Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins deliver a thriller but lose. And neither of those is bad in 2019

This was the best of everything: It was a failed two-point conversion. But a successful Tua-point conversion.

It was a failure in that the Dolphins tried to win but couldn’t.

But it was successful in that the Dolphins showed life, scored touchdowns -- plural -- and were entertaining for their home crowd for the first time this 2019 season. It was, to an important degree, also successful the Dolphins lost because, you know, this organization has made this season about, well, next season.

So the Dolphins lost, 17-16, on Sunday.

But the Dolphins also won, 16-17, on Sunday.

Tank, you very much.

Yes, I’m having a little fun here. And I do it even while recognize there’s much blood and sweat poured into every game and the investment doesn’t begin on Sunday, but rather during the week when players spend countless hours eating, sleeping, and working both mentally in meetings and physically on the practice field toward winning one game.

It’s serious business for them.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact these Dolphins have been woven of disparate and all too deficient parts on purpose. This isn’t optimal and everyone knows it because this team is constructed to lose.

Fans didn’t do that. The media didn’t do that.

The Dolphins did that. To themselves.

So it’s not mocking them to roll with them. They authored this disaster of a season so as to also author an epic offseason starting next spring that includes having the NFL draft’s No. 1 overall selection -- presumably to be used on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

And we know the only way to truly guarantee that is to, well, stink every bit as much as the team’s talent level suggests. And so far, it’s been painful to watch because it seemed the team let itself get woefully awful rather than just moderately awful.

That’s why Sunday was cool. Because the awful Dolphins were competitive for the first time this entire season. They were interesting and even compelling for the first time this season.

They scored second-half points for the first time this season and it felt like an accomplishment -- because, sadly, it was. The Dolphins outscored the Redskins, 13-0 in the fourth quarter and it was actually surprising.

No, the Dolphins didn’t win. And no, there are no moral victories in professional football.

But the Dolphins walked away from Hard Rock Stadium after a fun game. They walked away with their heads held high because they didn’t embarrass themselves.

“Moral victory, whatever, I don’t know if we believe in those,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “But it’s much more fun to be involved in a game like that than when you look up you’re losing by 40-plus points. In that regard, if that’s what you’re getting at, then yeah, that was much more fun to be a part of that game.”

The Dolphins had fun as Fitzpatrick replaced an ineffective Josh Rosen and delivered two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. He pitched the ball down the field while Rosen had settled for quicker, shorter passes to avoid getting sacked -- which didn’t work all that well as he took five sacks.

But even as Fitzpatrick delivered the heroics of 12 completions on 18 attempts for 132 yards and a final touchdown with six seconds to play, the Dolphins still managed to find a way to lose.

That’s not a criticism. Be it because of their lack of acumen or fate or whatever, the Dolphins found a way to lose.

That came when coach Brian Flores elected to go for two points after Fitzpatrick delivered that last-second 11-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker. An extra point would have tied the game. The Dolphins could have tried to win at home in overtime.

Flores went for two.

“We were trying to win the game, pretty much,” Flores said. “We talked about it. We felt good about the play. It’s something we worked on all week. We thought we had an opportunity to win the game, and that was the thought process there.”

One supposes Flores also considered his starting center Daniel Kilgore came out of the game with an injury just prior to that play. So the team had to move Evan Boehm from right guard to center. The team also had to insert rookie guard Shaq Calhoun at right guard.

And starting running back Mark Walton also wasn’t in the game. Walton was either pulled because he was banged up or because coaches believed Kenyan Drake a better option for the final play.

The problem with having Drake there is that in all the practice repetitions the Dolphins ran of the play last week, Drake said he was never used. Drake said he never practiced the play. Walton was always the player catching the ball.

“I have to hold my end of the bargain up,” Drake said, offering no excuses. “Everyone has their job to do, their 1/11th, and my job is to catch the ball and get in the end zone. Regardless of what the situation was, I have to make sure that I hold my end of the bargain up and make the play that needs to be made, especially when coach puts us in that situation to go and get the win.”

It says here that in any other year, with any Dolphins team I’ve covered since 1990, the coach rarely goes for two points in that situation given all the uncertainty. But I understand why Flores went for it. I get it.

He saw his team one play from winning. One play from winning the first game of the season and his career. Flores probably understood that if he took the game into overtime, his chances of winning a field position battle against an equally winless but more talented Washington would go down, not up.

So, yes, Flores did the right thing. Yes, it failed.

But that’s fine. Because the Dolphins still gave everyone a good game. And they are now 0-5 and still pointed toward the first overall selection in next April’s draft.

And, like it or not, that’s about the best this team can hope for.

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