1st loss leaves lots of issues for Dolphins
DAVIE, Fla. (AP)
The Miami Dolphins' first loss of the season made their deficiencies look a lot more glaring.
Pass protection was poor. Turnovers were a problem for Ryan Tannehill. He failed to mesh with $60 million receiver Mike Wallace. The ground game disappeared. The defense turned soft on third down. And the secondary was shaky, especially when it came to covering tight ends.
Those issues were evident in earlier games, and they became insurmountable Monday night, when the Dolphins lost at New Orleans, 38-17.
The defeat dropped them one game behind unbeaten New England in the AFC East standings, and Miami (3-1) must regroup quickly to play Baltimore (2-2) on Sunday.
''You never want to lose like that, but we've just got to move on to the next game,'' cornerback Brent Grimes said Tuesday. ''The good thing about the NFL is there are plenty of games. We've got a game coming up against the world champs, so we can go out and put some good work on the field and get a win.''
Coach Joe Philbin and his staff have plenty of problems to address in a short week. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's unit gave up season-high totals in points and yards (465) against the Saints.
On the other side of the ball, mistakes were so plentiful that at one point offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, calling plays from the press box, buried his head in his hands in dismay.
''Obviously you never want to perform like that in any situation,'' Tannehill said. ''We're not happy with ourselves, but there are things we can correct.''
Tannehill played poorly for the first time this season. He had a three-interception game for the third time in 20 career starts, and pass protection was a factor - he was hit on two of the throws.
He was also sacked four times, increasing his season total to 18, the most of any quarterback in the NFL. He's on pace to break Hall of Famer Bob Griese's 45-year-old franchise record of 43 sacks.
''It's a big concern,'' Philbin said. ''Eighteen sacks is 4 1/2 a game. That's too many.''
After the game, Saints linebacker Junior Galette said the Dolphins had been overrated, and said his team abused Miami's offensive line the entire game.
Dolphins guard Richie Incognito was asked Tuesday about those comments.
''Win or lose in this league, you have to stay classy and be professional,'' Incognito said. ''I don't think those comments were very professional.''
Partly because he has been knocked around so much in the pocket, Tannehill leads the league with six fumbles. He lost one Monday night trying for extra yards at the end of an 8-yard run.
''He has to do a better job of protecting the ball,'' Philbin said.
''When you play a good team like that, you just can't turn the ball over like we did,'' center Mike Pouncey said.
The Dolphins are minus-1 in turnover differential, a category Philbin stressed as the No. 1 priority this season.
''That's something we have to get corrected,'' Philbin said. ''I reminded the players the last time the Dolphins won the division (in 2008), they had a plus-17 turnover margin for the season. That's something we need to start heading toward.''
Wallace, acquired in March to give the offense a jolt, had another quiet game and a disappointing homecoming in his native New Orleans. He made three catches for 24 yards and is on pace for 704 yards receiving and four scores, which would both be career lows.
Wallace dropped two passes, including one for a potential touchdown, and he was once wide open when Tannehill threw inaccurately to him and the pass fell incomplete.
''We've got to execute a lot better to make it a football game we can win,'' Wallace said.
The Dolphins ran for 115 yards, but went almost exclusively to the air after falling behind 35-10 in the third quarter. They rank 24th in the league in rushing, compared with 17th last year when they had Reggie Bush.
The pass defense ranks 25th after giving up 413 yards to Drew Brees, who took note of the Dolphins' susceptibility down the middle. Tight end Jimmy Graham caught four passes for 100 yards and two scores, giving tight ends five touchdown receptions against Miami this year.
Completions by Brees on third-and-long were especially costly. The Saints converted a third-and-20, third-and-12 and third-and-11, all in the first half. In the past three games, Miami's opponents have converted 18 of 39 third-down situations (46 percent).
The defense could get a boost if end Cameron Wake returns this week from a left knee injury. He missed a game because of injury for the first time in his five-year career, and the pass rush suffered as a result.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine