MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins spent two weeks self-scouting, making adjustments and coming up with the best plan possible to beat the Buffalo Bills, who entered the game 2-4 and were down to their third-string quarterback.
The result: Miami laid an egg at home during a 23-21 loss to the Bills. It was the Dolphins' (3-3) third straight defeat and they fell to 1-2 at home.
Miami made a series of adjustments in this game with mixed results. Some worked, but clearly not enough as the Dolphins suffered their most deflating loss of the season. Miami came out with several new wrinkles, but fell behind 17-7 in the second quarter. It was a dogfight for Miami the rest of the game.
“I have to do a better job of getting the team ready to play,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin admitted. "We did not come out playing very well. ... I have to get them ready to play better earlier, no question.”
Poor coaching had a lot of do with the Dolphins losing their first division game of the season. With two weeks to prepare, Miami’s coaching staff perhaps made too many alterations. In some cases, the Dolphins went away from what made them successful in the first five games.
Miami used a lot of two- and three-tight end sets that took the passing game out of rhythm and slot receiver Brandon Gibson off the field. The Dolphins were trying to change their identity early to into a power running team. But it took a long time for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to warm up and get things going in the passing game.
Tannehill threw two first-half interceptions that put the Dolphins behind. The Dolphins eventually re-adjusted to more passing and Tannehill later threw three touchdowns just to get Miami back in the game.
“It’s tough,” Tannehill said. “We had our chances. Obviously, we start the game with a pick-six. That’s not the way anyone envisioned starting. Then, another pick in the red zone. There’s two bad plays right there that kind of dug the hole early.”
There were some adjustments that worked. The designed rollouts for Tannehill were mostly successful, and Miami changing its rushing attack to plow forward instead of sideline-to-sideline led to good results. But sloppy play was too much for the Dolphins to overcome.
After a 3-0 start, the Dolphins have now lost three in a row and look much closer to a “pretender” than a “contender.” The season is still young. However, Miami’s issues appear harder and harder to fix as the year progresses.
“I told the guys last night, in the NFL it’s 17 weeks, 16 games,” Philbin said. “There’s ups and downs that most teams encounter along the way. The teams that have great character and great chemistry are able to overcome those downs that are usually there, and I believe that our guys are able to do that.”