Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Miami Dolphins: 7 Takeaways from Miami's MNF Meltdown
It was a loss that was indicative of their entire season. It ended with Ryan Tannehill having a chance to bring the Dolphins back but being hindered by his offensive line.
So what did we learn from this game? Nothing but everything at the same time.
Here's a look at what I took away from this putrid performance.
Absolute Lack of Discipline
First Offensive Drive of the First Quarter, Second Play of the Drive
Mike Pouncey earns an unnecessary roughness penalty after hitting a Buccaneer after a play where Ryan Tannehill completed a 10-yard pass to Brian Hartline.
Philip Wheeler commits a roughing the passer penalty after Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon throws a horrible pass on 3rd-and-6 from the Buccaneers' 15. This gave Tampa Bay a fresh set of downs, and they would wind up punting from the 44 with three minutes left instead of punting from their own 15 with around five minutes left.
You could make the case, that play by Wheeler cost Miami the game, as the Dolphins had less time and farther to go after the penalty.
This goes back to the coaching. Yes, the players were dumb when committing said penalties, but there have been so many stupid flags that it's an epidemic with this team and has been on this six-game stretch.
What's Wrong with the Dolphins' Run Defense?
Seeing how bad this Dolphins run defense is, I wouldn't be shocked if LaDainian Tomlinson re-signed with San Diego just to play next Sunday's game.
This was another horrendous performance by Miami's run defense, which should be one of its strengths. This is the sixth time a team has ran for 100-plus yards against the Dolphins, and unlike in the past when there were names like C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Darren Sproles and Stevan Ridley doing damage, you had guys like Brian Leonard (pictured above) and Bobby Rainey.
Mike James had only 41 yards, that's good news—except it was on five carries in the first drive of the game. The only reason he didn't run for more was because he broke his ankle, per NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.
This unit was shameful again Monday night and a major reason the Dolphins allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get their first win of the season.
Offensive Line Was Offensive Again (and Would Be as Bad with Richie Incognito)
A lot of you are going to blame Jonathan Martin for this loss.
While that would apply to a certain degree for their first four losses, it doesn't apply here.
A lot of you will say the Dolphins would've won this game had Richie Incognito played.
Sorry, that's not the case. This Dolphins offensive line has been bad since Week 1.
Last I checked, Incognito was there, as was Martin.
Yes, they gave up two late sacks at the end of the game.
But they did the same thing against Buffalo, Baltimore and New Orleans.
Again, Incognito was there then, as was Martin.
The offensive line was bad, and now it's worse. But it's not much worse, because it was terrible to begin with.
So based off the Dolphins' previous performances, what makes you think things would've been better had the off-the-field issues been any different?
Rishard Matthews Looked Great Out There
There has to be some good news with this game, and we found it in Rishard Matthews.
Matthews was called upon to be Miami's slot receiver after the unfortunate injury to Brandon Gibson (who himself was having an excellent season).
On the evening, he'd wind up with 11 receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. By far, it was the best day by a Dolphins wide receiver in quite a long time, which is a fairly sad statement considering this team currently employs Mike Wallace, and, in the past decade, has at one time employed Wes Welker and Brandon Marshall.
Kudos to Matthews on a tremendous day. Since he is filling in for Gibson, expect him to be Tannehill's best option at receiver in the final seven games of the season.
Yes, I'm giving fantasy football advice in a takeaways piece, but this is something I am taking away from this game—sign Matthews.
The Atrocious Play-Calling Continues
The Dolphins offense has a problem, actually more an addiction.
That stretch play. Usually they break it out on first down or in short-yardage situations.
It fails when Lamar Miller gets the ball. It's completely pointless when Daniel Thomas gets the ball.
They ran this play out of the end zone at their own one-yard line. A play that has always ended in failure for the Dolphins.
When will they stop running it? Just take it out of the playbook so that Mike Sherman doesn't have the temptation to call it?
That stretch play annoying me is indicative of Sherman's play-calling as a whole, but here's the worst part of it: Sometimes he actually does a tremendous job of play-calling.
Miami's two-minute drill at the end of the first half was a beautiful drive to watch. It had the right plays called at the right time.
The third quarter was the same thing, at least up until the first play following Jimmy Wilson's interception that was returned to the Tampa Bay 7-yard line.
What play did he go to there? A stretch play to Daniel Thomas. The result was a loss of two yards.
Miami settled for a field goal, and instead of going up by eight points and taking complete control of the game, the Dolphins only went up by four and completely lost momentum.
Then there was the attempted the two-point conversion. Unlike others, I was in favor of it, just not the play called for it.
Miami called a great game against Cincinnati, but against Tampa Bay it reverted back to what caused the team to lose those four games previously.
An Idea I Took Away from This Game...
The Dolphins spent $60 million to bring in Mike Wallace, who has one touchdown on the season and had another disappointing game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Meanwhile, Marcus Thigpen was a sensation in 2012 but has been horrendous in 2013.
Here's an idea that came to me as I saw Thigpen fair-catch a ball inside the 10 for what felt like the 100th time Monday night.
Make Mike Wallace the return man.
I understand this won't be popular because you don't spend $60 million on a punt return man, but your goal should be to get the most out of your players, right?
Wallace's biggest asset is his speed. Right now, that's not being used well as a receiver, factoring in bad play-calling and a quarterback who's inconsistent when throwing the ball deep.
Why not take that speed and use it in the return game? It could be worth at least 50 yards per game in field position and possibly an additional six points per game.
Plus, Ted Ginn couldn't seem to catch a cold, and he did well as a punt-return man. Couldn't Wallace do just as well?
This Team Is a Mess from the Top to the Bottom
Fish rot from the head.
This game showed every reason not only why Jeff Ireland should be on his way out but also why Joe Philbin and his coaching staff should follow him out the door.
Along with a poor offensive line (which I must again mention was already poor), you have a team that's undisciplined (which is how "bullying" scandals happen by the way, no matter who's side you may be on), seems low on football IQ and has failed to develop (but continues to find new ways to regress).
Since October 20, I've been in favor of this team cleaning house. That came off an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills at home.
While I gave props to the coaches for the way their team played against Cincinnati, I also said they had to be like that in every game.
It only took one game, against the worst team in the NFL, for them to regress once again.
Sure, blame the distractions, blame the media for "picking on the Dolphins," blame the NFL for being "out to get" them, blame Jonathan Martin or Richie Incognito for his end of the scandal.
In the end, this goes back to Jeff Ireland (who bought the groceries) and Joe Philbin (who can't cook them). The only responsibility that Martin and Incognito have for this mess is their poor play while on the team, not the scandal.
The NFL isn't out to get the Dolphins, and the media doesn't want to destroy them either.
Even if they wanted to, they wouldn't have to do a thing. The Dolphins are doing a great job of destroying the Dolphins all by themselves.
Be sure to catch Dolphins Central Radio with hosts Thomas Galicia and Albert del Toral.