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Efforts to enliven Miami offense fail

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DAVIE, Fla. (AP)

With the game on the line, Ryan Tannehill unleashed a pass majestic in its arc and distance. Mike Wallace spun and stretched in an acrobatic effort to make the catch.

Exciting, but incomplete. The ball fell to the turf at the goal line, which is the way it usually goes for the Miami Dolphins' underwhelming, underachieving offense.

The Dolphins invested heavily in upgrading their offense last offseason, but their yards per play and per game are lower than in 2012. While defense has kept the team in almost every game, the Dolphins are 5-6 and struggling mightily to stay in the race for the final AFC playoff berth.

''If we lose another game, then we're out of the playoffs,'' center Mike Pouncey said Tuesday.

Should the Dolphins fall short, the offense will be the primary culprit. Heading into Sunday's road game against the New York Jets, Miami is the only team to score less than 28 points in every game this year.

In last week's 20-16 loss to Carolina, the Dolphins managed only one touchdown and were shut out over the last 31 minutes, with Tannehill's desperation 65-yard attempt slipping off Wallace's hands in the final seconds.

''It's hard to score 20, 17, 23, 19, 22 and consistently win games in the National Football League,'' coach Joe Philbin said. ''That's hard to do, so we have to score more points.''

That was the goal when Miami went free-agent shopping last March. But new tight end Dustin Keller and new receiver Brandon Gibson suffered season-ending knee injuries, new tackle Tyson Clabo was briefly benched for poor play, and $60 million receiver Wallace had trouble meshing with Tannehill. The team's bullying scandal sidelined two other starters, tackle Jonathan Martin and guard Richie Incognito.

The result has been a lot of sputtering.

''We have to be more consistent,'' offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. ''We can put together great highlight tape on some things, but then we can also put together something not so great. We have to eliminate the not so great and try to get more great.''

The great has mostly involved Tannehill, on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards in his second season. He continues to earn praise for his arm strength, athleticism and poise, but his career touchdown-to-interception ratio is a so-so 27-to-25.

Blocking remains the biggest problem, and the Dolphins are certain to focus on upgrading the offensive line next offseason. Tannehill has been sacked 44 times, a franchise record with five games to go, and Miami is on pace for its lowest rushing total since 2004.

The ground game's so unproductive the Dolphins call pass plays 66 percent of the time, fourth highest in the league.

''You have to be able to run the ball to be effective,'' Sherman said. ''We just have to find a way to get the balance that we so desperately need. We don't have that balance right now.''

Pouncey expects to rejoin the lineup Sunday after missing two games with a stomach ailment. But running back Daniel Thomas will miss the Jets game because of a sprained left ankle. Marcus Thigpen, who has three career carries, becomes the backup to Lamar Miller.

Rather than run a lot, Miami will likely try going deep against the Jets. Tannehill and Wallace seemed to achieve a breakthrough when they clicked early for long completions of 53 and 57 yards against Carolina. Two second-half attempts with Wallace open deep went incomplete, including Tannehill's desperation heave in the final seconds.

''A great throw,'' Sherman said.

Not good enough, however, which has been the case with Miami's offense for much of the season.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine

Tagged: Dolphins, Jets, Mike Wallace, Mike Pouncey, Ryan Tannehill

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