It’s not about the loss. That’s not the terrible part.
Oh yes, the loss stings -- because that was a huge opportunity that just sailed past the Miami Dolphins like a center snap through Ryan Tannehill’s grasp. Losing this one to the New England Patriots is disappointing.
But it’s not that.
The trouble is the Dolphins didn’t compete on Sunday in a 38-7 loss.
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They didn’t show up.
That what’s so insulting. That’s what should worry you. That’s what signals whatever everyone thought was fixed with this team in the offseason might not be fixed after all because that egg the Dolphins just laid looked eerily familiar to ones laid last year, and in other years, that everyone wants to forget.
“I didn’t see this coming,” a dejected Adam Gase said afterward.
The coach talked about how the Patriots did things to his offense no one expected.
Players talked about how there were communication lapses on defense and Gase added the Patriots were the more physical team.
Everyone talked about a total meltdown of a performance.
“We didn’t do anything good today so every question you ask it’s going to be the same thing,” Gase said.
And the problem with that is we’ve seen this kind of epic blowout loss before in the Gase era. Remember last year’s 40-0 loss at Baltimore or the 45-17 prime time woodshed whipping at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.
But this one...
...This was worse.
This was the worst defeat the Dolphins have suffered in the Adam Gase era.
It was horrible.
And the reason is this one meant something. The stakes in this one were high -- even playoff projections high.
Understand the Dolphins had a chance against these Patriots to kick them while they lay on the mat dazed. The Patriots had been floored by consecutive losses the previous two weeks. They were already two games behind the front-running Dolphins.
A win on Sunday would have given the Dolphins a 3 1/2 game lead on the Patriots after only four games. Even the championship Patriots of yesteryear would have struggled to make up that kind of deficit.
And with those meaningful stakes on the line, what did these Dolphins do?
They didn’t show up.
They started slow and it got progressively worse as New England built a 24-0 halftime lead. And in doing that, the Patriots deconstructed the Dolphins.
Remember that offense that had a solid running game and was mixing in some interesting trick plays the past few weeks?
“We didn’t do anything we wanted to do,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.
Remember that offensive line that was the strength of the offense and possibly the team when the season began?
Well, center Daniel Kilgore couldn’t finish the game because he injured his left arm and was in a soft cast afterward, suggesting a serious injury. Right tackle Ja’Waun James was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter, either because he was hurt or was benched. Gase said James was injured but wasn’t sure to what degree.
The rest of the offensive line, meanwhile, got it handed to them.
Tannehill was sacked twice but was forced to throw multiple times with defenders in his face or at his feet. The Dolphins averaged a paltry 3.1 yards on their 18 runs.
Afterward a reporter asked right guard Jesse Davis what went wrong and how the offensive line played. It was an inartful question but definitely much better than, say, “Why did you guys stink?”
“Obviously not well enough to stay on the field,” Davis answered.
And a locker stall over, a grumpy Laremy Tunsil started growling about the “Crazy-ass questions. Like, dumb-ass questions” that Davis was getting.
Tunsil, who led the offensive line in penalties last season and had a false start and an unsportsmanlike penalty on Sunday, should probably be more concerned about correcting his penalty issue than eavesdropping and taking frustration out on a reporter.
It’s an issue because with Josh Sitton out for the season, Kilgore obviously hurt, James either injured or benched for performance, now would be a good time for Tunsil to show some maturity and leadership instead of being bothered by mundane questions.
Anyway, the receivers didn’t get open as the Patriots mixed their coverages and often challenged Miami wideouts man-to-man with positive results.
On defense, the story along the line was a mixed bag. Some players talked of losing the physical battle while others talked of making mental mistakes.
Davon Godchaux, who has a gift for getting to the point, summed it up this way:
“They got the best part of us today,” he said. “Hats off to those guys, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. They got the best of us today. But at the end of the day they’re in our division, we’ll see them again at the end of the season.”
Who’s looking forward to that one? The Patriots get Julian Edelman, arguably Brady’s favorite receiver, back this week because his NFL suspension for violating the performance enhancing drug policy is over.
So the team that just blew out the Dolphins are about to get better.
Without Edelman the Patriots threw the football on the Dolphins as well as they had all season. Brady finished with three touchdowns -- two of which were against Dolphins premier cornerback Xavien Howard.
Howard got picked off on a play Cordarelle Patterson turned into a 55-yard touchdown. And then he got beat by Phillip Dorsett on a 9-yard touchdown.
So the young cornerback who locked down receivers the past three games was thus absent from this one.
“Every game you got to start over,” Gase said when asked about Howard. “It doesn’t matter what you did last time, nobody cares. Tom Brady’s not going to care. We have a lot of things we have to clean up.”
And then there’s this: If the Dolphins had lost this game but battled the entire 60 minutes and walked away with a painful but honorable result, one might think this team has a good chance to make corrections and do much better the remainder of the season.
That kind of loss -- a loss! -- would have been laudable because it would have suggested the Dolphins have made strides and the only thing separating them from New England is home field advantage.
But this total annihilation in which Gase’s team didn’t give us the courtesy of showing up suggests something else.
It suggests they’re the same old Dolphins.