A Tough Loss And Lessons To Be Learned

Posted Sep 23, 2012

In a game that can be dictated by inches, the little things do add up.

So close. Yet so far. That about sums up the plight of the Miami Dolphins in a heart-pounding overtime loss to the New York Jets.

The Dolphins had so many chances to win this game. But a drive stalls, a field goal goes wide, the Jets hit a big play and then their kick is good. It was a day of “what ifs” for the Miami Dolphins.

The good? This defense continues to dominate against the run. Rookie Ryan Tannehill shook off a costly interception to help the Dolphins regain the lead. Brian Hartline makes a highlight-reel catch in overtime that helped set up what would have been the game-winning kick. So many players stepped up with important plays.

It just wasn’t enough.

You have to feel for placekicker Dan Carpenter. He has come through so many times before. You just know he’ll come through so many times again. But this was not his day. Two missed field goals, one in the fourth quarter and one in overtime, proved too costly to overcome.

See, the margin for error with these Dolphins is a small one. They have to do so many things right to succeed. A lot of little things. Some big things. But you give up an interception return for a touchdown, you miss a pair of field goals, you don’t deliver a knockout blow when you are up 10-0, and you let the Jets just hang around, that’s the recipe for a 23-20 overtime loss.

After three games, what do we know about these Miami Dolphins?

We know they stop the run about as well as any team in the league. We know that Tannehill has shown enough positives to justify long-range confidence in his ability. We know that the running game is solid with Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller.

But we also know that the secondary needs fine-tuning, that the offensive line needs time to grow together and that the absence of playmakers on the outside is something these Dolphins must deal with all season.

A couple of first downs in the fourth quarter could have changed everything. Small things. Small things that add up. Who knows, for instance, how the outcome would have changed if Bush hadn’t gone out with an injury late in the second quarter. He already was off to what had the makings of another huge day.

It is clear that there isn’t much that separates the Dolphins and Jets. A three-point overtime game only underlines that. I believe that’s the way it’s going to be much of this season. You look around the league and there just aren’t many dominating teams.

These Dolphins are scrappy enough, and have enough talent, to stay close against almost every opponent they play.

Now they’ve got a pair of road games against Arizona and Cincinnati, two teams with winning records. More things to learn. More adjustments. More opportunities to make the plays that they didn’t make against the Jets.

“The guys are disappointed,” said Head Coach Joe Philbin.

There is no sugarcoating this defeat. It was a heartbreaker against an arch-rival. The Dolphins had numerous opportunities to win this game. They, plain and simple, just didn’t get it done when they needed it most.

You just know Tannehill is kicking himself over a third-quarter interception that handed the Jets an easy touchdown. It was a poor pass, an unwise pass to throw. But this is what it’s like being a rookie quarterback in this league. You’re going to stumble. You’re going to have throws you wish you never made.

But the important thing for Tannehill is to learn from this, to do everything possible to make sure, when he is faced again with a similar situation, that he doesn’t repeat that mistake. Don’t lose sight of what this season is all about. It’s about a rookie quarterback trying to prove that he belongs. It’s about a franchise trying to solidify the most important position for years to come. If we leave this season feeling good about Tannehill, then the season is a success.

None of that, though, can ease the hurt of an overtime loss to the Jets. You look back and there were so many pivotal plays, so many moments that could have changed the script to a happy ending instead of a frustrating one.

So close. Yet so far.
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