The Miami Dolphins are off Sunday, but one topic that is certainly on the minds of many within the organization this week is how to improve the team's third-down offense.
This is one of the few statistical areas that hasn't improved much under Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell, who is 2-1 since taking over the team. They are converting on 27.6 percent of third downs in three games under Campbell, compared to (26.9) percent in the first four games under former head coach Joe Philbin.
That third-down trend on offense can't continue if the Dolphins want to gain consistency and try to make a run in the second half of the season.
“A majority of those are third-and-long,” Campbell said. “And I don’t care who you are, if you get into third-and-10-plus, that’s a problem. That’s hard. That was what we were living in the first four games of the season and that’s why our lack of production showed up. So where does that start? It starts on first and second down.”
The Dolphins’ offense averaged just 4.4 yards per play and made too many mental and physical errors against the Patriots in their 36-7 blowout defeat last Thursday night. Miami accounted for seven penalties and five quarterback sacks of Ryan Tannehill, most of which happened on first and second down. The team had little chance of converting on third-and-long against the Bill Belichick-led defense, and that contributed to Miami’s offense failing to move the chains and going 2-of-11 on third down.
New England (7-0), the reigning Super Bowl champions, taught the Dolphins (3-4) a good lesson in how to play smart, efficient football. Miami was riding high entering the game but had its two-game winning streak snapped in humbling fashion.
“You could tell just looking at them that the attitude was right,” Campbell said. “You could tell it burned at them, they didn’t feel good about it, they knew they didn’t play well and that they’re far better than what was put on tape [Thursday] night. You can tell that they’re going to be ready to come back in on Monday and work, and that’s just what you’ve got to do.
“You’ve just got to come back and do what we’ve done the last three weeks when we’ve been able to go full speed in practice, get back to a high-competitive level and we’ll get our swagger back.”