- WR Hartline cut after 6 seasons WR Gibson was also released
- Mike Tannenbaum hired... ...as Dolphins' executive VP of football operations
- Philbin retained Coach Philbin was given a contract extension
- Fins season ends on low note Jets down the Fins to end their season 8-8
Panthers-Dolphins game observations
As has become custom, the Dolphins continue to show they can’t string together multiple quality performances in a row. They now drop to 5-6, on the outside looking in on the playoff hunt, and although they’re still alive in a crowded race, they don’t look at all like a team we’d want to see in the playoffs. I’ll get to my overall game thoughts at the end, but here are my individual observations…
- Ryan Tannehill and the deep ball. It’s become a running joke and it’s not getting any better. He underthrew Mike Wallace at least twice and the receiver thankfully made adjustments on them, hauling in one for a spectacular touchdown. Then Tannehill actually overthrew him late in what could have sealed the game. He gave Wallace a barely catchable but still horribly thrown ball on the hail mary before the final play of the game, and a throw toward the left would have allowed the receiver to score easily. At this point, it’s like watching Christian Ponder play, and if you wouldn’t be happy with Ponder, you can’t be happywith Tannehill. The offense continues to look inept, and while it isn’t all his fault, he just isn’t getting any better either.
- The running game reverted back to its old ways in this one, as the line allowed no room for Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to move. That being said, this wasn’t one of Miller or Thomas’ best games and they often make perplexing decisions on which way they cut and going horizontally far too often. Now that Thomas appears out for the season with an ankle injury, Miller will have to shoulder even more of the load. Marcus Thigpen figures to continue seeing some action in passing situations, though it’d be nice to see what Mike Gillislee can do if he’s capable enough in pass protection.
- I credit Mike Wallace for almost single-handedly keeping the Dolphins in this game. The offense essentially did nothing and the problems we’ve had (play-calling, line play, Tannehill’s deep ball) all reared their heads in traditional fashion. If not for a few nice adjustments by Wallace to some poor deep passes, Miami has 10 points fewer and isn’t even in this game. I give Wallace a lot of credit here for making plays we all hope he’d make despite no help from his quarterback. Given how much he was open and what he did on throws that were far from perfect, it makes you wonder why they don’t just take a shot more often.
- Aside from Wallace, the receiver I actually give the most credit to is Maron Moore, who just recently re-joined the club and who came up with two nice grabs on just five offensive snaps. Brian Hartline was solid but unspectacular and Rishard Matthews has come back down to earth, as expected.
- The was just bad, bad, bad in this one. The pass protection started off decently, but it fizzled later in the game and the run blocking never even showed up. The team is clearly missing Mike Pouncey and Richie Incognito and I honestly wish they’d bring the latter back now that the media hype train has somewhat moved on. It’s worth nothing recently signed David Arkin briefly replaced Sam Brenner (knee) at left guard, which continues to indicate the team doesn’t view third-rounder Dallas Thomas as an option there as they say he’s basically been playing tackle in practice.
- I’m quite happy with the way the defensive line is playing right now. I thought they did a good job getting pressure in the first half, keeping Cam Newton entirely in check and never letting him get comfortable. The interior did a good job creating pressure and also stuffing the run early in the game, although it understandably wore out as time went on and as the Dolphins’ offense did nothing but give the Panthers the ball back. The pass rush was phenomenal for most of the game, with Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon combining for 12 pressures and Dion Jordan notching a sack as well on a nice play where he chased down Newton from behind. Vernon was a monster early on and this might have been his best overall game as a pro. After a shaky start to the season, Vernon has justified his playing time and place in the rotation.
- Philip Wheeler‘s up-and-down season continues, as I thought he was pretty strong in this one, wrapping up for nice tackles and playing well in coverage. Dannell Ellerbe, on the other hand, is just terrible and I’m running out of things to saw about how bad his play is. It pains me that we’re stuck with him for at least another season, because he’s a huge liability at the middle linebacker spot.
- It’s the bizarro world, because Nolan Carroll actually had a better game than Brent Grimes. Understandably, Grimes had his hands full with Steve Smith, while Carroll benefited more from the early pass rush successes and worked more against Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell. Carolina’s other receivers were useless, but I give credit to Carroll for motoring across the field to make a nice interception.
- Reshad Jones was better, but not good, in this one. He actually covered Ginn on an incomplete deep ball at one point, although Ginn had a horrible day and why the Panthers seemed so intent on getting the ball in his hands is beyond be because he choked opportunities away all day.
- Caleb Sturgis made three field goals, but missed a 54-yard attempt badly wide left. It was a questionable decision to kick at all there, as Sturgis has had his struggles and a punt could’ve helped pin the Panthers’ offense deep in their own territory. I would point out, however, the Panthers went 3-and-out on the ensuing drive and I don’t fault Joe Philbin entirely for kicking, because it’s a long bu makeable kick for Sturgis and you have to show trust in a guy to do his job.
- Brandon Fields should be in the Pro Bowl, period. He dropped four of six punts inside the 20 yard line and booms is better than anyone in the league. I love that guy. If you forget everything else about the way the Dolphins play, Fields makes you really happy.
- Marcus Thigpen appears to be trying to hard to make plays, because he’s constantly making poor decisions both in terms of when to return and which direction he goes when he does. He was exceptional last year, but he’s been borderline detrimental this year and he doesn’t offer upside elsewhere. In a league where the kickoffs mean less and less, I’m inclined to think Thigpen is not long for Miami or the league beyond 2013.
Fans want to point to a bad call here and there as to why Miami lost, but that’s simply not reality. Sure, Miami could have had more calls (or non-calls) go their way. We didn’t draw nearly as many holding penalties as we should have, Kuechy’s personal foul on Matthews in the end zone should have remained a penalty, and the “late hit” on Newton in the final drive was a dagger and was clearly just the result of the quarterback slipping (then flopping). But Miami had bad calls go its way too, as Wallace’s second deep reception was debatable at best, the team benefited from multiple bad spots and Charles Clay was given a first down on a toe-tapping catch that he promptly dropped. Yes, a bad call may have have swung the game late, but it’s not the reason the Dolphins lost.
I don’t blame the refs in this one and I don’t blame a defense that pretty much played its ass off for four quarters. A 4th and 10 conversion by the Panthers is not excusable, but overall it was a great performance by the defense and most of the time it’s a winning performance. The blame for this one goes squarely on Tannehill, Mike Sherman and the rest of the offense not named Mike Wallace. Tannehill and the play-calling were bad all game, and the offense would have had 10 fewer points if not for Wallace’s adjustments to poor deep balls. If not for Wallace, Miami is trying (and likely failing) to come back for the entire second half.
Zero points in the second half is inexcusable and it’s as far as you need to look for a loss. I’m not happy with Tannehill’s progression even behind a bad line, because he still makes so many bad throws even when the pocket holds. Sherman has to go and it’s looking more and more like cleaning house is the inevitable destination for this unit.