Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins collapse after strong start, fall to Baltimore Ravens

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked late in the fourth quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked late in the fourth quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014 MIAMI HERALD STAFF

After another December disappointment, the Dolphins have bigger worries than simply resurrecting their flat-lining playoff hopes.

Joe Philbin might have to worry about keeping his team together for the last three games.

In the final moments of the Ravens’ 28-13 beatdown of the Dolphins, Jared Odrick snapped off a string of words, some profane, to Philbin in a fit of anger.

Baltimore had just scored the last of its 21 second-half points, and Odrick had enough — particularly after he and Philbin got into it earlier in the game.

“Get the [blank] out of here,” Odrick appeared to say, according to video recorded by WSVN-7.

On three different occasions, Odrick and Philbin exchanged words, exposing real and raw feelings as the vise tightens on this season, and this Dolphins experiment.

Odrick was in part upset with his defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

The loss — Miami's third in its last five games — dropped the Dolphins (7-6) to ninth in the AFC wild-card race. But it also raised fresh questions about the working relationship between Miami's coaches and players, which has been rocky on more than one occasion this year.

Fissures emerge

There’s a sentiment within the locker room that Odrick’s outburst — which he later downplayed to reporters — was just the tip of the iceberg.

Players have long viewed their coach with a bit of skepticism — he couldn’t be more different in terms of personality than his predecessor, the protective and emotional Tony Sparano — and those concerns might be coming to a head.

Sparano would invite Dolphins players without family in South Florida to his home; Philbin has a more businesslike approach.

That difference is not lost on the players, many of whom embraced Sparano’s style.

And when the Dolphins lose — particularly in December, as they’ve done all three of Philbin’s years in charge now — fissures begin to show.

Furthermore, Philbin is famously even-keeled. He wants his players to match that level-headed personality.

But some players have privately wondered whether Philbin is emotional enough — suggesting that his disposition might have something to do with the team’s puzzlingly flat performances.

Postgame, neither Odrick nor Philbin wanted to make an issue of the heated exchange, part of which CBS cameras caught and aired on live television.

“Football’s an emotional game,” Philbin said. “We had a discussion. I’ve already had another discussion with him. Football gets fiery out there. It’s good.”

Added Odrick: “It’s tough to find that gauge of what’s too much emotion and what’s not enough. You never want to border that line of not enough. I think one thing that I bring to the game of football is emotion and I try to do it in the most positive way possible.”

The most positive way to channel that emotion is figuring out what's gone wrong with the Dolphins' run defense. In the past three games, they've allowed an egregious 661 yards on the ground, and would likely be 0-3 in that stretch if the Jets had better quarterback play.

And for the second time in three games, they blew a double-digit lead.

When Ryan Tannehill found Brian Hartline on a 3-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter Sunday, the Dolphins led 10-0.

Protection exposed

They scored just three points — and gained just 161 yards — the rest of the game.

The Dolphins never really challenged Baltimore’s depleted secondary; Tannehill had just one completion longer than 20 yards. Pass protection was surely a contributing factor. The Ravens sacked Tannehill six times — Elvis Dumervil had 3 1/2 — and right tackle Dallas Thomas was again exposed.

Tannehill finished with a respectable stat line — 23 of 33 for 227 yards and the touchdown — but wasn’t a difference maker.

“They did a good job of getting around the edge,” said Tannehill, now 6-6 as a starter in December. “They were sinking underneath the deeper throws that would be first or second in my progression.

“They were doing a good job of getting to me. You have to give all of the credit to them.”

And Miami’s defensive lapses left the offense no margin for error. Beginning late in the first half, Baltimore scored touchdowns on four out of five possessions — Flacco threw for two and ran for another — and had the look of a team gearing up for another playoff run.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, looked like a team that’s three weeks away from yet another long winter vacation.

“We have to win out from here on out to have a chance, and that’s what we plan on preparing for and doing,” Odrick said.

Related stories from Miami Herald