It’s difficult to take a positive out of losing to a division rival on the road when a team was up 17-3. For the Miami Dolphins, a team that has lost four straight and are now 0-2 in the AFC East, they can point to the progression of their running game as a victory on Sunday.
The Dolphins’ offensive line has been terrible all year. Going into Sunday’s game, they were the second-worst rushing team in the league and quarterback Ryan Tannehill had been sacked more than any other QB. During the week, they acquired Pro-Bowl tackle Bryant McKinnie from the Baltimore Ravens to be their left tackle for the rest of the season. They slid Jonathan Martin over to right tackle and moved Tyson Clabo over to the bench.
On Sunday against New England, Tannehill was sacked six times, but most of those came at the end of the game when he was trying to make something happen in the pocket. Four of those six sacks came on the last two drives with Miami down by 10 points and when he forced to pass the ball.
One thing the offensive line did improve on was the rushing attack. Lamar Miller rushed for a career-high 89 yards on 18 carries. He came into the game with 59 carries for just 254 yards on the season. Backup running back Daniel Thomas also chipped in with nine carries for 47 yards and had a receiving TD. He has averaged at least five yards per carry in the last two games, which has brought his season average up to 3.7.
The Dolphins’ offense under Joe Philbin has been very pass-heavy. Just like when he was the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, he likes to spread the field out and use the running game to get short yardage and keep the defense honest. He has never had a completely balanced attack, but if they continue to have success running the ball, he may have to change his philosophy.
The Dolphins rushed the ball 31 times for 157 yards as a team, which are both season-highs. If the pass protection continues to fail, they will have to rely on the run more to stay competitive and keep Tannehill healthy.