This week at the New York Times, I talk about the shocking development that follows after a bad offensive line loses two of its starters:
Off the field, the Richie Incognito–Jonathan Martin dispute has dominated the headlines in Miami. On the field, the absence of the two allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line to dominate the Dolphins offense on Monday night.
Entering the game, no team in the N.F.L. had rushed for fewer than 18 yards this season, and no Dolphins team had ever rushed for fewer than 7 yards in a game. But those records were pushed aside Monday as Miami rushed 14 times for 2 yards against Tampa Bay in a 22-19 loss, the lowest production by an N.F.L. team on the ground since 2007.
Miami’s offensive line has been a weakness all year, making the team ill-prepared to replace the two men who started most of the season on the left side of the line. The absence of Incognito, a left guard, was particularly notable on one of the key plays of the game. Early in the second quarter, Miami called a run play to Daniel Thomas with the ball at the team’s 1-yard line. Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David shot into the backfield immediately after the snap, running free between the center and the backup left guard to tackle Thomas for a safety.
Those 2 points, combined with the extra point Miami eschewed for a failed 2-point conversion attempt later in the game as a result of the safety, provided the final margin in the game.
The Dolphins had a chance to win the game in the final minutes, but the offensive line again let the team down. Trailing by 3 with two minutes left, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked on consecutive plays, thwarting the team’s comeback. Those were the only two sacks of the game, but the team’s pass blocking has been a problem all year, even when Martin and Incognito were in the lineup.
You can read the full article here, which closes with a review of the playoff picture in both conferences.