The Dolphins’ defense is getting worse by the week.
And even a supposed strength — Miami’s ability to stop the run — now appears to be a weakness.
The Panthers rushed for a staggering 294 yards on 36 carries, getting within shouting distance of most yards on the ground the Dolphins have ever allowed.
You cannot have that type of performance without the help of some long runs. Cam Newton went for 69 on a zone read. Cameron Artis-Payne went up the gut for 43. Jonathan Stewart went for 18 and 16 to help him go over 100 for the game.
So what happened? It depends on whom you ask.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh: “I think it was execution and tackling. At the end of the day we just didn’t tackle.”
Defensive end Cameron Wake: “It's frustrating to see that happen. We feel like we should have come out and played more consistent. … Whether it was miscommunication or guys being out of their gaps, I don't know if that was exactly it. I'm sure we'll find out.”
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips: “We just missed some tackles. I couldn't tell you. I haven't watched the film. It seemed like we had some gap integrity issues and some missed tackles.”
The Panthers gained 548 yards, had 30 first downs and went 11 of 14 on third down. Cam Newton threw for four touchdowns.
So yeah, the pass defense was pretty spotty too, particularly that of Xavien Howard, who has not been good in recent weeks. He allowed a touchdown completion and committed a defensive pass interference in the end zone. At times, it seemed that the secondary had no clue of what the play call was. There were coverage busts all over the field, and the score would have been even worse if not for Panthers mistakes.
“They made some good calls against our coverage,” Howard said. “They made some plays.”
One of those plays: a seven-yard pass to Ed Dickson with 19 seconds left in the half that gave the Panthers a 10-point lead.
The score was only possible because Jay Cutler threw an interception into double coverage deep in Miami territory with less than a minute left in the half.
“We should have stopped them as an elite defense, first off,” Phillips said. “That's all I can say about that. It shouldn't have even been an issue.”