Dolphins reach crossroads at midpoint of season

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 06, 2012
(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.) By STEVEN WINE AP Sports Writer As the Miami Dolphins reach the midway point in their season, they've also arrived at a crossroads. The Dolphins (4-4) began preparing Monday for two games in five days. With a sweep - and they'll likely be favored in both games - Miami will remain part of the AFC playoff race. Anything less, and the franchise turnaround led by new coach Joe Philbin could stall. The Dolphins play host Sunday to Tennessee (3-5), then make their 2012 prime-time debut the following Thursday at Buffalo (3-5). ''We've had some good games, some not-so-good games, and some bad games,'' quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. ''You have to realize where you are at and push forward. We are at a critical point in the season, halfway through, and it can go either way from here.'' The Dolphins missed a chance to tie for the AFC East lead when they lost 23-20 Sunday at Indianapolis to snap a three-game winning streak. It was Miami's third three-point defeat, with the previous two coming in overtime. Indy's Andrew Luck threw for an NFL rookie record 433 yards. The Dolphins have been outgained 1,341 yards to 793 in the past three games. But Philbin said he's more worried about points than yards. While his team has outscored opponents 170-149, it has been outscored 60-31 after the third quarter. ''We've got to make more plays at critical times to win games,'' he said. Other areas of concern include a shaky secondary and a ground game that has lost steam after an encouraging start. Tannehill, by contrast, looks more efficient with each passing week. The rookie wobbled on the final series when Miami had a chance to rally, but finished 22 of 38 for 290 yards and one touchdown, while playing on a sore left leg that limited his practice time last week. ''I couldn't ask for a better job out of him,'' teammate Reggie Bush said. ''He's really poised back there. I thought he played like a champion.'' Tannehill struggled with interceptions early in the season, but hasn't thrown one since September. ''Don't jinx us,'' Philbin said with a smile. ''That speaks to his decision-making. That's a positive.'' Tannehill played well despite being sacked twice and hit half a dozen other times. Several hits were the result of lapses by Jake Long, and Philbin wasn't happy with the play of his Pro Bowl left tackle. ''Like the rest of the offensive line, it's got to be better,'' Philbin said. ''Overall our offensive line play wasn't good enough, and he's part of that.'' The Dolphins have netted less than 100 yards rushing each of the past five games, and Bush - who set a goal of leading the NFL this year - instead ranks 16th with 534 yards. Bush had only 10 carries at Indy, in part because Luck and the Colts hogged the ball by converting 13 of 19 third-down situations. Philbin shook his head when asked to identify a defensive culprit. ''Where do you want to start? I wish we could put our finger on one thing,'' he said. ''We used multiple calls, and they executed very, very well in that phase of the game, better than we did. It wasn't one thing. There were 19 third downs, enough to go around.'' Third-down defense had been a strength previously this season, but the pass rush and coverage have been spotty all season. Opponents know it - they're averaging 44.5 attempts per game against Miami, most in the league. Luck threw 48 times without a turnover. Cornerback Sean Smith, the anchor of the secondary, dropped a potential interception with the game on the line and gave up a touchdown pass. Cornerback Nolan Carroll - who has been filling in for the past month for injured starter Richard Marshall - was beaten repeatedly. Personnel changes in the secondary are possible, Philbin said. ''We'll look at every available avenue we have,'' he said. ''We've got to do better, no question about it.'' The Dolphins have stayed relatively healthy, with the only season-ending injury involving guard Artis Hicks, who was sidelined in training camp while battling for a starting job. Philbin hopes to continue the trend by scaling back on physical work during the upcoming stretch. ''The wear and tear on the players' bodies is going to be a concern,'' he said. ''We've got to make sure we're smart and figure out a plan to get ready to play this game, and another one four days after that. We need to be smart about our preparation.'' --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Russell Westbrook gets emotional thanking family in MVP speech

Malcolm Brogdon makes history by beating out Saric, Embiid for Rookie of the Year

Bill Russell delivers epic line after winning NBA lifetime achievement award

Draymond Green ensemble at NBA Awards must be seen to believe

Victor Oladipo gets schooled by young boy at basketball camp

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

John Wall trying to recruit Paul George to join Wizards

Report: Saints looking at ways to recoup guaranteed money owed to Nick Fairley

Martellus Bennett thinks Rodgers is better than Brady?

Fairley expected to miss 2017 season due to heart condition

Cousins could get more than $30 million per year in free agency?

Charlie Sheen puts Babe Ruth trade contract, World Series ring up for auction

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker