ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- After the Miami Dolphins looked flat in a 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Miami head coach Joe Philbin had some explaining to do. Perhaps the biggest mystery was why the Dolphins got ultra-conservative when down nine points at the end of the first half.
Here is the situation: Miami's defense kept the team in the game early by holding Buffalo to three field goals in the first half. The Dolphins were outplayed and, in many ways, fortunate to be down by only single digits.
The Dolphins got the ball back at their 12-yard line with 2:21 remaining and all three timeouts. It was a good opportunity for quarterback Ryan Tannehill & Co. to put together a two-minute drive to get their first points on the board before intermission.
Instead, the Dolphins chose to run the ball six consecutive times -- gaining 20 yards -- to go into the half down 9-0. It was a baffling and passive decision that had many confused.
Here was Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin's explanation:
"Well, it I’m not mistaken, we got the ball around the 15-yard line and we had, up to that point, 48 or 49 yards of offense. I wanted to come into halftime and give our team a chance to get back into the game. I think we did exactly what I was hoping we would do: Not give them the ball back and get an opportunity to make it a one-possession game. That’s what we did."
Philbin essentially lost confidence in his offense and his quarterback. That sent a poor message to his entire team before halftime.
The Dolphins have practiced two-minute drills constantly since training camp, and it's actually an area of strength for Miami's offense. Even New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised Miami’s two-minute offense before their Week 1 matchup.
In a close game, Philbin essentially took a strength away from his own team, and the second half went downhill for the Dolphins.
Reading between the lines, it didn’t appear quarterback Ryan Tannehill agreed with the first-half decision.
“As a competitor you know I obviously want to go down and score, but it is coach Philbin’s call and he wanted to do that,” Tannehill said candidly. “He knew we were getting the ball at the end of halftime. Obviously, as an offense we feel like we want to get going. But we hadn’t done much up to that point to give him any confidence in us.”
We will never know if Miami’s offense could have added points to bring momentum to the Dolphins before halftime. But the issue is Philbin opted not to try and give his team a chance, which proved to be a mistake.