The crowd that wants to blame the Miami Dolphins coaching staff has plenty of ammunition with which to do that now. With questionable decisions punctuating this 27-24 loss, there’s a chorus of complaints from fans and, more importantly, second-guessing coming from inside the team’s locker room.
(More on that in a minute).
The crowd that wants to complain Ryan Tannehill is nothing other than an inconsistent quarterback who is hot one week and not the next, and indeed, is off the mark one half but good enough to match Aaron Rodgers throw for throw the next half, can do that, too.
This game provided a great view of inconsistent Tannehill. He once again confounded, delivering a first half worthy of a benching – 8 of 16 for 84 yards with two interceptions and a horrible QB rating of 26 – before recovering in the second half and leading the Dolphins to an apparent comeback victory.
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Except, of course, it wasn’t a victory.
That’s because that playoff-caliber defense the Dolphins have been relying on to carry them to the postseason is sometimes dominant but rarely consistent enough to carry Miami to a victory much less a postseason.
And so we have these Dolphins – a 2-3 team that sometimes gets good quarterback play and sometimes doesn’t.
Sometimes gets good coaching decisions and sometimes doesn’t.
Sometimes gets good defense and sometimes doesn’t.
You know where that leaves this team? The same place it has been for most of the last decade:
Not good enough.
That’s exactly where everyone found themselves late Sunday afternoon after the Green Bay Packers scored the winning touchdown with six seconds to play, snatching victory from the Dolphins, handing fans another heartbreak.
Give the Packers their due. They have a great, no, amazing quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is special. He is elite.
Rodgers is so good, he got in Miami coach Joe Philbin’s head. Philbin, familiar with Rodgers because he coached the quarterback during his days as a Green Bay assistant, spent much of this game coaching against Rodgers.
Philbin says he and his staff decided that because Rodgers was on the other sideline he had to be aggressive to keep Rodgers on that sideline instead of on the field.
So the Dolphins passed inside of three minutes to play, knowing a first down could win the game but an incompletion would stop the clock for the Packers, who had no timeouts.
That decision is a matter of opinion. It’s a judgment call. But the pass failed. The clock stopped. The Dolphins punted. Rodgers, given extra seconds to work magic, predictably drove the Packers for the winning score.
Thus the decision to throw the football glowed as problematic.
But here’s the thing: A decision that on its face seemed an aggressive call was also done out of fear.
The Dolphins threw to gain a first down, sure. But they also threw because they feared putting Rodgers back on the field.
And when Philbin elected to run the ball on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first quarter, chasing a possible TD rather than settling for the certain field goal, which reeked of fear as well.
Philbin feared Rodgers was going to put up a bunch of points on his defense and he figured this was a solid chance to get more points of his own.
The Dolphins got stuffed. Got no points. The decisions failed.
This isn’t a takedown of Philbin. He gambled. He lost. It happens.
The problem is the Dolphins’ coach gambled multiple times and lost every single roll of the dice.
Every. Single. One.
At some point that is no longer gambling but rather simply losing.
That’s the kind of day this was. Even when the Dolphins say they knew the Green Bay hand signals, even when say they knew where Rodgers was going with the football on that winning score, even when they say they knew which player was going to get picked on, they still lost on the play.
That’s how things were on the deciding touchdown. Green Bay’s Andrew Quarless beat linebacker Phillip Wheeler in a one-on-one situation for the Packers winning score. And Wheeler first admits he should have had better coverage.
But he also believes Miami coaches let him down because there should have been a better defensive call on the play.
“…Maybe we shouldn’t have been in that call because we were in it for a lot of the second half,” Wheeler said. “[Rodgers] knew what we were going to be in. We had been in it in key situations before – and it worked. He didn’t throw the ball to the tight end those times.
“But when we lined up, [Rodgers] checked. And after he checked, me and Cortland [Finnegan] knew the ball was coming my way. Cortland was checking the guy next to me, we had double coverage on that guy, and I had single coverage on my guy. It’s common sense; if you’re playing man-to-man most of that drive, and that’s a coverage we play often in the red zone, that’s where he’s going.
“It’s make a play to see who wins and, like I’ve said, [Rodgers] is a great quarterback. It could have been better coverage. And it could have been a better call.”
So the Dolphins need better execution from players. They need better decisions from their coaches. Simply, the Dolphins need to get better.