Miami Dolphins: 2013 Week 8 MIA at NWE

Miami Dolphins Stock Watch

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
12:00
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The Miami Dolphins are on a season-high four-game losing streak.

Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and down in Miami.

Falling

1. Jeff Ireland, general manager: Right or wrong, when a team loses four consecutive games, the blame starts at the top. Ireland spent more than $200 million in total contracts in free agency, which included more than $100 million guaranteed. Yet, the Dolphins (3-4) are just as inconsistent as they were last year during their 7-9 campaign. Ireland is responsible for putting this team together, which has several major holes and depth issues. Ireland quietly received an extension in the offseason. But If the Dolphins do not turn things around quickly and continue to spiral, you wonder if that impacts his future with Miami owner Stephen Ross, who surely wants answers.

2. Joe Philbin, head coach: Ireland put the team together, but it’s Philbin’s job to game plan and get the Dolphins ready to play. Miami came out fast with a 17-3 lead at halftime. However, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made several adjustments in the second half and completely outcoached Philbin in the second half by scoring 24 unanswered points. Philbin did a solid job with the team in his first year by getting seven wins. But more was expected in Year 2 coaching a better team. Thursday at home against the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) will be a good test to see if Philbin can get the most out of his team and end the four-game losing skid.

3. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: It’s been a rough month for Tannehill. He had 10 turnovers -- seven interceptions and three lost fumbles -- during Miami’s four-game losing streak. Tannehill added another three turnovers against the Patriots. Tannehill started fast during Miami’s 3-0 start. But opponents have adjusted and are starting to expose several of Tannehill’s weaknesses, especially with ball security. The Dolphins aren’t going to win a lot of games if Tannehill continues to turn over the ball at the current pace.

Rising

1. Dolphins running game: Miami’s running game has quietly made a resurgence. The Dolphins rushed for a season-high 156 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry against New England. Lamar Miller rushed for a career-high 89 yards and backup tailback Daniel Thomas added 47 rushing yards. The Dolphins did a good job of controlling the clock, but turnovers did Miami in.

2. Bryant McKinnie, left tackle: It would have been completely understandable if McKinnie struggled in his first game with Miami. He was acquired last week in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens and had just three practices before being thrown in the starting lineup. In addition, McKinnie didn’t draw an easy assignment playing the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. But McKinnie held his own and kept New England pass-rusher Chandler Jones to zero sacks. The Patriots had six sacks total, but McKinnie did his job. He should improve with more practice time.

3. Rishard Matthews, wide receiver: Matthews is now the next man up. Miami slot receiver Brandon Gibson is expected to miss the rest of the year with a significant knee injury he suffered against New England. That puts Matthews in a big role as Miami’s third receiver. Matthews caught three passes for 30 yards filling in for Gibson. He will get a chance to prove he can become Miami’s new slot option for the remainder of the year.

Five-step drop: Miami Dolphins

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
2:00
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The Miami Dolphins are on a four-game losing streak after falling to the New England Patriots, 27-17, on Sunday.

Here are five notes and observations I have on the team this week:
  • Tannehill
    It’s curious why Miami abandoned the running game in the second half. The Dolphins jumped out to a 17-3 lead at intermission behind a strong rushing attacked that gained 103 yards in the first half. Miami called 22 running plays in the first half, but only nine in the second. The Dolphins averaged 5.0 yards per carry throughout a close and competitive game. Therefore, there was no reason to completely abandon the run.
  • Ignoring the running game made Miami’s offense predictable and one-dimensional in the third and fourth quarters. That is the primary reason the Patriots registered all six sacks against Miami in the second half. Miami panicked and became pass-heavy after quickly blowing a 14-point halftime lead. Without the threat of the run, New England’s pass-rushers were able to pin their ears back and come after Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami struggled picking up New England’s various blitzes.
  • The Dolphins’ run defense has been a major disappointment. For years, this has been a strength Miami has counted on consistently. I thought the Dolphins had the potential to be a top-five run defense with a deep defensive line and free-agent additions at linebacker. However, they are 19th against the run and allowing 109.9 yards per game. Miami’s front seven wears down late in games. The Patriots had 111 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against Miami’s defense in the second half alone.
  • Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon wouldn’t say after the game whether he was trying to recover the fourth-quarter fumble or bat the ball forward. After watching the replay a few times, it’s hard to tell because Vernon’s falling motion and sticking his arm out happened fast. The officials made the determination that Vernon batted the football forward intentionally, and it was a huge call against Miami that helped New England close out the game. The Patriots scored a touchdown four plays later.
  • Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick continues to increase his value. He had arguably his best game this season with four tackles and a pair of sacks against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Odrick has done everything asked of him while making the switch from defensive end to defensive tackle. Odrick also switched representation a few weeks ago, which could be an indication that he is looking to get a raise in the offseason. Miami will have some interesting decisions to make with Odrick looking to get paid and fellow defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks both unrestricted free agents in 2014.

Bryant McKinnie shows promise in debut

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
7:37
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It wasn’t all bad for the Miami Dolphins during their 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

Yes, the Dolphins lost their fourth straight game. Yes, Miami allowed 24 unanswered points in the second half to New England. But there were a few bright spots in defeat.

McKinnie
McKinnie
One of the biggest signs of life in Miami’s loss was the impromptu performance of new left tackle Bryant McKinnie. He was acquired less than a week ago and had just three practices. Yet, the veteran and former Pro Bowler held his own under tough circumstances.

McKinnie showed good feet in pass blocking and was a cog in Miami’s season-high 156 rushing yards. The Dolphins averaged 5.0 yards per carry and controlled the line of scrimmage most of the game, in part due to McKinnie.

“I feel like I did a decent job,” McKinnie said in the locker room afterwards. “To come in here on Tuesday and play on Sunday and had to learn a bunch of stuff in a short couple days, it only gets better from here. I get more time to learn.”

The final pass protection numbers were deceiving. Miami wound up allowing six sacks. But all six came in the second half once the Dolphins lost momentum and became predictably pass-heavy.

McKinnie was solid against New England’s top pass-rusher Chandler Jones. The Patriots' defensive end was held without a sack. McKinnie was certainly an upgrade over embattled offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, who was benched Sunday after allowing eight sacks this season.

Most of New England’s sacks came from outside pressures and lack of blitz-pickups. That is something that must improve.

“We’re going to make some adjustments I’m sure, and we’re going to get things corrected,” McKinnie said.

Sacks remain an issue for Miami. But McKinnie’s performance on short notice Sunday is proof that the Dolphins’ pass protection can make strides.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Miami Dolphins had a tough day with the officials. The biggest call came in the fourth quarter following a sack on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Down three points, Dolphins defensive back Jimmy Wilson forced Brady to fumble with nine minutes left in the game. Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon was closing in on the recovery but could not corral the football.

The ball bounced 14 more yards and Patriots left tackle Nate Solder recovered at Miami’s 45-yard line. However, the official threw the flag on Olivier for illegally batting the ball forward.

Instead of losing 22 total yards, New England gained 10 yards on the penalty. The 32-yard swing led to the Patriots scoring their final touchdown four plays later in a 27-17 victory against Miami.

“You know, our stance was we thought he was trying to recover it,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “And they said he illegally batted it.”

Here was referee Walt Anderson’s explanation after the game via the pool report:
“The official on the field, what he ruled was that the player batted it forward, which is an intentional act. Players cannot bat the ball forward. With it being the defensive team they couldn’t bat it in that direction. The offensive team likelwise could not have batted it forward from their side of the field.”

Anderson further explained that the play was not reviewable.

Players in Miami’s locker room would not elaborate much on the questionable officiating Sunday. That may have been an edict from Philbin. It also prevents players from getting fined.

There were a few other plays such as a defensive holding call on Miami cornerback Dimitri Patterson and a potential sideline catch by receiver Rishard Matthews that didn’t go the Dolphins’ way. But Vernon’s call was clearly the most important.

“I was trying to make a play,” Vernon said. “But the ref called it and that’s what it is.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots lost top receiver Wes Welker to free agency, cut tight end Aaron Hernandez and lost defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to a season-ending injury.

Still, a sizable gap remains between the Patriots (6-2) and Miami Dolphins (3-4).

The Dolphins had their best chance in several years to prove that they can overcome “Mount New England” in the AFC East. Miami spent about $200 million in free agency -- which includes more than $100 million guaranteed -- and allocated plenty of resources in the draft with the goal of catching the Patriots within the division. The Patriots also do not have the starpower as previous years. Many of their top players were let go in the offseason or suffered significant injuries.

As vulnerable as New England appears, it still beat the Dolphins by double digits. The Patriots scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to win, 27-17, at Gillette Stadium. The game marked Miami’s fourth consecutive defeat and second in a row within the AFC East.

Miami jumped out to a 17-3 lead, but New England flexed its muscle in the second half to show the Patriots are still the dominant team in this series. Once New England got rolling, this game looked like many other Patriot wins over Miami in recent years. The Dolphins made untimely miscues and turnovers in the second half that they couldn't overcome.

“There’s a lot of momentum in football, especially when you have a good team like the Patriots at home,” Dolphins defensive back Jimmy Wilson said. “They have a ridiculous record at home and you just can’t give those guys momentum.”

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was blunt after the game and didn’t offer any excuses.

“They played a very good football game and clearly deserved to win the game,” Philbin said. “[New England] played better than we did and we have to do better.”

The Patriots are still the stronger team, even on a down year. New England didn’t come close to playing its best game. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for just 116 yards yet New England still won by 10 points.

New England is now three games up on Miami in the win column. After losing to the Patriots and Buffalo Bills in back-to-back weeks, Miami’s chances of winning the AFC East are looking dim -- and it’s only Week 8.

Miami got off to a fast, 3-0 start this year. But it's easy to view the Dolphins as a sinking ship after losing four in a row and haven’t won a game since Sept. 22. Is Miami’s season slipping away?

“If we don’t get wins in these next games, I feel like it could slip away,” Dannell Ellerbe said. “But right now we got to focus on the next game. If we get a win Thursday, we’re just going to build a streak. The same way we lost four, we can win four.

“We’re just looking forward to getting this next win. This losing, I’m not used to it and I don’t like it. I know we don’t like it here.”

Dolphins must cope with Gibson loss

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
5:48
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The crutches and a downtrodden look on Brandon Gibson's face told the story Sunday evening. Gibson is most likely done for the year with a significant knee injury.

Gibson
Gibson blew out his knee in the first quarter of Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots. Gibson jumped high for an errant Ryan Tannehill and landed awkwardly. He needed help off the field, was eventually carted back to the locker room and never return to the game.

There is a strong chance Gibson won’t return this season. According to an NFL Network report, Gibson has a torn patella tendon in his left knee, and that injury usually takes at least six months to recover.

The Dolphins will have further tests on Gibson Monday once the team returns to South Florida. But the receiver didn’t sound like a player who expects to return to the field any time soon.

“I think each and every game was a good experience for me,” Gibson said in the locker room, while reflecting on his season. “I feel like I was getting better. ... But this kind of puts a damper on it now.”

When asked about Gibson’s status during his post-game press conference, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said “I hadn’t really spoken to anybody about it.” Miami probably won't confirm the severity of Gibson's injury until the team has to decide whether to place him on injured reserve.

The Dolphins (3-4) only have three healthy receivers on their 53-man roster. With nine games remaining, Miami must find some answers and depth at receiver with Gibson out.

Miami currently has Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and second-year receiver Rishard Matthews on the 53-man roster. Ryan Spadola and Nathan Palmer also are on the practice squad.

For now the pressure is on Matthews to step up. The Dolphins like to run a lot of three-receiver sets, which would require Matthews to get a lot of playing time. Miami could also change its offense and go to more two tight-end sets.

Gibson was having a solid season. He recorded 30 receptions for 326 yards and three touchdowns. All three of his touchdowns were in the past two games.

Gibson was quietly on of this year’s best free-agent pickups for Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland. Now, Ireland must come up with another solution to keep Miami’s passing offense going.

Locker Room Buzz: Miami Dolphins

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
5:09
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observed in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots:

Gibson
Gibson appears done: Miami slot receiver Brandon Gibson was in the locker room on crutches Sunday evening. Although he will get further tests on his left knee injury Monday when the team returns to South Florida, Gibson sounded like a player who could be done for the year. “I think each and every game was a good experience for me,” Gibson said while reflecting on his season. “I feel like I was getting better. ... but this kind of puts a damper on it now.”

Downtrodden Dolphins: It was a somber locker room for the fourth straight game. The Dolphins haven’t won since Sept. 22, and now you have to wonder if confidence will become an issue. Miami backup defensive back Jimmy Wilson says that’s not the case. “I don’t feel like the season is slipping away because we got a great team here,” Wilson said. “We just got to rattle off [wins]. We lost four in a row. Now, we have to win four in a row.”

Left unspoken: Miami’s players had plenty of opportunities to call out the officials following Sunday’s loss to New England. There were two or three controversial calls in the game that went against Miami. The biggest call was against Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon for illegally batting the ball. “I really can’t say anything about that,” Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. “It’s just something we have to bounce back from.”

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
4:07
PM ET

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

What it means: Despite a strong effort, the Dolphins (3-4) dropped their fourth straight game and their first two in the AFC East. Miami spent its entire offseason trying to close the gap with the Patriots. It looked good for the first half following a fast start. The Dolphins led 17-3 at halftime. But New England turned it on at home and rode the wave of 24 unanswered points in the second half to get the victory. You have to wonder when things will turn around for the Dolphins. Miami has not won since Sept. 22, but the effort is there.

Stock Watch: Rising: New Dolphins left tackle Bryant McKinnie played relatively well in his Miami debut. Coming off just three days of practice, McKinnie did a solid job on New England defensive end Chandler Jones. McKinnie should improve once he gets more time to learn the offense. Miami defensive tackle Jared Odrick also had arguably his best game of the year with four tackles and two sacks.

Falling: Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis and quarterback Ryan Tannehill had two game-changing plays that hurt Miami. Sturgis missed a key 46-yard field goal in the third quarter that ultimately led to New England's first touchdown. He also had a field goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. Tannehill was sacked by Patriots defensive back Logan Ryan and fumbled in the third quarter. New England tied the score with another touchdown. Tannehill also threw two interceptions.

The officiating also was shaky. The Dolphins had a few questionable calls against them, including a 10-yard penalty for illegal batting of the ball by Olivier Vernon that kept New England’s drive alive and led to a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Big loss: Miami’s receiving corps took a big hit in the first quarterback when slot receiver Brandon Gibson suffered a left knee injury. Gibson went high for a pass and landed awkwardly. He was carted to the locker room. Gibson is expected to miss significant time. Miami has only three healthy receivers on its 53-man roster and most likely will sign another from the practice squad or in free agency.

What’s next: The Dolphins will not have a lot of time to recover from this tough loss. They will host the first-place Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. This could be Miami’s last chance to make something significant of its season. The Dolphins, who had preseason playoff aspirations, can get back to .500 with a victory. A loss to Cincinnati would make it five straight and put a major dent in any hopes of a postseason run.

Dolphins halftime notes: Fast start

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
2:20
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Miami Dolphins lead the New England Patriots, 17-3, at intermission.

Here are some halftime thoughts for the Dolphins:
  • Miami finally got off to a fast start. The Dolphins had been outscored 34-23 in first quarters entering the game, but scored an early touchdown following an interception from cornerback Dimitri Patterson. Miami took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter and controlled the pace of the game for most of the first half.
  • The Dolphins started new left tackle Bryant McKinnie, as expected. McKinnie had just three days of practice, but has looked solid in the first half. McKinnie has done a good job of stonewalling Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones on many passing downs. But McKinnie’s run blocking has been inconsistent.
  • Miami slot receiver Brandon Gibson suffered what appears to be a significant left knee injury in the first quarter. Gibson jumped for a high pass and landed awkwardly. He was carted off the field and sent into the locker room. The NFL Network is reporting that Gibson is expected to miss the rest of the season.
  • Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis nailed a 52-yard field goal at the end of the half. He missed his previous two attempts of 51 and 57 yards, respectively.

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