The Dolphins fell to 1-3 after a 27-17 loss at Hard Rock Stadium to the visiting Indianapolis Colts. Not good enough across the board, that was Head Coach Brian Flores' message in a transparent postgame availability with the South Florida media.
Execution and putting players in a better position to execute -- those are the two obstacles facing the Dolphins entering a Week 5 contest against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These are the three takeaways that fall under the umbrella of adversity.
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1. Uncharacteristic Miscues
Through Flores' first two seasons with Miami, the Dolphins won many games that pundits didn't think they could win. Among many things, one reason the Dolphins were able to defy external expectations was the ability to win in the fine margins -- penalties, limiting mistakes and capitalizing on the mistakes of the opponent. The last three weeks have produced the opposite outcome.
Though Miami returned to a more disciplined game in the penalty department (five for 32 yards in the loss to the Colts), a string of errors continuously placed Miami behind the proverbial eight ball. While the Dolphins have shown heart and fight to claw back into the last two games, those blunders proved too much to overcome.
"We're out there taking turns making mistakes in all three phases, and it's not enough," Flores said. "It's not good enough."
Blake Ferguson's recovery of a muffed punt put Miami at the plus-27-yard-line four minutes into the game. The ensuing possession covered seven yards, five coming via penalty, and concluded with a 38-yard Jason Sanders field goal.
The next possession saw Miami penetrate Colts' territory down the 31-yard-line. Jacoby Brissett was sacked on third-and-7, knocking Miami out of field goal range.
On a second-quarter punt, Brennan Scarlett jumped offsides and the Colts seized their second chance just four plays later with a Jonathan Taylor touchdown scamper.
Trailing 14-3, Miami got a much-needed stop but gave the ball right back on a Jakeem Grant muffed punt, which resulted in three more Indianapolis points.
Finally, trailing by 10 with seven minutes to play, Emmanuel Ogbah's second third-down sack of the game was erased by a Jaelan Phillips facemask penalty, turning a field goal attempt into an eventual touchdown and an insurmountable 17-point lead.
Five instances where a little better discipline and execution could've generated a considerable swing on the results of the game.
For now, these are uncharacteristic events, but the Dolphins must prove – with smart, penalty-free football – that they are the disciplined team they've been in the past.
2. Offense Has a Long Way to Go
The offense is finding it difficult to have success across the board – explosive plays, run game and the red zone to name a few. The entire operation hasn't been good enough at this stage and the inability to score points or stay on the field makes it more challenging for a defense that has to play a lot of snaps.
Last Wednesday, we detailed the common theme across Miami's successful possessions on the season – an urgent, up-tempo approach. Sunday, the Dolphins four longest plays occurred in the fourth quarter after falling behind by two scores. The Dolphins could benefit from splash plays earlier in the game.
"Early on there was definitely some shot plays there that ended up getting checked down," Flores said.
3. Playmakers Show Signs of Life
When the offense did get things cranking it was filtered through the pass catchers. DeVante Parker pulled down four catches for 77 yards including three receptions and 70 of the receiving yards coming in the game's final period -- the same quarter in which Mike Gesicki compiled 49 of his 57 receiving yards and all but one of his five catches.
The script was the reverse for Waddle, who caught three passes for 33 yards – all in the first quarter. On the three receptions, Waddle slipped two tackles and picked up 21 yards after the catch. Maximizing the skill sets of the playmakers could go a long way to injecting some life into a struggling offense.