Final Game 8 Observations

Despite the loss to Indianapolis on Sunday, the Dolphins still find themselves in position to make a push for the playoffs as they get set to start the second half of the season. But before we turn our attention to Sunday's game against Tennessee, let's take a final look at Sunday's 23-20 loss against the Colts.

• It made for great headlines to suggest that it was case of Andrew Luck beating Ryan Tannehill, but there were several factors in the outcome. Of course, that's not diminish what Luck because he was clearly the best player on the field on Sunday.

• Tannehill, mind you, had a good and maybe even very good performance, it's just that he wasn't as good as Luck on this day.

• But Luck also clearly had more help, and that's pretty much across the board.

• The biggest problem for the Dolphins on this day is that some of their most important players just didn't play very well.

• The most glaring example of that has to be cornerback Sean Smith, who not only struggled in coverage but also failed to make any plays on the ball. He badly misplayed the long touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton, saying afterward he lost the ball in the lights. There also was the easy interception he failed to make late in the fourth quarter that just might have cost the Dolphins the game. And then there was some poor tackling, particularly on a play where tight end Dwayne Allen caught a short pass. As Smith wrote on Twitter Monday, it was just a bad day at the office.

• Jake Long is another who had a tough day. He simply seemed to have problems all day with the Colts' speedy pass rushers, and it wasn't just Dwight Freeney.

• It was, all in all, a poor performance for the offensive line if you factor in Mike Pouncey's two costly false-start penalties — one on the Dolphins' final drive of the first half and one on their final drive of the game. Of course, it's fair to question the validity of either call because Pouncey really didn't do anything we haven't seen center across the league do on a regular basis for years and years.

• Another player who had a quiet game was defensive tackle Randy Starks. It was pretty much the first time all year that he wasn't a major factor.

• Even Cameron Wake was fairly quiet, even though he had a sack and he was the only Dolphins player who was able to get any kind of pressure on Luck.

• On the other side, Tannehill didn't enjoy anywhere near the same kind of protection as Luck, and don't think that didn't make a difference.

• On top of that, it seemed as though Indy receivers were running free all game and, for some reason, the Dolphins defensive backs were giving them a lot of room. It seemed as though the Dolphins were scared of the speed of the Indy receivers.

• Again, no such thing on the other end because the Dolphins just don't have much speed at wide receiver. Brian Hartline probably is the fastest wide receiver on the team, but he doesn't necessarily inspire great fear when it comes to getting deep.

• That also made it more difficult for Tannehill.

• And yet, despite all that, the Dolphins had not one but two chances to tie the game or take the lead after Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal. The last drive was particularly disappointing because the Dolphins reached midfield at the two-minute warning after Tannehill's 18-yard completion to Jabar Gaffney.

• Of course, the Dolphins' job would have been much easier on that final drive had it not been for the holding penalty on Marlon Moore, which left them at their 17 instead of the 41, which is where Marcus Thigpen had taken the punt return. What's really frustrating about this, too, is that the call could be best described as "marginal."

• All that said, Indy simply was the better team on Sunday and deserved to win.

• Perhaps there should be encouragement taken from the fact the Dolphins weren't at their best, they faced a red-hot quarterback, and yet easily could have won the game. It's a sign of how far the Dolphins have come since last season.

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