Everything about this Miami Dolphins’ 41-13 blowout loss to the New England Patriots felt like a funeral.
Miami’s playoff hopes? On life support for a week, they pretty much expired in the third quarter when New England scored three touchdowns to turn a close game into a rout.
Those three Patriots’ touchdowns in one quarter, by the way, equal the number of touchdowns the Dolphins have scored in three December games.
That’s not what anyone means when they think of a holiday break.
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Although it is not yet over, this team is about to put the finishing touches on its sixth consecutive season out of the playoffs. It will also be the 12th time in 13 seasons the Dolphins fail to get in the postseason.
So what about the rest of this regular season against the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets? The season is really over for all practical purposes and moot in many regards, perhaps even in the manner it affects decisions that will be made afterward.
Think about it: The Dolphins still have a chance to finish 9-7 and by any measure that’s normally good enough to give hope for the future and save any coach.
But 9-7 is a disappointment for these Dolphins because they just had huge games against Baltimore at home and New England on this big stage and laid an egg in both games on consecutive weeks with playoff implications hanging in the balance.
So after two gigantic failures in important, meaningful games, everyone is supposed to be thrilled and coach Joe Philbin gets a pat on the back for winning two meaningless games to finish the year?
Hard to fathom.
Sunday felt like the end for Philbin, folks. It felt over.
More importantly, it felt like it should be over.
As his team was melting down before his eyes in the third quarter, a sequence of events that immediately followed what Mike Pouncey called a “really good halftime speech” from Philbin, the Miami coach seemed helpless to stop the avalanche that swallowed the entire franchise.
Asked afterward if he felt helpless watching the unraveling, Philbin said, “Yeah, yeah, we didn’t play well. We didn’t play well in the third quarter, we didn’t coach too well in the third quarter.”
But who is surprised? The Dolphins this season, and for several seasons, have been nothing if not inconsistent. They sometimes start slow and then pick it up. This game they started fast — with a lightning bolt 50-yard completion from Ryan Tannehill to Mike Wallace — and then went to bed at halftime and never reawakened.
Some weeks this team is up, like it was against San Diego. Some weeks this team sleepwalks, like it did against the Jets and Buffalo in September and Jacksonville.
That’s what makes this so frustrating. If the Dolphins were just bad, we could understand that’s what they are. If they were overmatched or just not talented, it would hurt less.
But it is galling this roster has enough talent to play well in spurts but can’t extend that over weeks or rarely even over entire games.
Philbin was hired with the promise he would improve this team game-to-game, month-to-month, season-to-season, but hasn’t really delivered on any of that lately.
The Dolphins this December are playing worse than they played earlier this year and certainly worse than they played in their 33-20 victory over the Patriots in the regular season-opener.
So on Sunday Miami was blown out by a team it dismantled just over three months ago
One team has gotten better. The Patriots are 9-1 in their past 10 games.
One team is sliding in the opposite direction. The Dolphins are 2-4 so far in the second half of this season. They’re 1-2 in December and haven’t played well as a team since their Nov.13 victory over Buffalo.
I am certain Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recognizes this. He emerged from the Dolphins locker room sullen and in an obviously foul mood. Flanked by corporate lieutenants and a bodyguard wearing an earpiece and a scowl, Ross was asked if he could stop and talk.
“Nope,” was his terse response as he continued walking.
I don’t blame the guy. Obviously, he knew the questions waiting for him would be about his plans for Philbin and his thoughts of this embarrassing defeat.
What was Ross going to do by stopping to talk? Defend the indefensible and say his team gave good effort amid the blowout? Tell everyone that all is well? Promise better days when his previous promises of better days seem kind of empty now?
Of course not.
Ross also wasn’t going to lie and give Philbin an endorsement of any kind. That’s because Ross is now likely to try to replace Philbin with Jim Harbaugh, if the San Francisco coach will get over his West Coast love affair and move east.
What happens if Harbaugh doesn’t want to come to Miami? That’s going to be interesting. Before this debacle, one could easily argue Philbin could rightly still be the right guy for the job if the obvious upgrade to Harbaugh wasn’t possible.
It doesn’t really feel that way anymore.