Dolphins 16, Titans 10: Joyless day for Miami offense, which looks as bad as ever

Jay Cutler and the Dolphins offense look terrible right now. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

MIAMI GARDENS—As unique as this season has been, with major injuries and hurricane-related wreckage to the schedule, there’s a familiar feeling with the Dolphins right now.

And it’s not a good one.

Much like the overtime escape against the winless Browns a year ago, Miami’s 16-10 victory over the Titans on Sunday didn’t spark a ton of enthusiasm about where this team is headed. The offense—Adam Gase’s specialty—still looks like an absolute mess, and the Dolphins were fortunate to be facing one that somehow found a way to be worse.

The locker room was somber—at least the half that houses the offensive players.

“Obviously we’re excited to not lose,” running back Jay Ajayi said in total deadpan.

[RELATED: Amazing photos from the Dolphins’ big win over the Titans]

Kenny Stills, whose one catch accounted for 13 of Jay Cutler’s 92 passing yards, added, “Yeah it’s frustrating, but we came out with the victory, so it’s all smiles now.”

He was not smiling.

Nor should he be. The offense Sunday wasn’t discernibly better than when it got shut out by New Orleans last week and when it managed nothing more than a last-second touchdown in a loss to the Jets the week before.

When asked if there was even one area in which Miami showed any improvement from the week before, Cutler blurted incredulously, “Improvement?” before pointing to the 58-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter.

“But I think everything leading up to that point was probably pretty bad,” he said.

Accurate.

Through three quarters, the offense had little to do with Miami’s 10 points. The first three came on a 41-yard field goal set up by Reshad Jones’ fumble recovery, and the other seven came when Jones returned another fumble 38 yards for a touchdown.

“It was nice that someone could score points,” Gase said dryly.

His side of the ball, meanwhile, had 104 total yards as it entered the fourth quarter. The offense couldn’t get past its own 15-yard line on the first two possessions and managed merely two first downs in the first nine.

At the end, Miami couldn’t grind away the final 2:51 to seal the win on offense. The defense had to sprint back out for the final 19 seconds to ensure the Titans didn’t pull off a crazy comeback.

Gase doesn’t often give specifics when something doesn’t go well, but he’s been backed into a corner by three straight weeks of offensive incompetence, the crowd chanting for backup quarterback Matt Moore and the media wanting to know why Cutler isn’t to blame after completing 12 of 26 passes for 92 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

He’s been pointing out for weeks that things around Cutler aren’t holding up, and after Sunday’s game went in on the offensive line’s blocking and dropped passes by the receivers. He swiftly dismissed any idea of a quarterback change.

“Jay’s way down on the list of things going wrong,” Gase said.

What’s going wrong here might have more to do with Gase. He’s in his second year shaping the personnel and running his offense, yet somehow the players don’t seem to be operating it correctly.

It’s gotten to the point that he’s dumbed it down, diluting a sophisticated attack by stripping it to the point that the Dolphins can at least execute the correct blocking assignments and run the right routes.

And they’re still having malfunctions.

“It’s all over the football field,” center Mike Pouncey said. “We’ll get it figured out. It’s early in the football season. But it’s not what we expected being in our second year in this offense.”

That part about it still being early in the season depends on your perspective. Yes, the Dolphins are just four games into the season and 2-2 keeps them in reach of the Patriots, Bills and Jets at 3-2. But strength of opponent gets increasingly difficult for Miami starting with the upcoming visit to Atlanta.

This was the segment of the schedule in which the Dolphins needed to clean up, and there’s no doubt they should’ve beaten the Jets and Saints if they’re as good as they believe themselves to be. Gase keeps saying last year was worse and they dug themselves out of that hole, but comparing everything against last season’s 1-4 start doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“A win’s a win,” he said, suddenly turning defensive at the end of a press conference in which he’d spent nearly all of it ripping his offense. “I know I must have missed the column that says style points next to the win.”

He’s right that aesthetics aren’t part of the equation for making the playoffs, but he knows what he saw against the Titans isn’t viable going forward. He’s been saying for weeks the offense has a lot to fix, and nothing’s changed.

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