Written by Steven Wilson | Twitter: @stevenjwilson11
Although the Miami Dolphins put the entire AFC on notice with their strong three-quarter performance against the Denver Broncos − Miami led 28-17 heading into the fourth − the team strayed off track and were outscored 22-8 in the final 15 minutes as the Broncos stole the victory at home.
“We know a lot of times it seems like games often times come down to the fourth quarter in the National Football League,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “There have been certain weeks where it hasn’t been where it needs to be, and certainly [Sunday] falls into that category… We have to keep people out of the end zone better in that situation and we have to score more.”
Even after surrendering that 11-point, third-quarter lead, the Dolphins were down by just four points, 32-28, with five minutes and change left. But the Broncos T.J. Ward iced the win with for his team with an interception off a tipped pass intended for Jarvis Landry. The ensuing Denver touchdown put the home team up by 11, 39-28, flipping the tides on the Phins.
“In that kind of game, offensively, you are going to have to answer blow-for-blow,” continued Philbin. “That’s just the kind of game we were in. We had a couple of chances and again I’m losing track, but was it a four-point lead they had and we threw an interception and gave them the ball at the 8-yard line. We have to do better.”
Despite their winning record, the aqua and orange defense has allowed a total of 86 points to opponents in the fourth quarter alone this season. That’s a difference of 32 points in favor of their opposition.
“There have been games where we’ve played well and then there are games that obviously stand out where we didn’t play well down the stretch,” said Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle. “I think at times you can isolate one area and it’s important to do that because in this league a lot of the games do come down to the very end of the game as we know. There are a lot of things that we’ve done well, but we’ve got to do more things well at critical times. Hopefully, we’ve got five opportunities to do that down the stretch here. I know we’re going to do everything we can as coaches and players to play our best football here over the last five weeks and then, at the end of the season, look at our whole season in totality and see where we end up.”
Looking at the big picture will reveal many positives, but will there be enough in the eyes of ownership to keep the same coaching staff around for another season if Miami misses the playoffs? That’s the biggest question looming over the Dolphins over the next five weeks.
They’ve played well against good teams like New England, Green Bay and Denver. They’ve won big blowout games, like the one at home over San Diego. They’ve beaten most of the team’s they’re supposed to beat like Jacksonville, Oakland and Chicago.
Now, the question is, can Philbin and Co. defeat those elite teams on a consistent basis? Those are the teams that close out games with 11-point leads. Those are the teams that dominant the fourth quarter.
“They step up and make plays at critical times,” Philbin admitted. “At some point in time, we have to be able to do that. We’ve won a lot of games by double-digits in the six wins we’ve had. We’ve had some good margin-of-victory in those games, but you look at the last three losses we’ve had and what are they by, three, four and three points. We have to find a way to win some of those games. A year ago, I think we won a bunch of those games. This year, not so much and we have to do better. We are going to be in some more of those games. That’s just the way the National Football League typically is.”
How they close out those tight games will determine if the Dolphins are elite or just another borderline contender.
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