Sputtering offense plagues Dolphins
DAVIE, Fla. -- Nothing comes easily these days for the Miami Dolphins. The lone touchdown scored by their offense in the past 21/2 games was awarded only after a replay review.
The unit led by rookie Ryan Tannehill has stalled during a three-game losing streak, and so has the franchise's turnaround under first-year coach Joe Philbin.
"Obviously we need to make some improvements quickly," Philbin said Friday, barely 12 hours after a 19-14 loss at Buffalo. The defeat dropped his team to 4-6 and quashed playoff talk, at least for now.
The only touchdown by the offense came with nine minutes left on a 2-yard pass from Tannehill to Davone Bess that was initially ruled incomplete. The reversal ended a streak of 27 consecutive offensive possessions without a TD.
Miami totaled a season-low 184 yards one week after managing 255 yards and three points against Tennessee. The recent lack of productivity is especially disturbing because the Titans and Bills have given up the most points in the NFL.
"The past two games, we haven't been good at all," running back Reggie Bush said. "We really haven't done much."
Bush totaled 41 yards rushing over the past two games, and the Dolphins have slipped to fourth-worst in the league in rushing yards per carry at 3.6.
Their team quarterback rating of 72.3 is also fourth-worst.
That's the wrong kind of offensive balance. Against Buffalo, Miami averaged a meager 4.0 yards per pass play and 3.3 per carry.
"We couldn't run the ball, and we couldn't throw the ball either," Bush said. "When you can't do either one, it's a recipe for disaster."
Tannehill showed steady improvement early in the season but regressed recently, throwing five interceptions in a five-day span. All 11 of his interceptions this year have come in defeats.
The rookie said the offense's recent woes are frustrating but educational.
"I feel like I'm getting better. I feel like I'm learning a lot," Tannehill said. "Obviously you can't turn the ball over, and that's a big problem right now. I realize that throwing five picks in the last two games is a big problem and one that needs to be addressed."
Philbin said Tannehill's decision-making of late has been good aside from "a couple of lapses," and the coach stressed that his quarterback is far from the lone culprit in the scoring slump.
"We haven't made enough plays around him, and he hasn't made enough plays," Philbin said. "Sometimes it's the protection, sometimes it's the route, sometimes it's a penalty, sometimes it's the lack of a running game. It's a variety of issues. We haven't discriminated."
Defense also shares responsibility for the losing streak, as the scoreboard would suggest: In the past 21/2 quarters Miami has been outscored 65-20.
Big plays have been a season-long problem on both sides of the ball. The offense lacks a deep threat at receiver, while the secondary is prone to breakdowns.
As a result, Miami has gained at least 20 yards on 29 plays while giving up 46 such plays, by far the worst disparity in the NFL.
Turnover differential is another source of consternation. The Dolphins rank third-worst at minus nine, and in the past two games they've committed seven turnovers while coming up with no takeaways.
"That's not good enough," Philbin said. "I'm embarrassed; I'm the head coach. That's one thing we preach all the time."
The weekend off will give the Dolphins extra time to assess the situation before heading into the toughest part of their schedule, beginning Nov. 25 against Seattle.
"You've got to make the plays that are available," defensive end Cameron Wake said. "The Bills made more than we did, and honestly, that's the same old song and dance. I feel like a broken record, and I'm getting tired of it. It's got to change, and it's got to change fast."
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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