Let’s start at the end, with Jarvis Landry shivering in a funereal Dolphins locker room, body wrapped in towels and face — emotional — covered in his hands.
“I think as an organization, and me as a player, I know this game means everything to us,” Landry would later say. “It’s tough. It’s tough to be in a position that we are in.”
All around the Dolphins dressing room, the faces were the same Sunday afternoon: blank and lacking answers. And resigned to what now appears to be their fate.
Except for Brent Grimes. He was already on the team bus, away from nagging questions about his no-show performance against New York Jets receiver Brandon Marshall.
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Maybe Grimes was on to something. There’s no explaining this one away, not after the Dolphins laid yet another divisional egg. The Jets won 38-20 Sunday, but Stephen Ross’ team lost more than a game.
The Dolphins lost any remaining hope that this season would be any different than the six that came before it.
There will be no playoffs in 2015, Sunday all but made that official. Now at 4-7 and winless in five AFC East games, the Dolphins are more likely to finish this season — which began with talk of championships — with four wins than they are with nine.
The Jets, meanwhile, improved to 6-5 and vastly improved their playoff prospects.
What makes Miami’s crash all the more galling: The Dolphins are out of the playoff hunt with a month to go despite half of the games on the schedule coming against the two worst divisions in football — the NFC East and the AFC South.
“It’s hugely disappointing,” said quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is much better at compiling empty statistics than he is at leading his team to wins. “I came in with such high expectations.
“I think our team came in with such high expectations. To see the season go the way it’s been, it’s tough.
“You look in that locker room and the talent that we have, the guys that we have, it hurts. There’s no way we should be sitting where we’re at, but we are. And that’s on our shoulders, that’s on the guys in that locker room. And the only people who can fix that are the people in there.”
The offense, for most of the day, was pathetic.
The Dolphins had 12 rushing yards all afternoon. (They averaged just 1.3 yards per attempt.)
The Dolphins didn’t covert their first third down until the 4:25 mark of the third quarter. (They converted just 4 of 27 third downs against New York in two meetings this season).
And when they trudged into the locker room at halftime, the Dolphins had just 81 yards of offense and, most importantly, zero points.
By then, they trailed 14-0 by double figures for the fifth consecutive game, and it had already become clear that Grimes couldn’t cover Marshall, the former Dolphins wideout.
Marshall beat Grimes three times on New York’s first touchdown drive, including the 17-yard scoring strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave the Jets a lead that would never be threatened.
It was only the beginning. Marshall would finish with 131 yards on nine catches and was on the receiving end of two of Fitzpatrick’s four touchdown passes.
Even a year ago, such a flogging would be unthinkable for Grimes. But that might be the new normal; Marshall’s monster game came three weeks after the Bills’ Sammy Watkins did the same to Miami’s best corner.
“We rolled some to Marshall,” interim coach Dan Campbell explained. “We put Grimes on him and then we would still roll to him. ... When we tried to go one-on-one a little bit, so we could get a rush out of our guys and change it up and change coverages in general, they capitalized on it.”
The same can’t be said for Tannehill, who ended up throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns but had no real impact on the game.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon was in the same boat. The stat sheet insists Vernon had a sack and three quarterback hits, but Fitzpatrick did whatever he wanted nonetheless.
“We just lost as a team,” Vernon said. “I ain’t got no explanation for that. We lost.”
That brings us back to Landry, who might have had the best individual performance of any player on either roster Sunday.
Landry’s 13 catches were the second most by any Dolphins receiver in the team’s 50-year history. His 165 yards were the most in his career.
Of course, he was in no mood to celebrate late Sunday.
“I’d trade it back for the win, give it back,” said Landry, who was then asked what it will take to right the ship that’s now taken on an ocean’s worth of water.
“Win,” Landry answered. “Find a way to win. Find a way to stop making excuses and find a way to win.”