Armando Salguero

Inconsistent Dolphins deliver roller coaster performance that ends in defeat

Running back Damien Williams fights with two Raiders defenders for extra yards in the second quarter Sunday.
Running back Damien Williams fights with two Raiders defenders for extra yards in the second quarter Sunday. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The truth about these Miami Dolphins is they’re imperfect.

The imperfect Dolphins.

Sounds like a mean dig considering this franchise once delivered a perfect team, but that is the truth now.

These Dolphins are unpredictable.

And inconsistent.

And good one week. And not the next.

And good one quarter. And bad the next.

The Dolphins, searching for something (anything) that could spark them and send them down the road to playoff contention, laid another egg on national television Sunday night.

Raiders 27.

Dolphins 24.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase speaks to the media after the Miami Dolphins are defeated by the Oakland Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 5, 2017.

And even if you forget that the Raiders are not exactly a model of consistency, entering this game with five losses the past six weeks, the Dolphins were still the inferior team.

That’s not all. The Dolphins were inferior while failing (once again) to show they have an identity in 2017. I mean, who are these Dolphins?

Are they a running team? Not after getting rid of Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi.

Are they a passing team? They’d like to think so because they keep talking about how their receivers do so many good things, but that’s not the case, either.

Is their defense dominant? Is that what they hang their season on?

Well, no. The defense is not as troubled as the 32nd-ranked offense. But there’s a wide gap between that group and dominance.

All this is a problem, of course, because the Dolphins have nothing they can bank on to get them to consistent success.

The team has spent huge assets on the defensive line. Andre Branch has a big contract. Cameron Wake has a big contract. Charles Harris is a first-round draft pick. And Ndamukong Suh has the biggest contract of them all.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler speaks to the media after the Miami Dolphins are defeated by the Oakland Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 5, 2017.

And yet they’re not dominant. At least not all the time.

The Dolphins are 16th in sacks per pass play this year which is obviously middle of the league.

But you know that cannot mean it’s always bad, right?

A key play in the fourth quarter Sunday had Suh flying at Oakland quarterback Derek Carr off a stunt with Wake. And Suh slapped the ball out of Carr’s hand at a time the Oakland offense was moving. The ball was scooped by offensive tackle Donald Penn but then he fumbled it as well and the Dolphins recovered.

So, yeah, the defensive line stepped up in a key moment.

Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins WR, talks about the difficulty of winning when penalties keep you from advancing.

This kind of stuff is what the Dolphins seem to do a lot. Good one series. Invisible the next. Never consistent.

Kicker Cody Parker missed an extra point in the first half that loomed over this game until the Raiders made the score 27-16 late to give them an 11 points lead. But from the time he missed his third extra point this year until the folks at Hard Rock started streaming toward the exits with four minutes to play, that miss was important.

Julius Thomas, Miami Dolphins TE, talks to the media about how 11 penalties can only hurt you in their defeat to the Oakland Raiders.

So that’s bad.

But that was also Parker executing a perfect onside kick immediately after missing the kick. And recovering the loose ball.

Bad followed by good.

More?

Kenyan Drake is part of the Dolphins two-horse running back stable now. He and Damien Williams will have to carry the load the remainder of the year because Jay Ajayi was traded last week.

Except Drake had a fumble in the first half that doused a potential scoring drive for the Dolphins.

Terrible right?

Damien Williams, Miami Dolphins RB, is frustrated they lost in prime time again to the Oakland Raiders.

Except in the third quarter Drake, who has 4.38 speed, found a crease in the Oakland defense. And he got through and outside almost in the blink of an eye. He gained 42 yards on the play and that play, which put the Dolphins on the Oakland 23-yard line, put Miami get in position for a 6-yard scoring pass that made the score 20-16.

More?

The Dolphins offensive line that has been roundly and fairly criticized all year and especially after a Thursday night debacle at Baltimore, played ... very most of this well this game. I mean, it was so good the name Khalil Mack was not heard hardly at all until late in the fourth quarter when the Dolphins abandoned all pretense of balance and had to throw.

All this good and bad is fine if you love roller coasters. But it’s no way for an NFL team to get on a roll toward the playoffs.

All this good and bad is going to lead to one thing: Mediocrity.

And that’s what the Dolphins are now. They’re record is 4-4.

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