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Quick Takeaways from Dolphins’ Collapse vs. Titans
Quick Takeaways from Dolphins’ Collapse vs. Titans
May 22, 2024 10:56 PM

We’ve seen it all in December.

We saw a 9-2 team, surging and blessed after Leon Lett’s unforgettable Thanksgiving faux pas, drop its next five, giving up 45 in one and 47 in another, and losing in overtime in the clincher.

That was 1993.

We saw a 9-5 team, finally stabilized after the return of Jay Fiedler, fall apart in Minnesota (Cris Carter doesn’t catch a touchdown) and New England (when they stopped running Ricky Williams).

That was 2002.

We’ve seen too many other collapses to count.

So will this be another, following an inexplicable 28-27 home defeat against the Tennessee Titans, a 14-point underdog that made several seemingly game-sealing mistakes prior to the Dolphins’ meltdown? Will we remember this fourth loss of an otherwise entertaining and at times exceptional season, to be the beginning of another untimely end?

Will we all jump off the nearest precipice?

Tua Tagovailoa tried to reassure scarred, scared Dolphins fans that this time, at last, will be different.

“I don’t think this is the same Dolphins team that everyone thinks about,” said Tagovailoa, who played below his season standards against Tennessee. “We’ve got really good players, we’ve got really good coaches, and it’s one loss (at) home this year. It’s not like the world ends because we lost this game. We’re human, we’ll continue to get better from this. This is the NFL. No one’s perfect. So that’s that.”

But Dolphins fans are human too.

They can remember.

And that’s why they’re all spasming in fear at the thought of another massive meltdown.

Here are 5 things that need to change, for these not to be the Same Old Dolphins:

1. Mike McDaniel needs to stop getting so cute. The former 49ers run-game coordinator, who has worked wonders on the Dolphins’ rushing attack with almost interchangeable running backs and offensive linemen, is absurdly reluctant to run inside the red zone. When he finally did it, with the Dolphins on short fields following Titans miscues, Raheem Mostert had no trouble finding the end zone. We understand tendencies play a part in the trickery, but this team can do the Old School football thing. No need to be a genius there. McDaniel said after that he understands “I deserve to be second-guessed.” But this isn’t just the second or third or even fourth time.

2. Figure out the center-quarterback exchange. This is the most fundamental act in football, yet it’s been an issue all season. It was with Connor Williams, who is adept at everything else and now may be lost for the season with a knee injury. And it’s certainly been with fill-in Liam Eichenberg. Tagovailoa took responsibility for a drive-killing fumble, yet another in the red zone. But he also said it’s because he doesn’t work with Eichenberg much. This week he will. Get it fixed.

3. Stop feeling yourselves. We love the personality of this team, after more than a quarter-century of dull Dolphins atmospheres. We love Hard Knocks. We love the collective swagger and the creative celebrations. But as our Chris Kouffman of Three Yards Per Carry pointed out, the Dolphins have played their two worst games after arguably their two best games. They appear to handle adversity better than prosperity. Well, they have some now.

4. Get whole. Well, some of this is beyond their control. But it also seems like there’s some load management at work, and it’s too late for that now. Could Jevon Holland and Terron Armstead have played through nagging injuries? Perhaps. Would it have helped? Likely, especially more offensive linemen (Connor Williams) and defensive backs (De’Shon Elliot) started falling. Now Tyreek Hill has tweaked his ankle, somewhat significantly (he said he thought his ankle was “gone” when he did, and that his wife told him to “get the hell back in the game”). If he misses the game with the Jets, it would be nice to have some reinforcements return.

5. Get healed (emotionally). They can’t let this linger. So they might want to stay off social media, which is likely to be particularly lovely this week. McDaniel said players were looking inward, without pointing fingers. If they start the latter, with four challenging opponents upcoming (even the Jets will test them), we can start pointing back to past flameouts, and start pointing to an early, ignominious exit.

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