Flunking … er, grading the Miami Dolphins for their blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers did all the shouting in a rout of the Dolphins. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Three consecutive prime-time assignments, three consecutive games the Dolphins proved they’re not even close to being ready-for-prime-time players.

Monday night, it was a 45-21 blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers, following losses to Baltimore and Oakland the previous two weeks. If you’re keeping score, the Dolphins put the nation to sleep in those three games by a combined 112-45.

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

The Dolphins have only one more prime-time game this year, Dec. 11 against the visiting Patriots. Hey, on a night like this, the Dolphins will take whatever positive signs they can get.

Here’s how ugly it was:

Quarterback

Not sure why Adam Gase would come out flinging with a minute left in the half. But I’m absolutely baffled by what Jay Cutler saw when he tried to force a ball to a well-covered Julius Thomas, allowing Luke Kuechly to make an athletic interception that set up a touchdown. Cutler misfired on the Dolphins’ first third-down conversion try two ways. Despite having enough room to run for it, he missed a wide-open Jarvis Landry, forcing a punt. Cutler also threw a hospital ball, leading Landry right into a big hit. A week after winning a player of the week award, he lived up to his inconsistent tendencies.

Grade: D

Running backs

Do we have a running back controversy? The Dolphins showed some rare life on Kenyan Drake’s 66-yard touchdown run, the first rushing TD of the season by Miami. Drake has an extra gear that the Dolphins need to take advantage of more often down the stretch. Drake also had a nice blitz pick-up to allow an early third-down conversion. Too bad the running game was otherwise shut down by poor blocking and the huge hole the Dolphins fell in.

Grade: B-minus

Receivers

Everybody had a rough night, but Julius Thomas’ struggles stood out. Thomas had a chance at a big gain in the second quarter but failed to come up with the ball and failed to stay in bounds. It was a makable play. He committed a bad conduct penalty after Luke Kuechly’s interception late in the half. At least there was his 2-yard TD reception on a shovel pass. It was an inspired call by Adam Gase on a dismal night.

Grade: D

Offensive line

This was the first time this line played together. It was going against the No. 1 defense in the NFL. Is there any surprise what happened? Too often the linemen weren’t on the proverbial same page. Sometimes, they weren’t reading from the same book. Charles Johnson was allowed to blow by Mike Pouncey and Ted Larsen to nail Damien Williams for a 4-yard loss to start the proceedings and it went downhill from there, including a fourth-down gamble when the Dolphins were in desperation mode to open the second half. At least there was Laremy Tunsil clearing a path for Julius Thomas on his TD.

Grade: D-minus

Defensive line

Where was the high-priced defensive line? To call this a battle of the trenches would be a mistake, because it takes two sides to battle. Carolina’s offensive line won this in a blowout. Start with that 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive by Carolina in the second quarter. Then look at Cam Newton’s 69-yard run. And how many parting-of-the-seas plays the Panthers pulled off at will. The Panthers had 30 first downs, 548 yards, 294 rushing yards and were 11-of-14 on third down. Yikes.

Grade: F

Linebackers

Kiko Alonso couldn’t contain Christian McCaffrey on the Panthers’ first third-down conversion and was victimized repeatedly in the first half. McCaffrey completely faked out Alonso for Carolina’s first TD.

Grade: F

Defensive backs

Xavien Howard had a dreadful night. He was beaten by Ed Dickson for a 7-yard TD just before halftime. He and Reshad Jones were blocked out of the way on Devin Funchess’ 28-yard catch, a simple flip on third-and-10 that resulted in a touchdown and a 24-7 lead. And he was called for pass interference on the Miami 2. He gave up a garbage-time score. He wasn’t alone. In general, the secondary struggled against a run-of-the-mill set of receivers.

Grade: F

Special teams

Nothing to see here. Was tempted to devote this section to Miami’s punt returns, except you have a force punts before you can return them.

Grade: N/A

[Miami Dolphins 2017 mid-season awards]

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