Dolphins can’t hide from reality anymore after 45-21 loss to Carolina

Cam Newton clobbered the Dolphins on Monday and might’ve ended their season. (Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Dolphins are out of ways to convince anyone that this season will get any better.

Through all the tumult this year, going all the way back to losing Ryan Tannehill to a knee injury a week into training camp, they’ve managed to stay afloat until now. With Monday’s 45-21 loss at Carolina, they fell below .500 for the first time since last October, and they look very much like a team that’ll spend the rest of this season scrapping just to break even.

Miami (4-5) didn’t even underperform that egregiously against the Panthers. It was more a case of seeing quite clearly that this team isn’t good enough.

This came at a time when the Dolphins got starting safety T.J. McDonald and guard Ted Larsen on the field for the first time, finally cashing in on two long-awaited arrivals. There’s no other help on the way. This version of this roster is who they are.

Adam Gase tried the offense he wanted to run and found it was too complex for his players. Then he simplified it to its most basic level. Then he brought back a more sophisticated design. Expand, shrink, expand, shrink, rinse, repeat.

He crafted the backfield to his preferences by dumping power runner Jay Ajayi in favor of more multifaceted players in Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. Against the No. 2 run defense in the league, that duo totaled 25 yards on the ground and 25 as receivers until Drake broke loose for 66 on a touchdown run late in the third quarter.

Cam Newton basically offset that, by the way, on the very next play as he raced through the middle of the Dolphins’ defense for 69 yards. Four plays later the Panthers had another touchdown and a 38-14 lead.

Carolina’s one vulnerability is its secondary, and the Dolphins didn’t have nearly the firepower to exploit it.

Gase is thought to be the only man on earth who can coax Jay Cutler into being a viable quarterback. He completed 22 of 37 passes for 222 yards with one touchdown coming on a shovel pass to Julius Thomas and the other going to Jarvis Landry in garbage time. He was off all night and flung a dumbfounding interception Thomas’ way just before halftime that led to a Carolina touchdown.

Through almost three quarters, Miami’s longest pass play of the night was a 19 yarder to Landry. The most dangerous downfield weapon on the team is DeVante Parker, who delivered the first 20-plus-yard pass play of the night with a 24-yard catch at the end of the third quarter. The game was long over by then.

There was a time when the Dolphins got away with their dreadful offense, but the defense that was once thought to be one of the league’s best has slipped into mediocrity. It just gave up 45 points and 548 yards to an offense that entered Monday ranked 24th in the NFL. That’s the second-biggest yardage total an NFL defense has allowed this year.

Newton, who hasn’t had a decent game throwing the ball in more than a month, picked apart the Dolphins to the tune of 21 for 35 with 254 yards and four touchdown passes. He also hit them with his best rushing game of the year at 95 yards on five attempts.

He led Carolina (7-3) on five straight touchdown drives before checking out with four minutes left. It doesn’t get more demoralizing than that.

Even in a year where it looks like the threshold for making the playoffs is going to be fairly low, perhaps even 9-7, it’s hard to get there without being really good at something.

There’s little reason to believe the remaining games against good teams will be any different than the visit to Carolina or the Baltimore game or the New Orleans game. Maybe the Dolphins can pull it together in the upcoming home game against Tampa Bay, but no one’s going to give them a shot in New England the following week.

Perhaps it was unreasonable to expect more than this in a season plagued by misfortune from the onset. There always comes a point at which the truth can’t be brushed aside anymore, and that moment appears to have arrived for the Dolphins.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Amazing images from the Fins’ embarrassing loss in Carolina]

[Miami Dolphins 2017 mid-season awards]

[Here’s how DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills can change everything for the Dolphins’ offense]

[Five Dolphins to watch vs. Carolina]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Reader Comments 0

0 comments