The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

NOT THIS WEEK

They had the opportunity, but the Miami Dolphins could not do it 2 weeks in a row.  Last week Brent Grimes made a great play in the end zone on the game’s final play to preserve the victory, but this week the defense gave up a touchdown pass with 43 seconds remaining to enable the Carolina Panthers to extend their winning streak to 7 games.  It was a shame, too, as the Fins had taken a 7-3 lead at 5:39 of the first quarter and held the lead until that back-breaking last minute touchdown put them behind to stay at 20-16.

This loss was a tough one to swallow.  Part of the blame goes to the offense that got shut out in the second half, particularly because they could not mount any rushing attack whatsoever.  The running backs combined for 16 yards on 13 carries.  Most of the rushing yardage came from Ryan Tannehill on 4 scrambles, one of which went for 19 yards. The reality is that it is very difficult to win a football game when your running backs manage only 16 yards.  While it was better than the zero yards they produced in the loss to the Buccaneers 2 weeks ago, it was nevertheless pathetic and was a major reason for the loss.  It was clear that when the Fins’ got the ball at their own 24-yard line leading 16-13 with 5:36 left in the game that they would not be able to run out the clock.  Instead, they held the ball for less than a minute and a half, thereby opening the door for the Panthers’ comeback.

Blame also goes to the coaching staff.  Fins’ defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was largely responsible for giving the momentum to the Panthers thanks to a totally bonehead call with seconds remaining in the first half.  His defense had been absolutely stellar and as a result the Fins held a 16-3 lead.   To that point the defense had given up a mere 88 yards.  With 8 seconds left in the half the Panthers had the ball at their own 43 when Coyle inexplicably sent in a defensive call that had 4 defensive backs lining up at the Fins’ 20.  With almost 40 yards open underneath the coverage, Cam Newton wisely threw a short pass that ended up going for an easy 28 yards, enough to give the Panthers a field goal that should never have happened.  That field goal not only cut the Fins’ lead to 10, but it gave the Panthers the momentum going into halftime. 

That gift field goal also gave the Panthers a chance to make it a 3-point game at the start of the second half because they would get the ball to start the third quarter.  And that’s just what they did, driving 83 yards for a touchdown.

Coyle’s blunder wasn’t the only time the coaching staff let down the players.  When the Panthers were moving down the field late in the fourth quarter needing a field goal to tie or a touchdown to take the lead, the Fins started to use their time outs so that there would be some time left on the clock to try to mount a comeback should the Panthers score.  But twice the coaches let several seconds run off the game clock before calling their time outs.  It was rather odd to say the least and it left the Fins’ with only 43 seconds to work with after the Panthers scored their go-ahead touchdown.

And speaking of blame, some more of it goes to Rashad Jones.  When Cam Newton scrambled for 8 yards to the Fins’ 44-yard line on what would prove to be their game-winning drive, Jones foolishly hit him out of bounds resulting in a well-deserved penalty that put the ball at the Fins’ 29-yard line.  Suddenly, the Panthers were in field goal range with 1:46 remaining.  Without those extra 15 yards, who knows what would have happened.  And without those 15 extra yard, the Fins would likely not have taken the time outs that took the clock pressure off of the Panthers.

One thing is for sure, this loss does not get pinned on the defense.  The defense held Cam Newton to a QB Rating of only 60.6.  He completed only 50% of his attempts and only had 174 yards passing.  He did hurt them with 51 yards rushing, but the defense held the Panthers’ running backs to 85 yards rushing for the day.  The defense even forced the Panthers into a fourth-and-ten at their own 20-yard line with 2:33 left in the game, but unfortunately Cam Newton completed a pass for the first down that enabled the Panthers to maintain possession en route to their last-minute touchdown.

Ryan Tannehill actually outplayed Cam Newton, but the absence of a running game really hurt the Fins’ offense.  Tannehill completed 28 of 42 (66.7%) for 310 yards.  He completed 2 deep balls to Mike Wallace for 110 yards, but he also missed him a couple of other times, including in the final seconds of the game when Wallace could not quite make a difficult catch at the goal line.

No doubt the Fins played hard on Sunday, but it was to no avail.  For this week there would be no last minute heroics.

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