"I don't feel bad saying it: I don't feel we got beat." So said Miami Dolphins WR Brian Hartline after the team's latest heartbreak, a 24-21 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals in which the Dolphins blew leads of 13-0 and 21-14.
The Dolphins can point to plenty of silver linings in Sunday's loss. Hartline set a team record with 253 yards receiving. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill put up the sixth-best passing performance in team history with 431 yards on 26-of-41 attempts (Dan Marino holds the top five spots). Cameron Wake recorded 4 and 1/2 sacks, surely giving Arizona QB Kevin Kolb nightmares.
But even those outstanding individual performances could not stop the Dolphins from shooting themselves in the foot, as they have done so often this season. Miami committed 4 turnovers, including a fumble in the fourth that set up Arizona's game-tying score and an interception in overtime that Arizona turned into the game-winning field goal.
The Dolphins proclaimed before the season that they could be a playoff team in 2012. Team owner Stephen Ross said in September, "I'm optimistic that we will be competitive and make the playoffs." LB Karlos Dansby went even further in May. "I'm expecting us to win the AFC," he said.
But playoff teams don't play three quarters of good football each game, they play complete games. And through the first quarter of the season, Miami has only turned in one of the latter, with three of the former.
In Week 1, Miami committed three turnovers and gave up 24 points to Houston. Those points proved to be the difference in a 30-10 loss. Against the Jets in Week 3, Miami gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter, only forcing overtime when Dan Carpenter hit a field goal in the final seconds of regulation.
In his Monday press conference, head coach Joe Philbin told reporters, "We have to accept responsibility for where we are."
"We had [two] giveaways in the last five minutes. That’s not a good recipe to win games in the NFL, Pop Warner, anywhere."
The Dolphins may still think they can be an elite team, but evidence to the contrary is stacking up, and at 1-3, Miami can ill afford many more games like Sunday's through the rest of the season.