COMMENTARY | Judging by the Miami Dolphins' 26-23 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday's schedule, it appears they have not learned much from the painful loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.
With the days of Don Shula and Dan Marino long gone, the Dolphins are trying to regain competitiveness in the AFC under quarterback Ryan Tannehill. What appeared to be a glimmer of hope with Miami's 3-0 start, crumbled after the team's pair of losses.
Here are five things that stood out after Sunday's match with the defending champs:
Ryan Tannehill is on record-breaking pace
Hold back your "for he's a jolly good fellow" toasts; it's not a record anyone should be proud of, unless you've taken out a proposition bet at a Las Vegas sportsbook on how many times he hits the sod.
Tannehill is on pace to give up 77 sacks this season. Should he do so, he will eclipse former Houston Texans quarterback David Garr's NFL record sacks given up (76) in 2002, according to his player profile.
The Ravens' defense punched through linemen and sacked Tannehill six times Sunday. Currently, he's been walloped 24 times over five games.
The Dolphins are not blocking
If there is one thing that could help the Dolphins get their groove back, it has to be protecting the quarterback.
A key reason Tannehill isn't getting his fastball out to targets is because he is constantly scrambling for dear life from swarming pass-rushers.
It's disheartening and the offensive linemen must be called on the carpet for not protecting their quarterback and allowing easy penetrations. Game after game Tannehill is being threatened in the pocket or from snaps. It's obvious this can't be sustained if they have a chance at a playoff berth.
Miami made only three third down conversions on 16 attempts. And no other area showed off the Dolphins' blocking inefficiency than near the end of the game when another sack led to loss of yardage. This set up a longer field goal attempt beyond 57 yards, which didn't clear the uprights. End result: game over.
Dolphins' running game missing in action
Truth be told, Tannehill is not doing all that poorly. For what it's worth, the sophomore quarterback appears to have received some benefit from the numerous snaps he took last season.
Although he threw for more yardage over Baltimore's Joe Flacco (21/40 for 307 yards versus 19/32 for 269 yards), the six sacks cost Miami 35 yards.
Now, if only the Dolphins' backs can begin making good on touches. The trick is to get the offensive sentries to cooperate and block against rush-attacks and blitz packages. So far, it's been a tall order for Joe Philbin and his coaching staff.
Miami ran the ball 11 times for a measly 22 yards against a team that is 19-2 after coming off a loss. The Ravens rushed 40 times for over 100 yards and scored twice on two runs from Ray Rice.
Simply put, with the exception of Baltimore's four scores on kicks, the game was won on the ground, not in the air. I submit to you that Miami can't win games going forward if they don't raise their execution on the offensive end and balance their attacks. It's just that simple.
It should come as no surprise that the best team in the league in total yards rushing (Denver Broncos) has the fewest sacks of their quarterback (5).
Dolphins getting away from basics
It's notable that Miami got off to a 3-0 start and led the league in red-zone offense. However, it's apparent that the thing that made them great went missing against the Saints and Ravens in back-to-back losses.
The Dolphins went 1-3 in the red zone, while the Ravens scored twice on three attempts in Dolphins territory.
Over the last three games, Miami slipped to second place in red-zone scoring percentage (71.43). The Broncos are first in the league at 82.61 percent.
I'd love to accentuate the positive about the Dolphins' standing in this statistic, and they should be applauded for getting it done after successful drives. But there must be a sustained effort over time. With a lackluster running game and mediocre passing option, it's worrisome going forward unless Philbin makes heroic adjustments during the extended break.
Bye week to the rescue before total collapse
Before teams get a bit of respite from the grind, the object is to go into a bye week with more wins than losses. While the Dolphins are 3-2, they've come off consecutive losses, the last at home.
With a bye in Week 6, it gives Philbin and players time to watch film, heal from injuries and allow Tannehill to gain more trust and chemistry with his targets.
Meanwhile, the break provides a stop to the bleeding that is sure to continue should Miami doesn't have a time to step back and regroup. At times, the only thing needed to get one's groove back is time off from the carnage.
The one good thing is that the Dolphins are still above .500. However, the bad thing is they are 3-2 rather than 4-1 from a game they could have won, all things considered.
From the start, Tannehill scrambled more efficiently in the pocket and showed more proficiency in moving the ball. However, after the first 20 or so minutes, the game essentially got away from Miami.
If the Dolphins are to grow beyond their bye week, they must execute more ball movement, the defense has to do more to protect the quarterback and Mike Wallace has to have more games like Sunday.
Through four games, Wallace hasn't had much impact on his short game. Should he begin to focus on improving his confidence and making plays against formidable secondaries similar to the Saints, he can raise the Dolphins' running game.
While he caught seven passes for 105 yards, Wallace dropped at least two from Tannehill.
The Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills on October 20 at Sun Life Stadium.
Bradley is a professional writer, journalist, sportswriter and avid fan of the NBA, NFL, NCAA, PGA and tennis. He keeps a watchful eye on Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins developments.
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