Aug 9, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin reacts as he talks with the referees during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Miami Dolphins defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What Went Wrong Against the Pats



I am not a huge fan of finger-pointing at the game officials, and I want to make that one hundred percent clear as I start this article.  Being at the game Sunday, it felt like the Dolphins did what they have done in several losses this season, and got away from a game plan that was working on offense and failed to stop them on defense when it counted, but in this instance that simply was not the case.  Many fans make a case about the field goal pushing rule not being enforced in the Dolphins loss to Baltimore, but I’m willing to say that “That’s football” and the Dolphins should not have been in that position to begin with.  I’m not willing to say that here.

There were many factors I wanted to blame in the Dolphins loss in a knee-jerk reaction on Sunday.  Mike Sherman was the easy scapegoat as his playcalling has hurt the Fins in several of the losses.  That is not the case here, for the most part.  While it “felt” like the Dolphins got away from the balanced offense that had led them to the lead at halftime, rewatching the tape tells a different story.  There were mistakes made by the Dolphins.  On the strip sack of Tannehill, someone should have picked up the blitzing corner.  Mike Wallace dropped too many balls early.  Not challenging the bad call on the catch by Rishard Matthews on the sideline when he was in bounds.  These are things that happen no matter how good your team is, and as a fan I can accept mistakes like these.

There were turnovers, some of which occurred on amazing plays that I can accept and not finger point.  The interception on the sidelines by the Pats was one of the most amazing plays I’ve seen in a long time.  The strip sack was one hell of a play call by the Pats.  The garbage time grab of a toss-up at the end is going to happen, and quite frankly at least kept the Pats from adding a potential “rub it in” score to end the game.  These are all things that will happen throughout the course of a game, as will a couple of bad calls.  Bad calls and negative plays are things that need to be overcome, and can be overcome by a good team – to a point.

At a certain point, especially in a contest between good teams, bad calls at critical times can be crippling.  Momentum shift can be a huge factor for a team in any game, and make no mistake the Dolphins had all of the momentum until a series of bad calls began extending multiple scoring drives for the Patriots while ending a drives for the Dolphins.  Having been in attendance at the game, I can tell you definitively that the Pats fans were not in the game at the end of the first half, in spite of the terrible call that extended a drive to at least put the Pats on the board.  The Patriots were being booed and berated by their home fans at the half.  One fan near me, at the start of the third, screamed out “Hey BRADY!  Remember when you used to actually be able to throw and have talent?”  I’m not saying I agree with her, but that’s how far the momentum was in Miami’s favor.

Quite frankly, I would’ve overlooked one or two of the phantom penalties that kept the defense on the field when they earned a break, but a terrible series of these one-sided calls got to be too much.  It sucks the fun out of the game for me as a football fan to see continuous bad calls drastically impact a game in either direction.  These calls not only resulted in a momentum shift, but also in fatiguing a defense that was playing so well against a team that no one could see them doing this well against.  Fatigue, frustration and momentum are a huge killer to a defense.  The game officials brought all three to the Dolphins doorstep in this one.

The biggest momentum shift of the game, the one that truly changed the energy in the stadium, came on that terrible “batting the ball” penalty on Olivier Vernon.  The spirit of the rule is to combat blatantly attempting to bat the ball down the field into an advantageous position for your team.  I support the rule, but the key here is the blatancy of it.  This was a very weak call to make on a diving player amidst other diving players, let alone one who had it glance off his fingertips.  Did he mean to bat it fifteen yards downfield?  I honestly don’t know, nor do the officials.  There could have been a plethora of other intentions here, and without that blatancy this is the wrong call to make but possibly understandable if the flag came out when it happened.  The flag didn’t.  The play was over, it was 3rd down and 29 yards to go from midfield for the Patriots, as they recovered the fumble.  Well after the play was blown dead, a flag came out.  On any play, when a flag comes out significantly after the occurence, as an official you weren’t certain of the call.  When you’re not certain of a penalty that is a judgement call to begin with, it is not one that you should make well after the fact.  The penalty moved them nearly forty yards and gave them a new set of downs deep in the Dolphins red zone, and the mental affects of a critical play like that can be huge on a defense.

Following the batting call, the momentum in the stadium shifted drastically.  The other terrible calls contributed to the momentum shift as well, and downside of this was that the calls directly led to 13 points by the Patriots.  While many may disagree with the impact that this has on a game, let’s look back at the Dolphins schedule and see the effects it would have on games for them throughout their first 7 games if the officials were to gift wrap thirteen points for them, without even factoring the momentum shift and its effects:

  • Week 1: Mia vs Cle: original – 23-10 MIA, revamp 36-10 MIA
  • Week 2: Mia vs Ind: original – 24-20 MIA, revamp 37-20 MIA
  • Week 3: Mia vs Atl: original – 27-23 MIA, revamp 40-23 MIA
  • Week 4: Mia vs NO: original – 38-17 NO, revamp 38-30 NO
  • Week 5: Mia vs Bal: original – 26-23 BAL, revamp 36-26 MIA
  • Week 6: Bye (revamp, still a bye)
  • Week 7: Mia vs Buf: original – 23-21 BUF, revamp 36-23 MIA
  • Week 8: Mia vs NE: original – 27-17 NE, revamp 30-27 MIA
  • Current record: 3-4, Revamped record: 6-1

The point here is that critical calls made incorrectly or correctly can drastically alter the path of a game and the final score.  When they are made incorrectly, the good teams can overcome a couple of those, but with only so many drives in a game there comes a tipping point.  If these critical calls are legitimately on you, then there is a point that needs to be coached up for players or mistakes that need to be corrected.  When these calls are not legitimate and become insurmountable, however, then they are not something that you can course correct on.  There are a million comparison’s that I can make here, but I believe that the point here is clear.

Without breaking these apart too far, as it would be beating a dead horse, here are a handful of the poorly called “phantom” penalties on Miami.  I won’t belittle the officiating with some of the missed calls, as there are always a batch of those in both directions as at a certain point the officials need to just “let them play the game.”  The following were some of the more blatant ones that impacted the outcome of the game.

  • Jimmy Wilson’s pass interference penalty: This was one of the best plays I have seen to break on a ball.  The only contact he had in jumping the route was when Gronkowski’s arm hit him.  This kept the Pats on the field on a failed 3rd down and gave them a fresh set of downs, ultimately leading to 3 points.  The worst part?  This flag was thrown late by a sideline judge on the play, who doesn’t have a clear view to begin with.
  • Dmitri Patterson’s defensive holding call: Patterson did a beautiful job jamming the receiver with picture perfect technique on this play where Miami stopped the Pats on 3rd down outside of field goal range.  Watching from the end zone, I would see numerous times throughout the day where New England DB’s were “mugging and hugging” the receivers at the line with no call, making this call even worse than it was originally.
  • Rishard Matthews Sideline Catch: After a beautiful play by Matthews that saw him keep both feet in bounds, Miami should have thrown the challenge flag when they ruled the pass incomplete and stalled out a Dolphins drive.
  • Faceguarding Mike Wallace: I haven’t heard much on this one, but there was a textbook faceguarding call that should have been made and was not that stalled out a Dolphins drive.  The throw was coming Wallace’s way on the sideline, and the defender leaped up with both arms raised with his back to the ball, making no attempt to look back for the ball whatsoever, and had the ball bounce off the back of one of his arms.

The above are some of the plays that were critical in New England’s victory this weekend.  Remove any two of those against the defense and this game has a completely different outcome.

Last but not least, Miami fans can’t legitimately blame Mike Sherman in this one, nor can they blame the offensive line.  My knee jerk reaction was to lay some of the blame at Sherman’s feet, but quite frankly that is not the case.  Like many fans, I thought he got away from the run in the second half, but that just wasn’t true.  Fewer runs were called in the final 7 minutes of the game with Miami trailing by 10, but that is a situation where you have to go into gunslinger mode at the end of a game that you are trailing by double digits.  Sherman was playing to win this week with an open playbook, and I give him credit.

There will be more to come on the good that came from the Pats game in a subsequent article.  There were a lot of positive things if you read between the lines.

Fins up!



Next Dolphins Game View full schedule »
Sunday, Sep 77 Sep1:00New England PatriotsBuy Tickets
Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Miami Dolphins

  • zeek

    Im sorry but this article seems like an angry fan looking for some explanation of why we gave up this game in the second half. If this was our second loss of the season, i can understand it but we’ve lost four straight. this game had some bad calls but most games do. and the batting call while in slow motion seems questionable, at full speed when the ball flies ten yards back like that i can understand the flag. We did not play like we did in the first half. that interception was on tannehill because when wallace has two steps on a CB you cant just float that like he did. and the strip fumble is a recurring theme. Some bad calls were made but we clearly didnt look like ourselves and tannehill seems uncomfortable throwing anything more then 5 yards. as a fellow dolphin fan (and an avid follower of yours and usually love your work) this seems like an angry fan looking for anything to explain this collapse.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Hi Zeek,
      Again, apologies for not getting back to you sooner on this. I know I responded to some of your points in another reply above, but I appreciate the feedback. It means a lot to me that you love MOST of my work on here, and wanted to clear it up about this article a bit. I waited to pull it together until a few days later so as not to do so in anger (that helps no one) and from more of an analytical perspective. There were some bad calls in other games, but I’m not a huge fan of finger pointing at officials. It sickens me a bit to watch, but being from New England most of the New England games are the local game here and I see the caliber of calls and no-calls that New England gets in their favor on a regular basis. I did a piece recently on this after their game against New Orleans. The biggest tipping point in that game was a poor job by the officials on a handful of critical plays.
      In the Fins vs Pats game, having phantom penalties extend drives for New England has a huge effect on the team psyche, as well as on their level of exhuastion. Watching last nights Bengals game gives an idea of the effects of being on the field too long on D. When they did things right to get off the field, and are kept on it repeatedly, it kills the team.
      Anyhow, I appreciate that you keep reading, and always welcome it when readers keep me honest with things or voice opinions. One of the greatest things for me is when I log in and see that I have comments waiting, as I am always open to other viewpoints on things!
      Thank you again,

      • zeek

        No Apology needed! Im sure you are a busy man (espeicially now with the new situation..). I was just pointing to the fact that while those calls did not help, they were all when NE had the ball. our offense got shut out and I thought that was the most glaring problem. while I felt better after the Cincy game, this new situation with Incognito worries me as a fan. This extra attention is not what we need when were trying to gain some momentum in the second half of the season. Hopefully the team can ignore the noise. But I appreciate the reply and Its great to know our thoughts and comments are heard. Keep up the great work!

  • FinFan68

    The “illegal batted ball” thing was quite controversial due to the official’s perception of intent. They thought he intentionally tried to knock the ball away from a Patriots player towards the Dolphins goal. Intent was questionable but the call was made. Fine.

    That said, what about the sideline pick? On that play, the Patriots defender batted the ball (intent was certain on this one) towards the Patriots goal, to a teammate who then caught it with both feet in bounds and the ruling was interception. Why was the penalty not called in that case?

    For those thinking the difference was that it was a forward pass rather than a loose ball, here is the definition straight from the NFL rulebook:

    Article 3
    A Loose Ball is a live ball that is not in player possession, i.e., any kick, pass, or fumble. A loose ball that has not yet struck the ground is In Flight.”

    Based on this definition and the rule applied to the fumble the Dolphins could have gotten the ball 15 yards from either the spot the foul occurred (sideline) or, at a minimum, from the original LOS and an automatic first down. No flag, no controversy, and the play was lauded as a great “heads-up” play by the DBs.

    The Dolphins flat-out imploded but the officiating caused added frustration that the team could not recover from. If any of those “bad calls” were correctly enforced, the implosion doesn’t seem quite as bad and maybe they could have stopped the slide. The Patriots still might have continued with the beat-down in the second half, but all of the late flags and controversial calls directly benefited them at crucial points in the game.

    As for the 4-straight losses–it is much easier to play defense if you know the play is a run or pass at the snap.

    • zeek

      Article 7 Legal Touching.A forward pass (legal or illegal) thrown from behind the line may be touched by any eligible player. A pass in flight may be tipped, batted, or deflected in any direction by any eligible player at any time, including such a pass in the end zone

      Im sorry but these questionable calls all came when the patriots had the ball. We failed to score a single point the whole second half. I simply can not blame this game on the officials with that performance. yea there were some bad calls, but we have lost four straight. this is clearly a team issue.

      • FinFan68

        Thanks. I was looking for a reference like that but couldn’t find it. I agree that our offense crapped out in the second half and that is on the Dolphins not the officials. You are correct that most of those questionable calls were when the Pats had the ball but they all resulted in first downs/continued possession. It just looked unfair, especially when many of the dumb flags fell well after the supposed infraction happened and after the final result of the play was known. We even got one of those. (The no whistle delay of game called after the ball was batted at the line on a 3rd and long)

        The play-calling was better but still suspect at times in this game but I really believe the Go/Go-Go stupidity is why they seem so inept. That needs to change quickly or we will continue to see stuff like this.

        • zeek

          I agree. The calls were bad but i believe there was some on both sides. that delay of game was one, but after the bad defensive holding call on Patterson, gronkowski caught that touchdown which was brought back by a bad holding call on one of the pats olineman.things went both ways. I feel the biggest reason we lost was Tanny and sherman. sherman for play calling, Tanny for bad ball skills.. I understand the attrocious amount of sacks, but he needs to hold onto the ball better.. and his interceptions just seem bad. The pats made a great play on that tip, but the ball thrown to wallace was aweful. if you go watch, wallace had the pats CB beat and tanny floated it where wallace had to stop and attempt to jump for it and the safety got their first. wallace has been a huge busts but that int should have been thrown long and farther down the field. our offense just looked so bad the second half….

          • FinFan68

            Wallace. He has skill but he doesn’t use it as often as he should. I agree that ball should have been farther but is that completely on Tannehill? Maybe that one was but some were not. Wallace seems to not turn on the jets until he pulls even with the DB. That is roughly the same point when the ball is thrown. If he is running at 75% when the ball is released and then cranks it up to 100%, the ball will seem underthrown. That said, Tannehill should compensate and just sling it down there farther. Remember the hail mary a couple weeks ago? 2 receivers were in the end zone (stopped) and Wallace was just getting there when the ball arrived? The last pick of the game it seemed to me like he was jogging and Tannehill overthrew him by 20 yards. Yes, Tannehill needs to be more accurate on those deep balls but Wallace needs to play hard from the snap and he often doesn’t. His main advantage is speed and if does not run full speed immediately, he basically throws that advantage away and takes himself out of the game. He would be fine on scrambles but for some reason the designed roll-outs have been avoided by Sherman. The drops don’t exactly inspire confidence either. He could be a huge weapon (the screen pass against the Pats was great–the one against the Bills he ran the wrong way initially and lost 7 yards when the defense closed)

            As for Tannehill, I do not mind the decisions. the leadership is there and so is the fire. BUT he needs to hold on to the damn ball. Most of his fumbles are on arm hacks and usually from the blind side (Williams wasn’t) and that does not happen when he is already on the move. Sherman can help the kid out but he hasn’t. It also looks like he had more leeway with checks at the line LAST year. Why? Let the kid play his game and they will look better–as long as the cadence stupidity stops.

          • zeek

            I agree Wallace has not been anything he was supposed to be. I knew he had drop problems out of pitt but not this bad. and as for not turning on the jets, on that tip play tanne just floated it too much. he needs to air it out downfield more. that being said most of the missed connections have been on wallace. I wasn’t a huge fan of his leaving pitt but i thought we would be able to make it work. but my fears of his bad route running and hands are becoming more and more glaring. I really want tanne to be good but it seems his downfield throws arent very accurate (that last INT on the hail marry not included that was just a desparation heave). he has the leadership but i never see the fire. He never seems like hes trying to get his guys up he seems very laid back. that may be his style though so i cant fault that. but he seems to be accounting for every single turnover we have and its alarming. Im starting to fear the “winning free agency curse” is real because so far we are not getting what what we were expecting based on all the money we spent

  • Jerr1233

    Excellent write up on the atrocious officiating of this game. This was one of the most lopsided officiated games I have seen ever. I mean 1 or 2 bad calls, fine chalk that up to football is a fast game and bad calls happen to everybody. But all of these bad calls and late flags on unchallengeable penalties? That being said, We did shoot ourselves in the foot by getting away from the running game. We were killing the pats with it and they couldn’t stop it. It was a tie game when we really stopped running the ball. That’s not playing from behind, that’s just do it until they stop it and they couldn’t. Mike Sherman needs to stop being so pass happy in the second half and move Tannihill around and stop insisting he be a pocket passer. He is PHINomenal we he is on the move and we have the offensive line that can move with him. How many times have we seen Pouncy down field blocking for a running play? I’m not buying into the season is over and playoffs are out of reach but we need to get this losing thing over with…We can still split with the BIlls and Pats and sweep the Jets that alone would put us at 7 – 4 add in another 2 or 3 wins to that and we are right in the hunt. Not to mention the pats still have to play the Broncos, Texans and Ravens. So we are still alive but have work to do….GO FINS!!!!

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Hi Jerr, I agree with you. Bad calls do happen to everyone, but there is a tipping point. I waited a few days to write the article, as I wanted to attempt to do so from a point outside of anger to ensure I wasn’t writing this up with anything other than observation (well, and a bit of disgust), including watching the game back and taking some meticulous notes (something that I hate!). Miami is definitely not a perfect team, far from it, but they were the better team despite their mistakes until the officiating took over and got the crowd and the team back in it.
      I love Tannehill on rollouts. Absolutely love it. While you can’t abuse it (or teams can key it) it should be a bigger part of the repertoire on offense. I believe in the team enough that I’m still planning to not only take a trip for at least 1 playoff game, but planning to do so IN Miami.

  • Alex Davila

    Those bad calls took the breath out of the team and clearly shifted the momentum in the Pats’ favor. Anybody who doesn’t understand how that affects the psyche of a single player, not to mention, the whole team, must not have much common sense. Yeah, everybody could’ve done better, but this just reeks of shenannigans LOL. Maybe the zebras were making it up to the Pats for flubbing it last week vs the Jets, who knows. I feel we’ll be starting a new streak this week, and its coming at the right time! #Fins4Life #FinsUp

    • zeek

      I think the Psyche was affected before some of those calls. after the pats scored and it was 17-10 we immediately fumble on a strip sack and they tie it up in a matter of seconds. that messed us up and sherman went into panic mode and started throwing more. I really want to believe we lost this because of officials, but 4 straight losses.. this is clearly a team issue.. but i hope youre right and we can get the bengals on a short week we have an extra day they have to travel early for thursday so we have a bt of an upper hand

      • FinFan68

        We do have a slight advantage due to the limited time + travel issue but they are coming off a thorough beat down of the Jets and we are stumbling around trying to stop a 4 game skid. They probably even out. The Bengals front 7 is among the best in the league. If we continue with the Go/Go-Go play telegraph some folks will get their wish because Matt Moore will probably be needed in that game. Fix that one thing and much of the problems disappear or are drastically reduced.

        • Paul L. Picken, Jr

          Hey guys, as you know I try to reply to any responses I get, and it’s been a crazy week so I’m a bit late on that here. I fully agree on the points around psyche that zeek and Alex make above. Zeek, I think the psyche issue was compounded, some by the teams own mistakes but also having played in a game that had ridiculously one sided officiating years ago, amongst other experiences, I know the effects it can have on you as a team. I’m fully cognizant of the fact that this team does have and has had larger issues, but quite honestly in attending the Pats game and watching it live there is nothing about that team itself that scares me, and Miami has the talent level to take it to them on a level playing field.
          To FinFan68′s point, this Go/Go-Go BS needs to Go, Go-Go away. The fins should use it to their advantage in upcoming games until people don’t key on it any longer. It is insane to me and I won’t even pretend to understand why they do that.