The Miami Dolphins enjoyed quite the emotional high last week, defeating despised New England with a double-lateral touchdown that covered 69 yards on the game's final play to give their long-shot postseason bid a big lift.
On the road in Minnesota, Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins, literally, came crashing back to the turf.
The Vikings used a career-high 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns by Dalvin Cook to complement a swarming defense that took down Tannehill behind the line of scrimmage nine times for 71 lost yards in a 41-17 victory on Sunday, tying Miami's franchise record for sacks allowed.
"All around, starting with me, we weren't good enough," Tannehill said.
Tannehill, who left the game against New England briefly because of an ankle injury, said afterward he felt fine despite the series of collisions he made with the ground throughout the afternoon. Miami's chance in the AFC wild-card race took the biggest hit, with Baltimore, Indianapolis and Tennessee all winning to move to 8-6 and push the Dolphins (7-7) into ninth place in the conference race.
The Dolphins were sacked nine times on Dec. 11, 2011, in a 26-10 loss to Philadelphia, with four against Matt Moore and five on J.P. Losman. They also gave up nine sacks on Oct. 17, 1999, all against Damon Huard after he relieved an injured Dan Marino in a 31-30 victory at New England.
Coach Adam Gase, whose team fell to 1-6 on the road this year, put the blame for the awful pass protection largely on the offensive line, running backs and tight ends for not giving Tannehill much of a chance.
"We just didn't block well enough," Gase said. "We knew what we were in for as far as the pass rush. They just beat us."
The Vikings saved eight of their sacks for the second half, after Kalen Ballage's 75-yard touchdown run on the first snap of the third quarter pulled the Dolphins within 21-17 after they'd fallen behind 21-0.
On first-and-10 from Miami's 38, Tannehill was sacked for a 9-yard loss by blitzing linebacker Anthony Barr. Defensive end Danielle Hunter took him down for an 8-yard loss on the next play, putting the Dolphins in an extremely difficult third-and-27 situation. Tannehill completed an 8-yard dumpoff to Danny Amendola, and the Dolphins had to punt. On their five possessions following the rookie Ballage's score, the Dolphins netted a staggering minus-27 yards on 16 plays.
"Personally, I played my worst game of the season," said running back Kenyon Drake, the hero of the previous game after he crossed the goal line following a 52-yard slither and scamper through New England's secondary. "I let the team down. I missed a couple key blocks on third down. So you've got to look yourself in the mirror and be motivated to get better."
No matter what was going to unfold for the Dolphins down the stretch, topping that "Miami Miracle" sequence was going to be tough. The way they performed against the Vikings all but cemented that play as the season highlight.
Though they fell behind by three touchdowns after Minnesota's first three possessions, the Dolphins insisted they didn't carry any emotional hangover with them this week . The way they rallied from the early deficit offered evidence that this was true, but the way they wilted over the final 28 minutes of the game raised plenty of questions about the direction of the team nearing the end of Gase's third year. After going 10-6 and making the playoffs in his rookie season, the Dolphins are 13-17 over the last two years, albeit with Tannehill missing 21 of those 30 games to injury.
The Dolphins have been outscored 218-120 in road games this season. They're 7-17 away from home under Gase, with 11 losses in their last 12 road games.
"From my perspective, the guys did a good job of moving on to prepare for Minnesota and not letting it bleed into the next week," Tannehill said. "We didn't come out and execute well from the first snap."