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Another week, and another lackluster offensive performance for the Miami Dolphins' offense. Not did the Dolphins score zero points in the second half on Sunday afternoon, they also failed to top twenty points in regulation for the fifth week in a row.
The Dolphins are one of the only teams in the NFL that has not scored thirty points in a single game this season. Since a 27-point outburst against the Falcons in Week 3, Miami has averaged 19.4 points a game.
On Sunday, Miami led Carolina 16-6 at halftime, but could only muster a long field goal attempt (which kicker Caleb Sturgis pushed wide left) during the second half. This allowed Carolina to stay in the game despite their own offensive struggles, which they eventually overcame on a decisive 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes.
"We were a couple of plays away from winning," Tannehill said. "We've got to be able to make those plays. It's tough to win three-point games every week. When the defense is playing well like that, we've got to be able to score more points."
Heading into the season, it was thought Miami's offense would be much better, despite the departures of RB Reggie Bush and LT Jake Long via free agency. General manager Jeff Ireland signed WR Mike Wallace to a $60 million contract, and bolstered the offense with the acquisition of TE Dustin Keller and WR Brandon Gibson.
But Keller was lost before the season to injury, as was Gibson in Week 8, and Wallace has disappointed. Tannehill connected with him for two pass plays over 50 yards Sunday (their first two such hookups of the year), but Wallace has only three games with over 100 yards receiving.
He is on track to set a career low in touchdown receptions and is close to the worst yards per reception of his career.
The biggest hole on offense has clearly been the offensive line, though. Even before starters Jonathan Martin left the team and Richie Incognito was suspended for his role in the team's bullying scandal, the line had struggled mightily to protect Tannehill and clear holes for the running game.
The result is a team that has blown halftime leads of 14, 10 and 7 points this season. Even Miami's defense, which is tenth-best in the NFL in points allowed per game, cannot keep opponents out of the end zone forever.
"We've got to make plays at the end when it counts," receiver Mike Wallace said. "We've got to have a killer instinct. I don't think we have it that well right now. We've got to do a better job of putting teams away."
But despite the Dolphins' struggles, they remain in the conversation for the AFC's sixth playoff spot thanks to the struggles of so many other conference teams. There are five other teams with a 5-6 record fighting for the last playoff spot, and the Dolphins play two of them (Pittsburgh and the NY Jets twice).
As disappointing as the losses have been this season, a strong finish against a tough schedule (the Dolphins have four division games left plus a trip to Pittsburgh) could allow Miami a chance to sneak into the postseason.
But they'll have to score more points if they want to do anything besides play golf in January.
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