Dolphins clearly are not playoff material

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The mood in the Miami Dolphins' locker room was as sullen as it has been all season after Sunday's 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle took a couple of strolls through the room with a clenched jaw and a grimace on his face. Usually talkative receiver Mike Wallace was mostly at a loss for words. Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake called Sunday's poor performance in a huge game "mind-blowing."

The relative silence sent a loud message: A once-promising season is heading toward another disappointing finish.

This year is playoffs-or-bust for the Dolphins (7-6). They began Sunday in possession of the final wild-card spot in a crowded AFC race. Now they sit behind Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston, and there is no reason to believe Miami has what it takes to make the postseason -- not after jumping out to a 10-0 lead over the Ravens at home only to be outscored 28-3 the rest of way.

Next week Miami will travel to face the AFC East-leading New England Patriots. Another loss would drop the Dolphins to .500.

"We knew what it was," Wallace said of the importance of Sunday's game. "We had it in our hands again, controlling our own destiny. Now we have to leave it up to other people and try to win out."

The Ravens exposed many of the Dolphins' flaws. Baltimore, first and foremost, won the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had little time to throw and was sacked a season-high six times. Three of those sacks were allowed by inexperienced right tackle Dallas Thomas, a recent replacement following the season-ending knee injury to Pro Bowl veteran Branden Albert. Baltimore rotated outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil (3.5 sacks) and Terrell Suggs (1.5 sacks) to wear out Thomas.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Tannehill was sacked or under duress on 12 of his 33 dropbacks (36.3 percent). That helped Baltimore hold the Dolphins to just three points in the final three quarters.

The Ravens also rushed for 183 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Miami's defense was consistently pushed off the ball for the third straight week and has allowed 661 rushing yards in that span.

Miami is being dominated physically at the most crucial point of the season. That is not how you win big games in December.

"I guess the most frustrating thing is it's not inability," Wake said. "You've watched us play for 10 games or the first half [of the season]. We can get the job done. Whatever inconsistency there is, we have to put a stop to it really fast."

The reality is it's too late. Including last year's two-game collapse to end the season, Miami now is 1-3 in its past four December games. This is the time of year the Dolphins fizzle.

I asked Ravens veteran receiver Steve Smith, who has played in one Super Bowl and two NFC Championship Games, what it takes to win these big games late in the season.

"You got to play harder than the other guy," Smith said. "Your will and your desire in what you want to do has to be better than what that guy has."

The Dolphins have talent, but they lack the extra gear it takes to get over the hump late in the season. They most likely will watch the playoffs from home in January for the sixth straight season.