Dolphins head for Wembley having crashed back to earth after Patriots win

时间:2019-11-16  作者:经那政  来源:nb88新博官方网站  浏览:56次  评论:4条

Two weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins were one of the hottest commodities in football. They had just dispatched New England with , scoring 23 unanswered points in the second half, and commentators were asking if this was the team that would finally lead a breakthrough in South Florida after almost 15 years of futility.

But if a week is a long time in politics, a fortnight is an eternity in the National Football League. Just two games later and less than a month into the season, Joe Philbin’s team stand at a tipping point ahead of their trip to London this week to play the at Wembley.

Even by the NFL’s standards it is a stunning turnaround, with head coach Philbin this week refusing to back his quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, in his Monday press conference and making it sound like the Dolphins are on the verge of a full-blown crisis. It may not be too far from the truth.

Admittedly, third-year pro Tannehill has dropped to following defeats at the hands of and, more tellingly, a previously winless , but the team’s sudden lurch towards the precipice goes much deeper than a passer with a career-low quarterback rating of 74.1.

The simple truth facing Miami is that a loss at Wembley to the 0-3 Raiders would be tantamount to oblivion. At 1-3 they would need to win eight of their remaining 12 games just to be on the verge of any playoff scenario; more worryingly still, losing to a team widely considered one of the worst in the league would be more bruising than any win-loss statistic.

Philbin’s tenure has been marked by , but a failure to be competitive for a third year in a row will sit far less comfortably with 74-year-old owner Stephen Ross, who started preseason with an unequivocal statement : “You own a team because you want to create a winner, not just the fact of owning the team. That’s why I own the Dolphins and wanted to own the Dolphins – to bring back to Miami a consistently winning team.”

While it doesn’t quite amount to a play-offs-or-bust ultimatum for Ross’s head coach, it is certainly a serious notice of intent. It probably also explains Philbin’s press conference reticence in the wake of , when he concluded affairs with a potentially fateful remark:

So it’s a long season. We’re 1-2 right now. We’re going to have to circle the wagons. We’re going to have to play a lot better.

Circling the wagons is an unfortunate metaphor for a struggling team – it suggests a siege mentality and a battle against the odds, especially given murmurs of player discontent with the defensive coaching.

This was a defence that limited Tom Brady and the Patriots to 23 points and none after the interval, and kept the Bills to nine first-half points before falling to a 29-10 final scoreline. But 34, at home to an 0-2 Kansas City without top running back Jamaal Charles? That stung – and one player was quoted as being “beyond furious” with Sunday’s defensive scheme.

That discontent was reported by , who was quick to back up his insider observations with a clear overview that resonates ominously for the task ahead in London.

Beasley told the Guardian: “It is potentially very ugly. Everybody knows what is at stake here – Stephen Ross has made it clear he is tired of mediocre play and not making the play-offs, but all the signs are that this team is regressing, not getting better. If things continue as they are, there are quite a few people who stand to be out of a job, from the head coach to literally every single person under him.

It seems hard to say there is a must-win game in Week Four, but going into the bye week at 1-3 on a three-game losing streak against supposedly the ‘soft’ part of your schedule would be nothing short of disastrous. It is a staggering fall in the last two weeks and they simply have to halt the run this week.

If that is the case, the head coach’s equivocation over his quarterback seems even less helpful, as it creates uncertainty at the team’s most critical position, which has not exactly been a yardstick for success ever since Dan Marino called it a day after the 1999 season.

Tannehill is, incredibly, one of 17 men for the Dolphins in that 15-year period, but only the second after Jay Fiedler (2000-02) to be the starter three seasons in a row. Miami have reached the promised land of the play-offs just three times in that time, and Fiedler gets the credit for the lone postseason win, at home to Indianapolis on 30 December 2000. In overtime.

The scrutiny remains intense, therefore, and the possibility of current back-up Matt Moore resuming the role he assumed at the start of the 2011 season has been well and truly revived by Philbin.

It is however one area where Beasley can understand the coach’s thinking: “This was the year Tannehill was supposed to take a big jump forward, yet the statistics say he has regressed. He is currently on pace for career-lows in completion percentage (56.5%), passer rating (74.1) and yards per attempt (5.0). It is not encouraging.

“But I think they are who they are. They have been a mediocre team for years and years now. There was about new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in the offseason and what he could do with the offence but they are now less efficient than they were under Mike Sherman last season.

Yes, they could still be 9-7 this season. The majority of teams are firmly in the middle, talent-wise, in the NFL these days, so it’s perfectly possible to go from playing garbage one week to playing your best game of the year the next. But you need consistency to get out of the run of being merely mediocre, and we have yet to see any sign of that from this Dolphins team.

Ironically, the one thing that could be in Miami’s favour this week is the far-distant venue, with north London’s open acres providing a welcome change of scenery for Tannehill and Co. If they can’t win at home and they can’t beat an AFC East rival on the road, how about travelling five time zones to a stadium that could well see as many Dolphins jerseys in the stands as those in Oakland colours?

Dan Marino leaves the field after his last game – a 62-7 pounding by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Playoffs in 2000. Photograph: Craig Jones/Allsport

Miami remain one of the NFL’s best supported teams in the UK, with a fervent fanbase dating back to the halcyon days of the 1980s, Marino and the league being shown on Sunday teatimes on Channel 4. It is one of the reasons they were chosen for the first of the International Series games, in 2007 (although that journey ended in ).

Beasley agrees: “It certainly can’t hurt them at the moment. They see it as something of a challenge to fly in on the Friday, do only limited work on the Saturday, treat it very much as a business trip and then fly back straight away on Sunday night. It could well be to their advantage to be out of their usual routine.

I have talked to a few of the guys who are still left from the 2007 team and they enjoyed the experience last time, so hopefully that is a good sign.

The Dolphins certainly need all the promising portents they can get their hands on, if only to stave off the spectre of continuing Florida’s dismal trend of being the league’s poorest relations.

Count Miami with woeful Jacksonville and imploding Tampa Bay and the three Sunshine State teams are a combined 1-8 – those who remember will know Florida’s pro teams have a nasty habit of digging huge holes for themselves.

However, Philbin and his men are the only Florida team on red alert that the next defeat could have serious ramifications for their long-term futures. They may be banking on the fact 0-3 Oakland have to be worse; and that may not be a wise tactic either.

Oakland Raiders Marcel Reece, left, and Justin Tuck joke around following a training event for children in Guildford. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

The Raiders were only one unfortunate offensive holding penalty and one more egregious error by Denarius Moore, who managed to turn a near-certain catch into a drive-killing interception, from tying and at least getting to the lottery of overtime. They have also been competitive in two of their three defeats and they will surely fancy their chances of adding to Miami’s misery in front of the Wembley hordes.

So, while the first of this year’s record three International Series games may not be a battle of the giants, there will be a lot at stake, especially for those in aqua-green-and-white. Now, if they can just recapture some of that Week One mojo …