No. 31 — a member of the Miami Dolphins secondary that most fans and even some players and coaches didn’t know the name of — snatched the Tom Brady bullet out of the sky, and the 70,000 at Sun Life Stadium erupted. It was a moment that appeared to signify a true turning point for the franchise.
With that Michael Thomas interception, the Dolphins had beaten the New England Patriots for the first time in seven tries. They were two games over .500 in December and were in control of their own playoff destiny. It was a play Dolphins fans undoubtedly thought they would cherish for years to come.
The stars were aligning for Miami to finally break out of the stranglehold that mediocrity had on it since the dawn of the new millennium. As it turns out, all the Dolphins needed was a win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 16 or the New York Jets in Week 17 to qualify for their first postseason appearance in five years.
What ensued were two of the flattest, most uninspiring performances you’ll ever see. The Dolphins were outscored by 32 points and only managed a mere seven points in the final two weeks of the season combined. The Bills and Jets, two less-than-formidable teams that had nothing to play for other than the chance to spoil their rival’s season, dominated the Dolphins on both sides of the ball en route to upset beatdowns.
Given how far it appeared they had come two weeks ago and the stakes that were present, the Dolphins flat out choked at the end of the 2013 season. There’s no way to sugar coat what transpired in two games they should have won and needed to have. There were dropped passes, overthrown balls, missed tackles and preseason-esque miscues — all mistakes a team battling for a playoff berth simply can’t make.
To be frank, choking was something the Dolphins were already accustomed to. Following an impressive 3-0 start, the Dolphins were beginning to garner some national attention as a potential emerging contender. The pressure that came with the spotlight proved to be too much to handle for Joe Philbin‘s club though, as it dropped four straight and quickly lost the respect that their 3-0 start earned.
The Dolphins also relinquished comfortable leads throughout the season. On four different occasions, Miami led by double-digits only to see its lead erased. Two of the said blown leads resulted in losses to contending teams — in Week 8 on the road versus the Patriots and in Week 12 at home versus the Carolina Panthers.
The Dolphins lacked a killer instinct from the beginning of the year to the end of it. That culminated with back-to-back collapses that Dolphins fans will be sure to look back on with agony from now until the foreseeable future.
Some will blame the head coach. Others will point the finger at the general manager who assembled the roster. In all fairness, there’s plenty of fault to go around, and that goes for everyone — to every coach, executive and player. What happened during these last two weeks is rare and every member of the organization is at least partially to blame. Few teams could have squandered the opportunity the Dolphins had so miserably.
The franchise seemingly continues to redefine what rock bottom means. They’ve appeared to reach it in the past by being a completely inept group. In 2013, however, they reached it in a new way: wasting multiple opportunities to achieve a successful campaign in multiple different ways.
For the Dolphins, the 2013 season will certainly be one to remember. It was a roller-coaster ride that saw two three-game winning streaks and a four-game losing streak, and a bullying controversy that drew unparalleled headlines and news coverage. But at the end of the day, the season will be deemed a failure. There are two words that come to mind when attempting to summarize who the 2013 Miami Dolphins were: choke artists.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.