Danny Amendola is latest Texas Tech tough guy to join Dolphins, following Zach Thomas and Wes Welker

Finally the Miami Dolphins have figured out a way to put the pinch on Tom Brady.

By signing Danny Amendola to a free-agent contract, the Dolphins deny Brady the use of one of his most reliable targets and a key member of the NFL’s top offensive unit.

Can’t call Amendola invaluable, of course. If Bill Belichick thought that term applied to

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) makes a catch between Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Koa Misi (55) and Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Philip Wheeler (52) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 15, 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

the slot receiver, New England would have outbid Miami for his services. Already, Amendola has taken some $10 million in paycuts the last three offseasons in order to stay with the Patriots.

Think, though, of the toughness Amendola brought to the Patriots’ huddle, and the leadership he will bring to Miami’s locker room. See if any of this fits the new “culture” that the Dolphins and coach Adam Gase want to build, albeit three years late.

Amendola signed with the Patriots just as Wes Welker was leaving them, a demonstration of his willingness to take on a big challenge.

He started only half of the Patriots’ 2017 games but had such a rapport with Brady that he was targeted more times (86) than anyone but Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski.

Amendola caught just two touchdown passes during the 2017 regular season, nothing dramatic, but then he caught two more in the fourth quarter of New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game. Altogether, in 13 playoffs games with New England he caught six touchdown passes.

What’s more, according to the Boston Herald, Amendola kept on playing through a torn groin in 2013, knee and ankle injuries in 2015.

Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of Texas Tech after playing there for Mike Leach, one of the most inventive coaches around.

Matter of fact, I’m going to suggest that the Dolphins look to Texas Tech more often in the talent searches of the draft and free agency.

That’s where linebacker Zach Thomas played his college ball on the way to a great Dolphins career that featured seven Pro Bowl selections.

And how about Welker, another Texas Tech star who the Dolphins didn’t really prize until he had left them and, in a New England uniform, transformed himself into the NFL’s leading receiver.

Jakeem Grant, 5-feet-7, is another little hardhead from Texas Tech. He and Amendola will be playing together now in Miami and maybe even sharing time in the slot position, unless Adam Gase decides he only needs one of them.

Will Brady be able to keep his offense moving without Amendola? Of course. He never slows down, no matter who is running the routes.

This addition of Amendola, however, will return to Ryan Tannehill some of the third-down certainty that was lost with the trade of Jarvis Landry to Cleveland for money reasons alone.

This may not work out so well if Amendola, 32, continues to have trouble with a bad knee that’s been bothering him the last few seasons. Can’t blame the Dolphins, though, for taking what Brady wants.

At least make the Patriots work a little harder on their way to the Super Bowl. At least make them do that.

[Not feeling confident about Gators, Canes and Noles in NCAA tourney]

[Justin Thomas’ climb to No. 2 in world gives Honda Classic another boost]

[Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast]

 

Eagles could go from losers to Super Bowl champs in one year, but what about Miami?

How far are the Miami Dolphins from winning a Super Bowl?

It seems a ridiculous question coming off a 6-10 season, but there is a history of losing teams making the jump to NFL champion in the space of just one year.

New England did it in 2001. The Patriots were 5-11 the previous season and there was

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld, second from bottom, is followed by running back LeGarrette Blount, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and quarterback Nick Foles, as they arrive for the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia is scheduled to face the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

nothing much to recommend them except that they never got shut out. Miami suffered that indignity twice in 2017, and it very nearly happened a third time.

The 1999 St. Louis Rams won a Super Bowl after going 4-12 the previous season and sticking Dick Vermeil with the worst record of his 15-year NFL coaching career.

San Francisco won it all in 1981, just one year removed from a 6-10 clunker that was similar in some ways to what the Dolphins are going through. Bill Walsh, for instance, was in his second year as an NFL head coach and he had no more luck igniting his creative offensive ideas with Steve DeBerg at quarterback than Adam Gase did with Jay Cutler.

So what happened to transform those losers into Super Bowl champs so quickly? Obviously there was improvement throughout the rosters, but the most glaring similarity was a significant upgrade at quarterback.

Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Joe Montana all were first trusted to handle full-time starting roles in those breakthrough seasons. They got their teams through some tight spots and continued to do so for years thereafter.

So about those Dolphins. Can’t see Ryan Tannehill or even some first-round draft pick suddenly giving Gase all that he needs at quarterback. It’s not impossible, though.

The Philadelphia Eagles were 7-9 a year ago and it’s not impossible that they might become Super Bowl champs on Sunday, even with a supposed downgrade at quarterback.

[Mullen promises national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Hall of Fame when Marlins traded him?]

[Nothing left for LeBron to do but give player-coaching a try]

Eagles are only conference finalist that Miami doesn’t play next year

So the Miami Dolphins are trying to bounce back from a 6-10 clunker of a season and this is what happens?

Three of the four teams in the NFL’s conference championship round are on Miami’s

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson on the sideline duting an divisional round game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 14, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

2018 schedule. There’s a trip to Minnesota, a home game with Jacksonville and the usual AFC East home-and-away with New England

The only one left out is Philadelphia, the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

There’s no guarantee, then, that the Dolphins will have to play the defending Super Bowl champion next season but, really, has anything else been going their way lately?

The last Dolphins coach to beat a defending Super Bowl champion other than New England was Jimmy Johnson, who knocked off Denver in the 1999 season opener.

 

[Looking like one of those weird years in NFL playoffs]

[Mullen, Gators need to join parade of true freshman QBs]

                   [$10 million sure didn’t buy much with Jay Cutler]

 

$10 million sure didn’t buy Dolphins much with Jay Cutler

 

It was a nice round number back in August when Jay Cutler signed for $10 million to provide the Miami Dolphins with one season of competent quarterbacking.

Easy to remember. Fairly easy to swallow, since it was Stephen Ross’ money and not ours, and since Ryan Tannehill shockingly was out of the season.

Also, $10 million in “special money” is what Jeffrey Loria spent for the one-year rental of Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez, a key figure in the old Florida Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship run. That worked out pretty well.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler on the sidelines in the first quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, December 31, 2017. (Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post)

Now that Miami’s 6-10 season has ended, however, there are many ways to show what a waste Cutler’s signing was in a league where journeyman quarterbacks play, and sometimes win, for so much less.

The Minnesota Vikings, for instance, earned a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs at 13-3. Their quarterback Case Keenum, signed in March to provide depth behind Sam Bradford, is working on a 2017 salary of $2 million.

Other quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs either because of injuries or because their team had no one else include Philadelphia’s Nick Foles ($1.6 million) the Rams’ Jared Goff ($6.4 million), Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles ($6.57 million), Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota ($6.6 million) and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor ($9.7 million).

These numbers come from a Sports Illustrated report in August and are based on 2017 cap hits alone, not overall contract values.

So Cutler got a pretty good deal to come out of retirement at 34. And what did he give Miami in return? Pretty much what he’s given every other team that has started him.

In 14 starts Cutler had a quarterback rate of 80.8. That’s slightly below his career average of 85.3 but certainly in the ballpark. Jacoby Brissett, the tough Dwyer High School product who has started 17 games as an emergency quarterback in New England and Indianapolis, is a fair match for Cutler’s numbers in this category.

Cutler threw 14 interceptions for the Dolphins. His average was 16-plus over the seven previous seasons where he avoided missing major time due to injury.

By throwing 19 touchdowns in 2017 Cutler came in just under his average of 23 over those same seven seasons where he was mostly healthy.

Cutler averaged 190 passing yards per game in Miami. That’s 29th in the league and two spots ahead of Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky.

Overall, the Dolphins would have been better off with Tyrod Taylor, who always seems to beat the Dolphins and throws fewer picks. Buffalo’s got Taylor, however, and Buffalo is in the playoffs.

There are other ways to quantify how badly the Dolphins overpaid to get a quarterback that coach Adam Gase believed capable of saving the season, but here is the simplest way to state who Cutler is and who he’s always been.

With Miami Cutler was 6-8 as a starter. Over his career he is 74-79 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs.

Nothing worth writing home about, or writing a big check, either.

[Does anybody out there want a piece of UCF now?]

[Jeter missed memo on how fed up Marlins fans are with fire sales]

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger will play Honda Classic]

Remembering what Ricky did there, Dolphins shouldn’t fear a snowy day in Buffalo

Let it snow.

I’m saying that because absolutely anything can happen when a football game is played in wintry conditions, and because the Miami Dolphins are at the stage of the season where absolutely everything must happen in order for them to make the playoffs.

ORCHARD PARK, NY –  LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills scores a touchdown to win the game during overtime against the Indianapolis Colts on December 10, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

So when the Dolphins play at Buffalo on Sunday, a real mid-December treat from the NFL schedule-makers, might as well root for the kind of accumulation that turned last week’s game there between the Bills and the Colts into a snow-globe classic.

Light snow and sleet and eventually a full-on barrage of near whiteout conditions didn’t stop Ricky Williams from rushing for a career-best 228 yards at Buffalo on Dec. 1, 2002. That remains a Miami franchise record, and it came on a day when the temperature was 25 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 13.

The Dolphins’ first snap was a handoff from Ray Lucas to Ricky, who rumbled 45 yards around left end for a touchdown. The field was slippery, but so what?

In the third quarter Ricky cut loose right up the middle for a 55-yard score. The snow was building from a fine powder to a regular winter wonderland by then, but so what?

Truth is, Ricky would have had a chance at 250 total rushing yards if not for a leg injury that removed him from the game early in the fourth quarter.

“I was a little nervous about it,” Ricky said, admitting postgame that he had been checking the weather forecast on his cellphone all week. “It wasn’t bad, you know. It was just cold. Once you get past the mental part of it being cold and you being miserable, then it’s just football.”

Drew Bledsoe, the Bills’ quarterback at the time, clearly agreed. While Lucas was laboring on a 6-for-11 passing day with two fumbles, Bledsoe threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Included in there was a 73-yard touchdown pass from Bledsoe to Peerless Price, the play that put Buffalo ahead to stay in a 38-21 victory.

How would Kenyan Drake fare on an icy field if it comes to that on Sunday? That would be a new experience for the Dolphins’ new feature running back, who grew up in Georgia and played college ball at Alabama. All I know is that Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy rushed for 156 yards and the winning touchdown in overtime last week in snow up to his ankles, and it was his best game of the season.

In the end, there need be no particular advantage for either team, not when the Bills have an indoor practice facility to use on snowy weekdays.

So bring on the blizzard. The Dolphins and Bills are each trying to slip and slide their way into a wild-card playoff spot anyway. Might as well make it truly epic.

[A dream night for Jakeem Grant, but what about that TD drop?]

[It’s OK to start wondering if Tiger Woods will return to Honda Classic]

[Bobby considered FSU a destination job but Jimbo? Not so much]

A dream night for Jakeem, but not without the familiar frustrations

Jakeem Grant finally caught a touchdown pass on Monday night, the first of his NFL career, and people are still mad at him.

Because the guy is 5-feet-7 and 169 pounds, everything Jakeem ever does is going to be magnified, if that makes any sense. To me, it’s a wonder that he’s even in the league. Speed and elusiveness got him here as a specialty player, of course, but being so different means that he always is going to try a little too hard, too.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant catches a touchdown pass over New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler in the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 11, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

There was a play in Monday’s 27-20 upset of New England, for instance, where Jakeem decided not to return a punt but couldn’t keep himself from standing way too close to the bouncing ball as it settled to a rest. What was the point of that, when touching it would have made it a live ball? A New England player even took the opportunity to shove Grant toward the ball while everyone was just standing around and watching it on the ground.

Very poor instincts for a player who has returned 41 punts and 38 kickoffs in his career.

Two other spotlight moments from Monday night introduced a whole new category of exasperation for Jakeem the Dream.

The first was a spectacular leaping grab for a 25-yard touchdown over Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX for his interception at the goal line with 20 seconds remaining. Jay Cutler made the ball a 50-50 proposition and Jakeem hauled it in for a 20-10 Miami lead. Not only was it Grant’s first career touchdown catch, it was his fifth NFL reception period.

In the fourth quarter, however, Jakeem had everyone gasping, Miami and New England fans alike, with a dropped ball that could have gone for a game-clinching touchdown bomb. Cutler put the ball on Jakeem’s fingertips, just slightly beyond comfortable reach, but instead of a transformational, two-touchdown night it turned into a major downer. Grant, who had trouble with drops last year as a rookie, said in the locker room that he reached out his arms too soon instead of running through the ball and catching up to it more easily.

I tried to cut the kid a little slack on Monday night, tweeting that because the ball didn’t arrive in perfect stride and required a stretch on the dead run it should not be classified as a truly horrendous drop. Many of the responses to that opinion were similarly sympathetic, signaling that tons of people are pulling for Jakeem to succeed, but here is one that probably resonates with most of you.

“C’mon dude, an NFL player should make that catch!”

Bottom line, Jakeem made himself available by sprinting past Butler and into the clear but failed to finish the play. At that point of the game, with New England on the ropes, it was the one play that everybody would have gone home talking about on Monday night, not only as Cutler’s fourth touchdown pass but as a Mark Duper moment for Jakeem.

Credit Adam Gase with finding ways to utilize Grant in this game, even lining him up in the backfield a time or two. You’ve got to find things that Bill Belichick and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia haven’t planned for, and who game-plans for Jakeem?

I still wonder, however, if the former sixth-round draft pick will be on the Dolphins roster next season. Might as well keep using him as much as is practical in the final three regular-season games to explore all the possibilities.

One thing is for certain. With Jakeem Grant, a gadget player with the ongoing mission of becoming a reliable wide receiver, it will never be boring.

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger Woods will play in Honda Classic]

[Bobby made FSU seem a dream destination but Jimbo? Not so much]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Schiano and Mullen]

Playoffs? Dolphins history says you just can’t get there from 5-7

The Miami Dolphins looked great against Denver last Sunday. Now all they have to do is play great enough to win the last four games of the regular season, including a Monday nighter against New England, and they’re, what, a remote playoff possibility?

Truth is, the reality of the situation is even tougher than that sounds.

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) enters the field during pre game introductions at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 3, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

No Miami team has ever gone from 5-7 to a playoff appearance. The only thing that comes close to that is 1995, Don Shula’s final season, when the Dolphins were 6-6 after 12 games and rallied to claim the AFC’s final wild-card spot at 9-7.

It was a struggle all the way, with Bernie Kosar starting a couple of midseason defeats at quarterback while Dan Marino was dealing with an injured hip. Three wins in the last four games earned a playoff spot, but the spark was quickly snuffed by a 37-22 loss at Buffalo in the opening playoff round.

The Bills led that one 37-0 through three quarters, which is a fair indication of how these things usually go when a flawed team barely reaches the playoffs and is matched against one of the league’s best. Today’s Dolphins, in comparison, have more flaws than the 1995 version, so it really is silly expecting anything spectacular to happen for them now.

Since 2000, no AFC team has qualified for the playoffs with fewer than nine wins.

One of the most disappointing memories in recent franchise history was the 2013 season, when Miami was almost there but ran out of gas.

Wins over Pittsburgh and New England raised hopes for those Dolphins, who improved to 8-6 in the process. Then came a 19-0 loss at Buffalo and a 20-7 loss at home to the New York Jets.

Kerplunk, Joe Philbin missed the playoffs by a game at 8-8. The only good news is that Ryan Tannehill somehow got through it in one piece after leading the league with 58 sacks.

Adam Gase’s 2017 Dolphins have demonstrated the same tendency to curl up into a ball for long stretches, getting shut out two times and very nearly a third. Until there is mathematical elimination, however, there will be talk of turning things around.

You understand how hollow that talk is, but I just wanted to highlight what the echoes of the past say about this.

When a team is 5-7 and there are so many other teams bunched just above, you can’t get there from here.

[Rams’ Sean McVay has overtaken Adam Gase as NFL’s Next Big Thing]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good situation who wants to be great]

Rams’ Sean McVay is NFL’s hot new flavor while Adam Gase has lost his savor

You know the wonders we all wanted rookie head coach Adam Gase to work last year with Ryan Tannehill, the promising quarterback with several levels of development still to come?

Well, Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in the NFL, is making it happen with Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff heads for the field during player introductions before the start of a game against the New Orleans Saints played at Los Angeles on November 26, 2017. (AP Photo/John Cordes)

Of course, any player who goes No. 1 overall in the NFL draft is supposed to succeed. The thing is that Goff didn’t succeed as a rookie in 2016. He rode the bench for the first nine games, even though the Rams weren’t going anywhere. Was he still not ready? Was he just not as good as advertised?

There were no good answers to those questions even after former Rams coach Jeff Fisher finally decided to give the kid a start. That day is memorable only because it featured the Rams against Miami and was part of the Dolphins’ six-game win streak on the way to a playoff berth.

Still not all that memorable? OK, the details are these. Miami scored a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns to get out of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a 14-10 victory. Both of those scores came on Tannehill passes, and the winner came with 36 seconds remaining at the end of a rapid 75-yard drive.

Goff, meanwhile, was not particularly dangerous, completing 17 of 31 passes for 134 yards with nothing longer than 21 yards and a total of just 12 first downs for the Rams. Tannehill looked like a veteran quarterback, in other words, and Goff looked like a pup. Overall Goff lost all seven of his starts to close out the season and his lack of development was one of the reasons that Fisher got fired.

Enter McVay, who fired up Kirk Cousins’ stats while working as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator and got the Rams’ top job at the age of 31.

All of a sudden the Rams are 8-3 and Goff has a quarterback rating of 98.6 that ranks eighth in the league, ahead of Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. Goff has 18 touchdowns and five interceptions and is playing every bit like a first-round quarterback should play.

Tannehill had a good year in his first season with Gase, too, but the numbers (93.5 rating, 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) aren’t quite as sharp and it must be considered that 2016 was his fifth year in the league. In theory, Tannehill should have been more ready for a breakout season than Goff, who skipped his senior year at California and is barely 23.

All of this adds to the perception that Gase no longer is the fresh flavor of the month in NFL coaching. Far from it.

Losing Tannehill for the season in August was beyond Gase’s control, of course, but absolutely everything else about the Dolphins offense has gone wrong, too. If it were Tannehill at quarterback and not Jay Cutler or Matt Moore, it figures the story wouldn’t be much better.

Not saying that Gase is a lousy coach or that his stay in Miami will be short, but clearly his ability to make the Dolphins into a Super Bowl contender on offensive ingenuity and a gigantic reserve of self-confidence no longer sells around here.

There always will be hot new coaches. What’s needed in Miami is a system that consistently works, even when the flame begins to die down.

Fair or not, it’s difficult to say right now that Gase would get the same out of a guy like Goff that McVay is getting. As the weeks go by and the losses pile up, Gase is looking more and more like a coach who is discovering how tough this job really is, and one who isn’t quite sure what to do about it.

Add it to the big bucket of confusion about the 2017 Dolphins. That bucket looks even deeper when a team like the Rams, 4-12 last year, begins to come on strong.

Last question, and it really stings. If the Dolphins wind up with a high 2018 draft pick and decide to go for a quarterback, would Gase be able to make that pay off? You want to say yes, but everything about this franchise is beginning to feel like a wish again.

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good solution who wants to be great]

[Hurricanes finally brought out the beast in antiseptic Hard Rock Stadium]

 

 

Hurricanes have finally brought out the beast in fancy-schmancy Hard Rock Stadium

Turns out there never really was anything all that wrong with Hard Rock Stadium, a building that has worn many other names since its opening 30 years ago. Took a while to figure it out, though.

When the Miami Dolphins didn’t get much going after moving there from the Orange Bowl, everyone agreed that the new facility had no soul. The seats were too far away from the action. The noise leaked out before anyone had a chance to feel it. Pretty and clean, sure, but where was the grit?

It was the same when the Miami Hurricanes showed up in 2008. Must have been the building to blame for all those lackluster seasons. Couldn’t have been Randy Shannon and Al Golden.

The Marlins kept looking to get out, too, reasoning that baseball wasn’t meant for so big a barn and that’s what explained the team’s perennially poor attendance.

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Zach McCloud  celebrates with fans after Miami’s 41-8 win over  Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday, November 11, 2017.  (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Funny, though, how sellout crowds of 67,000-plus filled the facility, then known as Pro Player Stadium, for the 1997 World Series, and again when the Marlins won it all in 2003. Couldn’t hear yourself think in there, as I recall.

Winning big is the secret to every stadium’s charm, and the Hurricanes are proving it again with the rock-show atmosphere of their recent home wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

Along the way, Stephen Ross has spent the money and Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkle has used it wisely to spruce up Hard Rock in many important ways, including a canopy to keep sun and rain out but lock crowd noise in. If the teams stink, however, it’s like booking a show that nobody wants to see for the Kravis Center. You can send half the ushers and valet parkers home in that case because it just ain’t happening.

Ask anybody who attended the Notre Dame game last Saturday night if the stadium experience felt flat to them.

Ask if they would like to return to the Orange Bowl days, with backless benches for sitting and backyards for parking.

The answer from some will always be yes, so sweet was the big-game sound of the Hurricanes and the Super Bowl Dolphins back there. It’s nostalgia, a magnet to the past, and that’s understandable.

Don’t imagine, though, that Hard Rock is actually soft, that opponents will never worry about coming there because the place is just too corporate. That notion doesn’t fly anymore.

The 9-0 Hurricanes have proven it wrong and you can tell it because there reportedly will be something close to a sellout for Saturday’s home game with Virginia. That’s for a noon start, the exact opposite of those late-night parties of the last two weeks, and it’s against an opponent that drew just 40,963 customers the last time these two teams met at Hard Rock.

The new building that Joe Robbie built isn’t so new anymore after three decades of sports events and concerts and such. It’s far from perfect, no matter how many expensive improvements are made, and there always will be a little too antiseptic to satisfy some rough and ready football fans.

What counts for personality down there, however, will always be the personality of the spectators themselves. And if they’re wildly happy, as they have been lately with the Hurricanes, Hard Rock Stadium will continue to be a wild and happy place.

The kind of place that earns a rugged nickname that rolls right off the tongue, like The Rock.

 

If you have the courage, here’s where Monday night’s lifeless defensive effort ranks in Dolphins history

I lack the precision to work for the Elias Sports Bureau statistical search team, and then there’s the  personal flaw of occasionally getting up from my desk to eat or sleep.

You can trust me, however, when I say that Monday night’s defensive showing by the Miami Dolphins was historically bad.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina rolled up a franchise-record 548 yards in total offense in a 45-21 victory that Cam Newton didn’t even bother to finish. By hunting through a half century of Dolphins stats, I could find only seven games in which Miami allowed more yards, and three of those were in overtime.

Here’s the list of deadliest defensive efforts in Dolphins history.

622 yards allowed, 38-24 loss to New England in 2011

597 yards allowed, 38-34 loss to New York Jets in 1988

593 yards allowed, 31-28 loss to L.A. Rams in 1976

589 yards allowed, 34-31 OT loss to Buffalo in 2016

582 yards allowed, 35-31 loss to Buffalo in 1991

581 yards allowed, 51-45 OT loss to New York Jets in 1986

564 yards allowed, 41-38 playoff OT loss to San Diego to end 1981 season

548 yards allowed, 45-21 loss to Charlotte in 2017

Every game but Monday’s was a shootout, a competitive game, an NFL happening.

This loss to Carolina, the 21st-ranked offense in the league, was a dud from the start. Poor tackling, including several total whiffs. Lousy coverage of receivers, who actually helped Miami quite a bit with some wide-open drops. Poor positioning and sluggish response to practically everything the Panthers presented, and it’s worth noting that Carolina was limited to a single field goal by Chicago a few weeks back.

I covered a couple of the games on the list above and they rank among the most compelling assignments of my career. The overtime playoff loss to the Chargers at the old Orange Bowl. The 51-45 video-game affair at the Meadowlands in which Dan Marino passed for a career-high six touchdowns and lost.

Today’s Dolphins have no one on offense to balance out big numbers like these, but I don’t want to hear about Jay Cutler being a turnover machine or Adam Gase trading Jay Ajayi away or anything else.

When the Miami defense is disintegrating like this, allowing the two highest yardage totals of the season in consecutive weeks, there is nothing to say except that the entire team is kaput, and the season with it.

Feels strange to say something like that about a 4-5 team, especially when the Dolphins turned the 2016 season around so rapidly and so well after a 1-4 start, but it is so.

You can’t win much of anything in the NFL playing Pac-12 defense. Things will get better against Tampa Bay this Sunday but then comes New England and Kansas City and all the rest.

Prepare to see more entries to the franchise’s list of Top-10 defensive demolitions. Prepare for the moment when things like these are no longer shocking.

Once the Miami defense lays down, and it appears to have happened, there’s just no getting up for this team.