Dave Hyde: A Dolphins season of promise ends with a failed, familiar thud in Kansas City

Couldn’t run.

Couldn’t pass.

Couldn’t turn back the clock to October when the air was warmer and the mood happier.

So, all the Miami Dolphins did Saturday night was finish their Meltdown On Ice and complete their slow fade over the past few weeks of another disappointing season with a 26-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening round of the playoffs.

Seven points. That’s no typo. Seven measly points for what was once called The Greatest Show on Surf. Seven minimal points for the coach and quarterback who hung 70 points on Denver back in September.

“Seven points isn’t good enough,” coach Mike McDaniel said. “We’ll have to live with that and learn from that as we try to take another step.”

Saturday’s seven points symbolized the fun-to-fraud feel of this entire season — of the 11 wins, of having the second-highest-scoring offense, of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa leading the league in passing yards. It’s the end result of this entire five-year, tanks-for-nothing rebuild that began with so much gloating of the Laremy Tunsil trade to Houston before the 2019 season. Remember?

Well, Tunsil won a playoff game in Houston on Saturday while the Dolphins did what they’ve done the past 23 years. They didn’t win a playoff game. They left for another empty offseason. Their 11 regular-season wins feel hollow today. You thought minus-4 at Saturday’s kickoff was cold? That’s nothing like the freezer burn this offseason will bring.

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All the Dolphins did by Saturday’s end was leave you with more questions: Is McDaniel a good head coach? Is Tagovailoa really a franchise quarterback you want to give a big contract? Can the oldest roster in the NFL these playoffs expect to have better injury luck, especially on defense, when a lot of those players have significant mileage on their bodies?

Kansas City had the second-youngest defense in the NFL. That’s building something when you look at its results. It followed the cracked code that Baltimore and Buffalo used in beating the Dolphins’ the previous two weeks to finish the regular season.

Look at the Dolphins offensive numbers from these three games that sunk the season: Twenty-seven possessions, five touchdowns, five turnovers and a 13.3-point per game average. Six total points in the three second halves. That’s the Greatest Show in Quicksand.

“The season? A lot of ups and downs,” Tagavailoa said.

The ups came early. The downs came against good teams. The Dolphins had a 1-6 record against playoff teams and minus-110-point margin. Only the Washington Commanders had a worse margin against playoff teams. Washington went 4-13. It’s picking fourth in the draft. So did the Dolphins success come simply because the schedule didn’t carry a couple of more winning teams?

“It hurts,” McDaniel said of Saturday’s loss. “I was expecting to have a schedule next week, depending on a Saturday or Sunday game. I was thinking of that. I wasn’t thinking of exit interviews.”

Others didn’t feel the hurt as much. Tyreek Hill was the Dolphins’ best player with a knack for big plays unlike anyone in the league. He showed that again with a 53-yard touchdown Saturday on this offense’s lone touchdown. But he talked afterward about it being a “great season” and how this team “exceeded expectations?”

Huh and huh?

Let’s first remember the Dolphins spent most of the previous four long and often dreadful seasons tanking games and rebuilding the roster to get to this fifth season. Now let’s run down the defining points of this season that “exceeded expectations”:

— First goal: Win the AFC East. That was a fail for the 15th consecutive season;

— Second goal: Get the home-field playoff advantage. Another fail. Don’t go blaming Saturdays’ loss on playing the fourth-coldest game in NFL history by a Dolphins team accustomed to seeing ice only in drinks. Their losses the previous two games put them on the road to Kansas City;

— Third goal: Win a playoff game. Did you see Saturday? The depleted defense, down six starters entering the game, tried to keep it close. The offense did nothing. It became so dreadful to watch that the NFL must have wondered why it made this matchup the first game on the streaming network Peacock. Of course, anyone new to Peacock probably began inspecting the network’s other offerings around the third quarter. Harry Potter’s eight movies must have got a lot of clicks.

So, once again, the NFL playoffs go on and the Dolphins don’t. This season was fun for a while. It showed promise into December. But it ends with a similarly hollow feel to what Dolphins fans have experienced for decades. And now there are just some uncomfortable questions to kick around about who’s to blame and where this goes next season.

The temperature was minus-8 in Kansas City when the Dolphins season ended.

The forecast is colder for their offseason in South Florida.