Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins coordinators explain why we ‘failed miserably’ as a team

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce catches a touchdown pass in front of Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. Covering tight ends remains a problem for the Dolphins.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce catches a touchdown pass in front of Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. Covering tight ends remains a problem for the Dolphins. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Adam Gase ended his next-to-last news conference of the season with some straight talk Thursday:

“Nobody has done anything great. We’re one of the worst offenses in the league and back half on defense. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Miami Herald asked defensive coordinator Matt Burke and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen what most disappointed them about this season.

Christensen was particularly irked that the Dolphins “failed miserably” in December games at Buffalo and Kansas City.

“Teams talk about playing December football and we failed miserably,” Christensen said. “We have done stuff in short stretches but haven’t done it day in and day out. These last two weeks have been bitterly disappointing because they’ve been huge games. You better be able to go to a cold weather spot and win big games and we didn’t.

“We [had] the formula put on us. Protect the ball, run the ball well, not have dumb penalties. First game in December against New England, we did that. Against two playoff contention teams, we failed miserably. Both teams had zero turnovers against us. We turned it over and didn’t give us a chance. That’s really disappointing. If you can’t play in December, you’re destined to be average or below.

“This league is about doing it week in and week out. Everyone can do it every once in a while. This league is about being able to do it against a Buffalo, at Kansas City, under pressure. … We haven’t proved we can do it in December and do it in big AFC games on the road in December. That’s disappointing.”

So what does that say about the players?

“Good teams are defined [by consistency],” Christensen said. “Some of it is learned behavior. Some people never get it and they disappear from the league. That’s why you see a lot of turnover on the roster. The inconsistent NFL players have a name: graduate student. They are back in school. That’s their name. Let’s cut the crap. That’s the truth.”

And what do inconsistent coaches become? “StateFarm agents,” Christensen cracked.

Run blocking also irked Christensen. He said “for the 137th time this year,” he would use the word “inconsistent. Sometimes you say, ‘Man we’re getting it’ and other times you say, ‘How does that happen? How do you set him free?’ We haven’t played well enough up front. Overall not satisfactory, not good enough. We haven’t rushed the ball or protected the way we needed to do it.”

As for Burke, his group improved against the run (Miami ranks 16th in rushing yards per attempt by the opponent) but is 24th in yards per play by the opponent, 21st in passing yards allowed per play, 26th in sacks relinquished per pass play — and most importantly, 28th in points allowed.

“Statistically, some of the things we stressed haven’t had success: takeaways, red zone defense,” Burke said. “Our only real positive statistic has been third downs and we haven’t been good in those last two games.”

The Dolphins has a historically bad defense last year. It's up to defensive coordinator Matt Burke to fix it.

The Dolphins, for a decade, have had trouble defending tight ends, with Kansas City’s Travis Kelce the latest to torment Miami. This season, Miami has allowed 87 catches against tight ends (tied with Cleveland for most in the league), 944 passing yards by tight ends (fourth most in the league) and nine TDs (third most in the league).

“Tight ends that have been hybrid weapons is sort of a trend in the NFL,” Burke said.

Burke acknowledged the need “for us is finding similar hybrid defenders who can [defend] those type of things — whether safeties or linebackers who can cover those type of guys” — mentioning tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Charles Clay, among others. “That is how the league is going and we have to be able to address those issues and those matchups.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Kiko Alonso has allowed more passing yards in coverage than any other NFL linebacker — and by a wide margin. But asked why Alonso has covered tight ends so often, Burke asked reporters who they would suggest instead.

“Sometimes we feel Kiko is our best matchup,” Burke said. “Sometimes it’s Reshad [Jones] or Steph [Anthony]. Kiko has moments where he makes plays. Kiko has moments with a tough matchup. To try to correlate Kiko being a major issue in pass coverage, I don’t see it that way.”

Regarding the disappointing sack total (26), Burke said: “We want more sacks and more production from everybody up front. Cam [Wake’s] disruption numbers are really high, one of the top 10 in the league. He obviously has nine sacks. … Charles [Harris] has shown some progress in the last couple weeks. Got a sack last week; his disruption numbers have been trending positively. Those are blocks to build on. Anytime you are bottom five in the league, it’s disappointing.”

Burke said he doesn’t believe the team’s scheme is “broken.”

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