AFC East: Dolphins Line A Major Concern

The Dolphins have finally started to get into a rhythm on offense, but it hasn't been easy. Usually the team's QB has born the brunt of the woes of the offensive line. After losing Jake Long, Miami's troubles can only get worse.

Team single-season record for sacks allowed could fall

   The Dolphins' offensive line is on the verge of being historically bad.

   Miami allowed five sacks Saturday during a 27-24 loss to New England, which brings the season total to 51 sacks in 15 games. With three more sacks, this year's team would break the team record set by the 1969 squad for most sacks allowed in a single season (53).

   The odds of that happening during Sunday's season finale against the blitz-happy Jets, who have produced 34 sacks, are pretty good. That's especially true if Jake Long, the Dolphins' left tackle who has been selected to three straight Pro Bowls, sits out the game because of the torn right biceps he reportedly suffered against the Patriots.

   It's unrealistic to expect Long to play against the Jets because of the severity and location of the injury, but interim coach Todd Bowles wouldn't rule Long out on Monday, pointing out the team's doctors are still running tests.

   "Jake's a warrior," Bowles said. "At this point in the season, everybody plays hurt. If it comes to that, we'll deal with it as the week goes."

   John Jerry likely will replace Long as the team's starting left tackle. Jerry, who started 10 games at right guard last season, has filled in for Long at left tackle for two games now.

   "I think John (Jerry) did an adequate job. You always miss a presence like Jake," Bowles said. "There's not a big drop off there with John. We did some things. We ran the ball well."

   Running the ball isn't the problem. Providing quarterback Matt Moore adequate protection is, as only the Panthers and the Rams (52 sacks allowed apiece) have been worse this season.

   The Dolphins have allowed the quarterback to be hit 94 times, which is fourth most in the NFL.

   "You got to throw the ball in this league. You just can't win with running the football," Bowles said. "We're not worried about the sack record or anything. We're worried about protecting the quarterback. We have to do a better job of keeping Matt upright in the pocket."

Playing spoiler holds little appeal

   --The Dolphins are aware the Jets (8-7) still have a faint chance of making it into the playoffs as a wild-card team, but Sunday's game isn't about playing spoiler. It's about finishing the season strong. Even so, there's no denying the stakes have intensified.
   "To be able to affect the outcome of a rival is obviously a motivation, but we're playing for us," defensive end Jared Odrick said. "We're going out there to accomplish what we want to do. We're not worried about the other team."

   --Quarterback Matt Moore is now ranked 36th in fourth-quarter passing. He has a 61.6 rating during that critical quarter. Only five starters -- Oakland's Carson Palmer, Chicago's Jay Cutler, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Miami's Chad Henne and Indianapolis' Curtis Painter -- have been worse this season.
   "I wish I could put a finger on it for you," interim coach Todd Bowles said of the team's fourth-quarter struggles. "If I knew the answer to that, we sure wouldn't have lost the fourth-quarter games we had. They made some plays in the end. It's a different guy each play. Each game it's a different guy here or there that can swing it one or the other.
   "I don't think it's lost in the fourth quarter. You lose some of those games in the first and second quarter off of different plays. This week, I think we lost it in the third quarter."

   --"It just speaks to the character of the men in this room. We don't quit. We just fight and keep swinging. That's been out mentality all year long," guard Richie Incognito said of the team's respectable second half of the season, which features Miami winning five of its past eight games.

   --Receiver Brandon Marshall has caught 77 passes for 1,177 yards and six touchdowns this season. However, he's also second in the NFL in dropped passes, and many of those costly mistakes have come in the end zone.
   "I've left a lot of opportunities out there, and it all comes down to focus. I've got to get better at focusing on the task at hand," Marshall said.

   --With his 113 rushing yards against the Patriots, Reggie Bush became the 12th player in team history to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau. He has 1,086 yards, the eighth-best, single-season total in team history, and he's got a pretty solid shot of getting into the top five during Sunday's season finale against the Jets. Bush is 54 yards away from passing Lamar Smith's 1,139 rushing yards for fourth place.

   --The Dolphins were blown out by the Patriots in last year's season finale when nothing was at stake. Interim coach Todd Bowles doesn't foresee a similar season-ending result this year.
   "I think last year (the Patriots) just beat the pants off of us. This week, like it's been every week, we're a tough team. These guys have stuck together all year. There's no reason why we're not going to stick together for one more game," Bowles said.

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