Two is a fine number, and in many instances, a favorable number. Out on the town with some college buddies? Two brews are better than one. Roughly 11 brews are also better than one.
But two is not ideal when it’s a measurement of rushing yards over an entire evening. That’s when two is only two more than zero.
The Miami Dolphins had all of two rushing yards last night during their 22-19 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, something I only thought was possible in theory. That happened despite 13 carries by a ‘Phins running back, seven of which were given to Lamar Miller. When you’re being out-rushed by the opposition 140 yards to two, few good things will happen, which is why it’s an accomplishment that this game was actually close.
The root of both the historically failed running game (ummm yeah, two yards is a definitely a franchise single-game low) and the continued lack of time for Ryan Tannehill – or Tanny-Hill, if you prefer – was an offensive line that’s recently been vacated. It turns out that even if one or both of them were struggling, suddenly having two members of your offensive line subtracted is not an ideal situation. Yet this is where the Dolphins are now, and for the foreseeable future with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito likely and probably both done for the season, and maybe with the franchise.
There’s a lot of unknowns surrounding the end game of a locker room mess which has stripped the Dolphins of peace and solitude between games. There’s dysfunction, that much is clear, to the point that owner Stephen Ross is now involved heavily and will meet with Martin later this week. But last night we saw again how much the actual football product could be affected, and the net result was a loss against an equally toxic-filled team that shed its title.
How? Through Bobby Rainey, because of course. Both Rainey and Brian Leonard are about to be this week’s fantasy waiver wire darlings after Mike James fractured his ankle early in the first quarter following 41 yards on only five carries. Sad trombones are playing for all of you, especially you, the Doug Martin owner who believed all was well with James chugging away, and peace had been restored on your roster. Now you’re left with likely a platoon situation, and choosing between the backups to the backup on the wire. This is how I know life isn’t fair.
The dominance of those backups and the combined 102 rushing yards by two running backs who had received minimal usage prior to last night is also how I know that Dolphins linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe are paid at least several dollars more than they’re worth. The key and crushing run was a 31-yarder by Rainey to set up his game-winning one-yard touchdown on a scurry to the outside. It was the second +20 yard run the Dolphins had allowed. That’s over half the field covered on two runs by two backups.
All could have been well still, as the Dolphins had possession in the final two minutes, with a chance to drive downfield and maintain their feeble title of playoff contender. That’s when the aforementioned abandoned O-line posts were at their most glaring, with Tannehill sacked on two straight drop backs, which then forced him to heave a prayer deep on fourth down to reach a first-down marker that was many area codes away. Then there was the inevitable Darrelle Revis pick, and it was game, blouses.
None of us can know exactly how much of a role the smouldering locker room fire played, as admittedly at least some of that is the result fitting a narrative. Had Tannehill been afforded the time to complete a few more intermediate passes to at least achieve field goal range, and then somehow pulled off a win in overtime, we’d be praising Joe Philbin for focusing his team on the task of winning despite all outside factors. Only a few points separate that swinging perspective as it relates to game results.
But whether it was due to off-field distractions of plain old stupidity, the Dolphins did their damndest to build and feed that narrative machine. Rainey’s eventual game-winning touchdown wouldn’t have happened without Ellerbe’s senseless roughing the passer penalty which gave away a free 15 yards. And it didn’t help when Marcus Thigpen called for a fair catch on his own five-yard line, lengthening that attempted game-tying drive.
No, I am not a mind reader or a human behavioral expert. I just watch football games, and I know that when you combine those things with the complete lack of a running game and your offense doesn’t run its first play in opposing territory until nearly the end of the first half, winning a football game is quite difficult.