From the start of his first year as coach of the Miami Dolphins, Joe Philbin stressed the need for steady improvement. Instead, a late-season tailspin has the team headed yet again in the wrong direction - toward a long offseason.
The Dolphins (5-8) have lost five of their past six games, ensuring that for a fourth consecutive year they'll finish .500 or worse. Going into its game against Jacksonville (2-11), Miami is virtually assured of missing the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 years.
Following a 27-13 loss Sunday at San Francisco, Philbin attributed the skid not to a lack of talent but to a ''lack of playmaking'' at critical times.
''It's correctable,'' he said Monday. ''There were some plays there to be made on both sides of the ball that we didn't do. There were some opportunities we didn't capitalize on.''
For the second straight week, the Dolphins remained in contention against a division leader until the final minutes. But against both the 49ers and New England Patrio...