The 2013 season for the Miami Dolphins started fast. 3-0 fast to be specific. The season ended just as quickly with 2 catastrophic losses to division rivals.
For example, the frantic and heart-racing finishes to the Pittsburgh and New England games in weeks 14 and 15 in Miami.
Or the whirlwind that surrounded the Dolphins when Jonathan Martin abruptly left the team and a media stakeout ensued in Davie, Florida.
But there was one thing the Dolphins couldn’t do fast that hindered them all season. And that was starting games fast.
Instead, Miami started them slow…really slow.
In fact, they were one of the slowest starting teams in the entire league last season. According to teamrankings.com, Miami was 26th in the NFL in 2012 scoring 3.1 points per game in the first quarter. This year, Miami regressed and averaged 2.7 points per game in the opening period. Teamrankings.com didn’t have their rankings up for 2013 yet, but you can do the logical thinking and make the educated assumption Miami was in the bottom 5 of first quarter scoring.
The Dolphins were shutout an astonishing EIGHT times in the first quarter this season. That’s half of the games they played where they were unable to score any form of points in the first 15 minutes. Not a touchdown, field goal, safety…nothing. They were just unable to generate any form of offense and consistently score to start the game.
Miami was only able to score points on 3 of their 16 opening drives. Only once did the possession end in 7 points. That game happened to be the Indianapolis Colts game in Week 2, possibly Miami’s best win against a future playoff team on the road.
Okay, so it’s one thing to start a football game methodical by gaining some yards, wearing down the opposing defense and flipping field position with a punt without being able to score. But it’s another thing to go 3-and-out on your first possession. The Dolphins didn’t just go 3-and-out a few times, they went 3-and-out SEVEN times the first time they touched the ball. That is unacceptable.
So much for helping your defense.
What can be attributed as to why the Dolphins consistently started games so slowly?
Coach Joe Philbin always preached in his press conferences that his team wanted to “play well at the end of the first half and at the end of the game.” Could it be that the team was in their 2-minute or 4-minute offense at the end of each half and thrived while playing “fast?” Or maybe the team didn’t respond to a fiery pregame speech based off of index cards and minimal eye contract.
All jokes aside, the Dolphins offense rarely, if at all, provided a spark for the team early in the game. If you scanned the twitter-verse early in a Dolphins game after they sent out Pro Bowl punter Brandon Fields for the second time, you’d notice the disappointment and vitriol towards the play calling of ex-offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
Every NFL team has a set 15 plays they want to execute to start the game and Sherman’s could be deftly described as “vanilla.” Too many times they tried to line up and run it with Lamar Miller through the tackles and the Dolphins would find themselves behind the sticks. Then you could be sure one of the 58 sacks Miami allowed would occur on 3rd and 8 and on comes Fields to punt it away.
Newly hired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will surely look to improve this aspect of Miami’s offensive game plan. It needs no reminder at this point that Lazore comes from Chip Kelly’s offensive tree in Philadelphia and at times “fast” would be an understatement for the way his offense played. Lining up quickly and exploiting mismatches in the trenches is something Lazor most likely learned from Kelly’s innovation and can bring with him to help his new team’s lackluster starts.
Lastly, SunLife Stadium ranked 21st in attendance in 2013 for Miami’s 8 home games, averaging a shade over 64,000 fans. Another great thing about twitter is the inside look you can get from Miami’s multiple beat writers who are live at the game before it begins. Too many times we were given a photo of the stadium half filled AT BEST just before a 1:05 pm kickoff.
The players are professionals and should be motivated as it is to play a football game, but running out of the tunnel to a stadium with many empty seats doesn’t help get the juices flowing. We, as Dolphins fans, are reminded too much from the national media how Miami is not a “sports town” and more of a vacation spot.
It’s safe to say Miami’s offense disappointed in 2013 for a plethora of reasons, none more than the poor offensive line play. But if Miami wants to rise from the depths of mediocrity and challenge New England in the AFC East, they’ll need to play better offensively and more importantly, earlier in games.
Or else it will be more of the same in 2014 and who knows what turn over will come from that.