In what started as a great opportunity, has turned to utter disaster. The Dolphins headed into to their two most important games of the season atop the AFC East at 2-0 with a chance to make back-to-back statements on prime time television against the Jets and Patriots.
And while the Dolphins at least lost in a respectable manner to the Jets, the wheels completely fell off last night. Losing 41-14 is just as bad as the score says, no matter how it happened. Legitament contenders, or even half-way decent teams for that matter, don’t allow a blocked punt, kick, and kickoff return in the same game. They just don’t.
Some may preach that it’s still early, and that the Dolphins are only a game back in the division, but those people need to come down to reality with the rest of us. You can’t make up for losing both of your home games to the other two contenders in the division. The magic of the 2008 season isn’t here anymore. The upcoming schedule is far from forgiving, and will likely bury this team if they don’t make some massive adjustments in the bye week.
So many questions need to be answered, and in a hurry. The run defense is looking like one of the league’s worst. New England ran right at the edge at will last night, and when the outside linebackers were able to contain it a little bit, the backside pursuit was way out of place, and cutback lanes were allowing Green-Ellis and Woodhead to pick up 4 and 5 yards a pop.
The running game is still a long way from where it was last year, and Chad Henne reminded us all why he isn’t ready, and maybe never will be, to emerge as a legitimate franchise quarterback. He was staring down his receivers far too often, and folded under the pressure in a game this team desperately needed. Not the kind of qualities you want to see from a guy you’ve invested so much in.
That brings me to the special-teams. I don’t think there’s anything I can really say to sum up just how horrible they were last night. I’m talking one of the worst special-teams performances of all-time, and probably hands down the worst this once proud franchise has ever seen.
If it was me, I would fire John Bonamego immediately. There’s simply no excuse for what happened. I’m not going to say special-teams have cost the Dolphins the last two games, because they still deserved to lose with the way they played defensively against the Jets, and the way Chad Henne and the run defense played last night.
But that blocked punt against the Jets certainly didn’t help their cause. And last night, the kickoff return, the blocked punt deep in Miami territory, and the blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown, made winning last night impossible. Throw in Chad Henne’s pick-six, and the Dolphins conceded four touchdowns to New England with Tom Brady on the sidelines. How sickening is that?
Still though, I think Jeff Ireland and the front office have to be blamed for some of the special-teams woes. It’s been a weekly ritual to overhaul the last few players on the roster, who usually have a big role on special-teams, and bring in guys from the waiver wire, only to waive them a week or two later. That’s obviously means the Dolphins have seen new players manning key special-teams positions just about every week.
Perhaps what made waking up this morning the hardest, is how the Dolphins just squandered away any respect they may have earned over the past couple years. They’ve worked so hard, and come so far after that miserable 1-15 season. You think anyone is going to be taking them seriously, though, after back-to-back loses on national television, especially with the Monday night massacre we saw last night?
I think for the first time since that 2007 season, that rock bottom feeling is back. Sure, they are a much better team now, but they’ve fallen a long way from that 2-0 start that had everybody, including myself, thinking this team’s time had finally come. Well, it hasn’t. The Dolphins aren’t who we hoped they would be, that I can guarantee.
This team flourished in 2008 with no expectations, and were a solid team up until the last three weeks last year when expectations weren’t considerably higher. But now that expectations have come, it’s evident who this Dolphins team truly is. Great teams let expectations fuel their efforts. Pretenders fold under the pressure that comes with them.
And that’s where this Dolphins team falls. I’m not even sure how much longer they can keep up their act. They probably won’t even be pretenders that much longer if they don’t right this ship in a hurry. The schedule after the bye week is sure to expose them that much more.
How does 2-6 feel? Or 2-8? Don’t kid yourself, it’s possible after what we saw these past two weeks.
Now, though, is when we will find out what kind of character this team has. Their backs are against the wall. A knockout blow awaits them after the week off. Will they give in, or fight their way back into relevancy?