Miami Dolphins: 2013 Week 10 MIA at TB

Lavonte David and Daniel ThomasAP Photo/Brian BlancoLavonte David's Buccaneers stifled Daniel Thomas and the Dolphins' running game.
TAMPA, Fla. -- No Richie Incognito. No Jonathan Martin. No chance for the Miami Dolphins' offensive line.

Incognito and Martin are in the midst of a national media firestorm. Martin left the team Oct. 28 and claimed to have been bullied and harassed by Incognito, who was suspended indefinitely. Their absence on Miami's short-handed offensive line played a key role in a 22-19 loss to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

Tampa Bay's defensive front pushed the Dolphins around. The Bucs registered two key sacks in the fourth quarter that ended any chance for a comeback. For the game, the Dolphins rushed for a franchise-low 2 yards -- 2 yards -- on 14 carries.

"That's tough, man," said Dolphins guard Nate Garner, who replaced Incognito in starting lineup. "I mean, that's hard to handle as an offensive lineman. We love to run the ball."

Here is the harsh reality for Miami: Incognito and Martin are not coming back.

Fair or not, Incognito has become the poster child for bullying. The Dolphins, in an effort to preserve what remains of their public image, are unlikely to bring him back. ESPN's Lisa Salters reported Monday that Martin doesn't want to return to Miami and would prefer to continue his career elsewhere. The Dolphins are expected to oblige. They would be unwise to try to bring Martin back to the same environment that prompted him to leave the NFL to begin with.

In other words, the Dolphins are stuck with what they have up front. That is not a good sign for Miami with seven games left in the season.

"Those two guys were starters, so when you lose two starters, it will affect you a little bit," Dolphins left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "But the guys who stepped in did a good job. We just have to work with who's here."

It's already ugly for the Dolphins (4-5) and it could get worse. Look for future opponents to continue to expose Miami's biggest weakness.

The offensive line had struggles this season when it was at full strength. But the Dolphins were at least capable of running the ball at times with Incognito and Martin in the lineup. That helped mask some of the line's issues.

With the inability to run, the Dolphins could be a one-dimensional mess for the rest of the season. How many times can they win with second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball 42 times, as he did Monday?

The Dolphins entered Monday as a .500 team with a chance at making the playoffs. But with a struggling offensive line getting even worse without two key cogs, those postseason chances look slim.

"I think the psyche of this team is we're right in the middle of the wild-card hunt," Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo said. "We have a good opportunity to win several football games here and make the playoffs."

Not really. Miami cannot be taken seriously as a contender if it can't beat a winless team in November.

The Dolphins' offensive line needs major retooling, but it won't happen until 2014. Incognito, Clabo and starting guard John Jerry will all be free agents.

In the meantime, the Dolphins must accept mediocrity up front. In the complex saga of Incognito and Martin, which will dominate headlines for weeks, Monday's porous performance by the offensive line was an immediate side effect.

Locker Room Buzz: Miami Dolphins

November, 12, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- Observed in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 22-19 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

No excuses: Dolphins players offered no excuses for falling to the winless Buccaneers. Center Mike Pouncey and others admitted Tampa Bay played better and deserved to win. The Buccaneers jumped out to a 15-0 lead early and held on.

The boss: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was in the locker room and didn’t seem too thrilled with another loss. Miami lost its fifth game in six tries.

HOF: Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin was in attendance. He was a guest of the Dolphins after being appointed by Ross to be a part of a task force to clean up the locker-room culture.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

November, 11, 2013

TAMPA -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 22-19 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

What it means: The Dolphins continue to struggle with consistency. Miami lost its fifth game in six tries to fall to 4-5 on the season. This was perhaps the Dolphins’ worst loss of the season, and their playoff hopes took a big hit. Miami fell behind early, 15-0, in the first half and had to fight back the entire game. The Dolphins got a brief lead in the third quarter but still lost. You have to wonder how much distractions from the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin controversy played a part in Miami losing to Tampa Bay.

Stock watch: The Dolphins got a nice showing from new slot receiver Rishard Matthews, who is replacing the injured Brandon Gibson. Matthews caught 11 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first 100-yard game of the season.

In terms of stock down, Miami’s running game was terrible once again. The Dolphins rushed for just 2 yards on 14 carries. They had zero yards on seven carries in the first half. Miami’s offensive line was dominated at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t get many running lanes against Tampa Bay’s defensive line. Dolphins tailback Lamar Miller (2 yards, seven carries) also didn’t do his part to break many tackles.

Owner speaks: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross met with the media before the game and promised to make organizational changes to fix their locker-room culture after the Incognito-Martin fallout. Ross backed Miami head coach Joe Philbin but said no one is above repercussions if they’re found culpable in the NFL investigation. Ross will meet with Martin on Wednesday to discuss what happened.

What’s next: The road only gets tougher for Miami. The Dolphins will play host to the San Diego Chargers (4-5) in a game that could have AFC wild-card implications. Miami is 2-2 at home this season.

Dolphins-Bucs halftime notes

November, 11, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins trail the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 15-7, at halftime.

Here are some notes at intermission:
  • The Dolphins got off to another slow start in the first quarter. Miami’s defense gave up several big plays and the offense sputtered, which allowed Tampa Bay to take a 10-point lead early. The Dolphins just didn’t look ready to play amid all the distractions.
  • Credit also goes to the Buccaneers. The winless Bucs came out fast and jumped on Miami’s struggling secondary without starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson. Corner Nolan Carroll allowed a 30-yard catch to Tiquan Underwood and Brent Grimes had a 35-yard, pass-interference call that led to early points.
  • Miami’s running game has stalled early. The Dolphins rushed for zero yards on seven carries in the first half. Miami also got a safety running the ball, which forced offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to abandon the run early.

The Dolphins (4-4) face an important second half with a chance to get above .500.