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Embarrassed Dolphins show they aren't ready to dethrone Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This was supposed to be different. The 3-0 Miami Dolphins were confident and having fun; the 1-2 New England Patriots were reeling. This was Miami's prove-it game.

But then Sunday's 38-7 loss at New England gave doubters every reason to believe that these are the same old Dolphins.

"I didn't see this coming," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said.

But why was it such a surprise? It's the same thing we've seen over the past decade -- the Dolphins just don't win in Foxborough.

Maybe this team felt a little too good about itself coming into a showdown against the big, bad bullies of the division. Maybe, as their injuries pile up, we are seeing a team that doesn't have the talent to keep up with the NFL elite.

Whether none, one or both are true, we were reminded that the Dolphins aren't ready to dethrone the Patriots. One day that will change, but perhaps it won't be this year.

The scariest part of Sunday's loss is their biggest issue might not be fixable.

"We really didn't anticipate getting out-physicaled like the way we did," Gase said. "We just couldn't get anything going. We were getting pushed back, a lot of pressure on Ryan [Tannehill] even though they weren't pressuring with blitzes. ... Just too much penetration."

Miami's offensive line struggled to get push in the running game or provide protection for Tannehill. That eliminated the fun, creative offense we saw from the Dolphins in the first three weeks. On defense, the once-anemic Patriots offense enlisted a plan to run down the Dolphins' throats. A banged-up defense with two starters and a few more key reserves out couldn't handle it.

Look, this Dolphins team was still trying to find who they truly were at after three games. The fourth game and first loss shouldn't derail their season, but we'll soon see if they let it.

Everybody loses, but this one in particular feels deflating. There was an unsettled feeling in the Dolphins locker room after the game, with a few players getting testy and defensive.

It felt like they were embarrassed. Their coming-out party was a dud.

"We got to remember how this moment feels," running back Frank Gore said. "We got to remember how it feels to get beat like this and respond."

In a league where the postgame talk is about forgetting the last game, win or loss, Gore is on to something. The Dolphins must remember the way they feel after being embarrassed Sunday.

"Probably will take a while to sink in, honestly," defensive end Cameron Wake said. "It's a tough pill to swallow. ... It was a lot of shooting yourself in the foot."

Miami was outclassed in all three phases, but most of it started with offensive ineptitude. They finished with 172 total yards, nearly 300 yards fewer than the Patriots (449 yards), on an ugly 45 snaps. This is the second game in a row they've had 45 or fewer snaps.

The Dolphins didn't get past the New England 45-yard line until more than halfway through the fourth quarter. They were shut out until a garbage-time Brock Osweiler-to-Frank Gore touchdown pass.

"We never got into rhythm," said Tannehill, who went 11-of-20 for 100 yards with an interception and a fumble. "When you're not getting first downs, you're not moving the football, you're not getting the defense on their heels a little bit, it's tough to get those [creative] playcalls in. We were constantly in long-yard situations behind the chains."

They should remember those stats. They should remember all the criticism they'll receive in the next week.

The truth is in a weak AFC, the Dolphins should still treat the playoffs as their goal. But they have a lot to clean up to get there.