Let’s just stipulate, there are easier things to life in life than winning in Foxborough.
That said, you couldn’t help get the feeling that the Miami Dolphins had at least a puncher’s chance to take out the defending Super Bowl champions on Thursday night.
In hindsight, however, you should never cite a character flaw when projecting success.
It was pretty clear that some of the Dolphins weren’t all that keen in playing for the underwhelming Joe Philbin and his defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle so when those two were blown out after an embarrassing performance in London against the New York Jets, Dan Campbell and his fire and brimstone approach unlocked the desire in certain players.
Ndamukong Suh looked like an All-Pro again, Cam Wake magically remembered how to get to the quarterback, and Ryan Tannehill put together the first perfect passer rating in history for a franchise that has had both Bob Griese and Dan Marino under center.
So the big, bad talented Dolphins cocked the proverbial right hand in front of the nation and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady simply side-stepped it before countering with a devastating left hook to the body that took the will from players who decide how much effort to give on a week-to-week basis.
Brady passed for 356 yards and four touchdowns as the unbeaten Pats waltzed to 36-7 blowout win over their AFC East rivals, although that adjective is cliched in this particular instance because kindling is really no rival of fire.
“You have to play good football in all three phases when you play the New England Patriots,” Campbell said after the disappointing setback. “They’ve always been that way. You can’t have mistakes, or if you do, you can’t have many of them. They have to be far less than most teams you play and we didn’t do that, we didn’t make enough plays, and we had a couple turnovers that didn’t help.”
The biggest culprit in the setback was that same Miami defense that checked out on Coyle because many didn’t like his schemes. With the inmates running the more laid-back asylum for the Dolphins D, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and pesky running back Dion Lewis had a field day, accounting for 287 yards of Brady’s gaudy total and four of the touchdowns for New England.
“I think we executed in a lot of aspects,” Suh claimed. “We got some three-and-outs, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to stay consistent, that’s going to be the biggest thing for us as a front and as a secondary working together as a unit, just making sure we’re consistent and continue to get off the field. At times we did a good job and at times we obviously had lapses and lapses that allowed them to score.”
To make matters far worse for the Dolphins, they lost far more than the game when Wake was forced to leave with an Achilles injury late in the third quarter that was later ruled a season-ending torn Achilles.
“You obviously never want to lose one of your teammates, so I hope and pray the best for him and getting him back ASAP,” Suh said.
In the bigger picture, if this was the measuring stick for Miami, things haven’t improved as much as many thought.
“Every loss is very important and it’s something that you can’t take lightly,” Suh continued. “I think it may mean a little bit more because it’s a division opponent, but at the end of the day, we don’t want to lose. …We’ve got to figure out what we’ve got to do over this short weekend, get healthy and get prepared to go against Buffalo.”
The Dolphins are better than this but until they approach every game with the same professionalism that the Patriots do, Miami really has no chance to compete in this type of atmosphere, a narrative Campbell was preaching after the game.
“I don’t believe that’s who we are one bit, not one bit did I believe that’s really who we are,” the interim coach said. “I told them that I don’t want them to forget that feeling right there – don’t forget it – I hope it eats away at them just like it’s eating away at me and I hope it drives them to not want to have that taste in their mouth ever again.”
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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