Third quarter blues

Future Hall of Famer Dan Marino took some shots at his former team on HBO's "Inside the NFL" last week, and while some may debate the appropriateness of his comments there can be no doubt he was right on the money on at least one topic. That would be the Dolphins' catastrophic failures in the third quarter this season.

The Dolphins have been outscored a ridiculous 68-3 so far this season in the third quarter. By comparison, the Dolphins have outscored opponents in both the second (46-37) and fourth quarters (58-47), which an accomplishment for a team that is 1-8.

It's just that by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, the Dolphins have messed up badly enough in the third that the game often is out of reach.

Marino blamed the third-quarter failures on poor coaching, more precisely the lack of proper adjustments.

Ask Dolphins players and coaches what has gone wrong, and the answer is a big "I don't know."

Obviously, the Dolphins coaching staff deserves its share of the blame for this terrible season, and the team's problems in the third quarter is one are you can look at.

When asked about the third-quarter problems, new starting quarterback A.J. Feeley replied, "I couldn't tell you. I think it just happens to be in the third quarter that we're getting beat. I don't know if there is a remedy for it. You approach it like any other quarter and you try to put points on the board.

"You break it down into parts here and it happens to be in the third quarter. I don't see it coming, to do something differently to play for a third-quarter attack, it's just the game of football. It's broken into four components.

"Right now, I guess if you're going to analyze it, the third quarter is not going so well for us. It's just the way that it is."

New coach Jim Bates pointed out that part of the problem has been that many of the interceptions returned for a touchdown have taken place in the third quarter, and he's got a point.

Of the five picks returned for a score against the Dolphins this season, four have come in the third quarter, the only exception being Buffalo linebacker Takeo Spikes' touchdown in the first quarter.

That's 28 points right there. So the defense has given up 40 points in nine third quarters so far this season. That's not so horrible.

But three points by the offense? That's a joke.

Going back through the years, the lowest-scoring quarter the Dolphins have had in a 16-game season was the first quarter in 1994 when they totaled only 22 points.

Maybe the Dolphins' tendency to play it close to the vest has been an issue coming out of halftime this year. Maybe that will change under Bates.

One thing is for sure, the Dolphins won't win many games if they don't do a little better in the third quarter from now on.

"I'm not familiar with what's been done before on offense and I don't know what type of struggles they've had," Bates said. "Defensively, I know we've allowed some points. We've had a lot of turnovers for touchdowns in the third quarter.

"But the start of the third quarter is very important. The momentum of the game changes course after halftime and we need to do a better job definitely."

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