Defensive Problems Continue

After two defeats against the New England Patriots and Houston Texans — teams with two of the best offenses in the NFL — the Miami Dolphins' defensive struggles might have seemed like an anomaly. But after the Dolphins defense again faltered on Sunday in a 17-16 loss against the Cleveland Browns, the Dolphins' defensive problems are now more evident than ever.

It was one thing to struggle against the Patriots and Texans. And another completely to allow Colt McCoy, the Browns' second-year quarterback, to lead an 80-yard game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute on Sunday. The Dolphins did well enough to contain McCoy for the majority of the game. But that hardly mattered in the end.

"We had plenty of opportunities to put the game away as a team and we didn't do it," veteran Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said. "We have to bite the consequences."

The Dolphins possessed one of the top defenses in the league in 2010 and, given the unit returned 10 of its 11 starters, hopes were high that the defense could be even better this season. Instead, though, it has been far worse.

The Dolphins have been adequate against the run, though the opposition hasn't emphasized the run. And why would they, with how the Dolphins have failed to defend against the pass?

Through three games, the Dolphins have allowed the third-most passing yards in the NFL. They have allowed 8.3 yards per pass attempt, which ranks fifth-worst in the league. And they have often failed to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Only three teams have fewer than the Dolphins' four sacks.

Things will become more difficult before they get easier. The Dolphins this weekend will travel to San Diego to face the Chargers. Their passing game has struggled somewhat in the early season — at least relative to the high expectations placed upon quarterback Philip Rivers — but the Chargers boast enough weapons to leave the Dolphins' defense with more frustration.

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