
Miami made a defensive stop. The Bengals had to punt from deep in their own end. And Terrence Fede figured that was the perfect time to body-slam Bengals punter Kevin Huber several seconds after the kick.
The pro-wrestling move might have been cathartic for a defense on the field for far too long. But it wasn’t particularly helpful.
Refs handed Fede the most obvious unnecessary roughness penalty since the discovery of the forward pass.
An NFL Network camera captured Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, eyes wide with anger, screaming these words at Fede: “What are you doing?!?!”
The people of Miami could ask the same thing about the team as a whole.
We’re a quarter of the way through the season now, and the only reason the Dolphins don’t receive consideration for worst team in the NFL is because the Cleveland Browns exist.
Bad news for the Dolphins: they’ve already gotten their one shot at the Browns.
Miami’s defense was expected to struggle Thursday.
The Bengals are loaded on offense, and Miami was without two starting linebackers. Plus Gase made his first true power move of his young coaching career by benching Byron Maxwell in favor Tony Lippett. A.J. Green exploited the weakness, torching the Dolphins for 173 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches.
But as bad the defense was Thursday, the Dolphins’ offense was way worse.
Miami had five three-and-outs and one four-and-out.
The Dolphins completed just three passes in the first half.
The Bengals sacked Ryan Tannehill five times.
The visiting team converted just 2 of 11 third downs.
And after a 74-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Kenny Stills on the Dolphins’ second play from scrimmage, the Dolphins couldn’t sniff the end zone.
Yes, the offense was without a slew of key players as well. The Dolphins were down to their third center, used their left guard at left tackle and started the game without a running back on the field. Perhaps that was a good thing. None of the four active Thursday night were particularly effective
Still, that doesn’t explain just how inept Miami was on offense.
After the Stills touchdown, the Dolphins’ next eight drives ended with a: Punt. Punt. Punt. Fumble. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt.
Matt Darr should ask for a raise. He was the busiest (and most effective) player in highlighter orange Thursday.
Tannehill had the worst game of his season, completing 15 of 25 passes for 189 yards. He lost a fumble for the second straight week.
“Obviously he missed a couple of things early,” Gase said. “When things start going bad, you want him to find that one throw where he can spring us loose.”
Tannehill never did.
Jarvis Landry entered the game as the league’s leading receiver. And he might end the week as the same. But his impact on the game was negligible. Landry finished with 7 catches for 61 yards.
Landry, to his credit, was still fighting late. He turned a short completion into a 24-yard gain with the Dolphins down two scores in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins had life.
And then Tannehill threw it directly to Chris Lewis-Harris.
Lewis-Harris plays for the Bengals.