Miami Dolphins

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin remorseful for costly challenge

Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin watches the action against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015.
Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin watches the action against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. AP

Joe Philbin was quick to laugh at himself Friday night, donning a top hat and singing lead vocals during a farcical musical performance for Dolphins players that has since gone viral.

But some 24 hours later, Miami’s coach was in no mood for levity. Not after costing his team points — and perhaps even the game — Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Philbin’s decision to throw the challenge flag after Damien Williams’ run at the goal line was the ultimate backfire. Not only did the Dolphins fail to get the desired result — a touchdown instead of second-and-goal at the 1-yard line — but also they lost the ball altogether.

The officials determined Williams fumbled the ball out of the end zone, giving the Panthers possession at their 20. Even a field goal on that drive would have given Miami a win.

No one was more disappointed than Philbin afterward.

“Certainly I made a bad decision in throwing the challenge flag early in the game,” he told reporters late Saturday. “There was no other person to blame but me.”

When Philbin was pressed for details on what went wrong, he said curtly: “I already told you, it was a bad decision. I had the red flag, and I threw it. Pretty simple. That’s it.”

The mistake was shocking because it was so out of character. Philbin historically has been among the league’s best in knowing when to challenge and when to keep the flag in his pocket.

He can take a bit of solace in this: Panthers coach Ron Rivera said postgame that if Philbin hadn’t asked for a review of the play, he would have.

Even still, it’s entirely possible the Dolphins would have snapped the ball before Rivera had the chance.

In the minutes following the game’s conclusion, Philbin was heated — mostly at himself. He apologized to the team for his mistake in the locker room.

“He felt bad about it,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “You know, he takes it seriously, and that’s not what he wanted to happen.”

Given Philbin’s contrition — and the game’s outcome — no players gave him any good-natured grief about the decision late Saturday.

And Tannehill won’t be in a hurry to bring it up when the team returns to practice this week.

“I don’t know,” Tannehill said. “If we would have won, maybe. But I don’t know.”


▪ The Dolphins spent Sunday evaluating the severity of the quadriceps strain corner Jamar Taylor sustained the night before.

For Taylor, the injury was a disappointing end to what should have been a celebratory evening. Earlier in the night, he recorded the first interception of his NFL career (albeit in a preseason game).

“It’s definitely frustrating, but I’m looking forward to bouncing back,” Taylor said.

▪ The Dolphins got essentially an even look at the two safeties vying to replace Louis Delmas, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Walt Aikens, who started, logged 39 snaps. Michael Thomas had 34.

Aikens appeared a step slow at times in coverage but got better as the game went on. Both Aikens and Thomas held Panthers quarterbacks to just 50 percent completions on passes thrown in their coverage area, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Walt, I’m happy for him any time he’s out there, and he roots for me any time I’m out there,” Thomas said. “It’s a healthy environment.”

▪ The first-string defense has been on the field for basically 5 1/2 series this preseason. Those drives have included three three-and-outs, an interception and a goal-line stand in which the Dolphins turned away the Panthers four times from inside the 3.

The starting defense has allowed just 4.3 yards per play in 27 preseason snaps; by way of comparison, the Seahawks led the league in that statistic last year with 4.7.

“I don’t think you can really judge it off the small amount of time that we have played,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “I wouldn’t say that’s enough time to say that is enough time to determine whether I have gotten back to my old form of last year and the years past yet.”

▪  The Dolphins on Sunday released receiver Michael Preston, according to the player’s Twitter account.

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