MIAMI GARDENS—The Dolphins have been battered left and right since they started training camp, and their season finally collapsed today against Tampa Bay.
Any realistic hope of Miami clawing into the playoff field was crushed by a 30-20 loss to the Buccaneers that looked a lot like the way the entire year has gone. The offense and defense took turns displaying total incompetence, there were penalties galore and Jay Cutler was a disaster before Matt Moore came in for him.
The Dolphins are now 4-6 with a trip to New England up next. Here are five takeaways from their thudding disappointment at Hard Rock Stadium:
1. The Dolphins have spiraled from aspiring contender to laughingstock this season.
Remember when Miami ran its record to 10-6, punched its ticket to the playoffs and gave people reason to hope things might be even better in 2017? Neither does anybody else. Now the Dolphins are a punchline after turning to Cutler to save them, enduring a string of off-field embarrassments and scrapping just to compete with a bad Tampa Bay team at home. They’ve fully proven they need a large-scale rebuild in the upcoming offseason.
2. Smokin’ Jay’s gotta go.
There’s been nothing fun about Cutler’s time with Miami. Not for anyone. He’s been bad most of the year, and there’s far more enthusiasm with Matt Moore on the field. Moore’s not actually any better than Cutler—they’re about the same—but at least everybody’s enjoying the experience a lot more with Moore. By the way, what’s Cutler gotten out of this beyond the $10 million payday? He’s got a concussion, he has two fractured ribs and he’s the fanbase’s least favorite player. He had a 60.8 passer rating before leaving at halftime with the concussion.
3. Damien Williams is just as much of a big-play threat as Kenyan Drake.
Since trading Jay Ajayi and going to a shared backfield of Williams and Drake, the Dolphins got two big runs from Drake and a paltry 2.1 yards per carry average from Williams. Williams has always had big-play capability, though, and showed it on a 69-yard run down the right side of the field in the first quarter. There’s no thought of waiting for one of them to take over the job full-time; Miami’s best course is using them together.
4. The Dolphins are every opposing quarterback’s favorite team.
Here’s how fun it is playing quarterback against Miami: Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was a disaster against the Jets last week, hit the Dolphins with one of the best games of his career. He completed 22 of 37 passes for 275 yards and had two touchdowns with no turnovers, continuing a long line opposing passers who have looked fantastic against Miami. Coming into the game, the defense had allowed a 104.8 passer rating and a 68.7 completion percentage—both second-worst in the league.
5. The penalties are out of control.
It’s one thing to get outplayed by better personnel, but the Dolphins are unnecessarily adding incompetency to the equation. Sometimes penalties are irrelevant—the Seahawks and Steelers are among the most flagged teams in the NFL–but these guys aren’t good enough to afford them. Miami gave away 123 yards on 17 penalties (one flag shy of the franchise record) against the Buccaneers, a figure that doesn’t account for the 49-yard pass from Cutler to Jarvis Landry that was wiped out by Jermon Bushrod’s holding penalty.
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