Monday, December 31, 2012

Dolphins-Patriots Game Observations

Officially eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16, the hopes for Miami Dolphins fans in the regular season finale were to improve to a .500 record on the season and to potentially damage the Patriots' playoff seeding a bit.

Instead, the Dolphins were routed and shut out 28-0, marking their fourth straight losing season after a division title in 2008. Embarrassingly, it is the first time the franchise has had four consecutive losing seasons since the franchise first four seasons from 1966 to 1969.

Be sure to keep checking back for all kinds of offseason news, notes and analysis. In the coming weeks I'll have articles on offseason tidbits, the team's upcoming free agents, Dolphins and league awards, and playoff picks. That will be followed by Senior Bowl analysis, free agency and draft coverage.

Until then, here are my observations on the Dolphins' Week 17 loss to the Patriots...

  • This was not one of Ryan Tannehill's best came some of that blame falls on him. He got little help from his pass protection and receivers, but he also held onto the ball way too long instead of running, trying to draw a flag or throwing it away. Tannehill has to be more aggressive and decisive if he's going to take the next step in 2013.
  • Reggie Bush had little to work with and didn't do anything on the ground as the Dolphins were behind all game. Lamar Miller had a few nice runs just like he did a week ago, but he also made another mental error when he wasn't ready for a hand-off from Tannehill. That kind of stuff is reportedly why it took him so long to get on the field, so he really has to clamp down on that stuff.
  • The receivers were pretty abysmal in this one. Aside from a few good plays by Brian Hartline and Rishard Matthews, the entire group failed to get open consistently and really let Tannehill down. Armon Binns had two bad drops, including a potential touchdown. I found it interesting that Marlon Moore pretty much saw no time on offense with Matthews and Binns, which says to me the team may not be interested in retaining the restricted free agent in the offseason.
  • How sad is it that in a 28-0 loss in the season finale, in a game with Charles Clay on I.R. and Anthony Fasano knocked out, third-round rookie Michael Egnew still can't register a catch? Egnew finishes his rookie season with only two games played and zero receptions. He won't be on scholarship next year and he'll need an incredibly big turnaround to make the team again.
  • It was an ugly day for the offensive line, in particular tackles Jonathan Martin and Nate Garner. They were routinely abused and didn't give Tannehill much time to throw. It's not a good note to end on for Martin, who projects as the full-time left tackle if Jake Long walks. Garner is a free agent as well, so the Dolphins could have multiple holes to fill on the offensive line.
  • Cameron Wake did a great job sealing the edge in the running game and pursuing ball carriers, but he was shut out rushing the passer and the team as a whole failed to get to Brady at all except for one blindside sack from the secondary. I also felt the interior line struggled to stop the run and they looked like they were cold and didn't even want to be playing.
  • It wasn't a pretty game for the linebackers, who were run all over and didn't make many player at the line of scrimmage. Kevin Burnett whiffed twice on the goal line and Karlos Dansby was his average self as well. I personally am hoping the team makes Dansby a roster casualty in the offseason.
  • The team also struggled covering the slot and the tight ends as usual, leaving guys like Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski open constantly. This wasn't helped by the lack of pass rush that allowed Brady to sit back and hit wide-open targets.
  • It's pretty hard to judge the secondary in this one because they basically weren't challenged. Welker led the Patriots with eight tackles and obviously he lines up in the slot, but the other Patriots' receivers combined for just two total catches.
  • Brandon Fields with the NFL lead in punting average at 50.2 yards, but he had a rough day in this one with a couple short kicks taken by the wind. That, of course, doesn't change the fact that he's a beast.