MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- It's the end of the road for the Miami Dolphins. The late season playoff run came to an end last week at Tennessee. There is still one game to go, the week 18 finale at home against New England.
Patriots Start It and End It
Dolphins coach Brian Flores has had success against his former team. The Dolphins started the season very promising with a week one win in New England. Sunday, they end the season with a game against the Patriots, with Miami playing for pride, trying to sweep New England and finish the season above .500.
Ups and Downs
Never before has an NFL team experienced what the Dolphins have this season, a 7-game losing streak followed by a 7-game winning streak. Last week at Tennessee, the Dolphins just did not have it, as the Titans hammered Miami, and ended any hopes of a miracle playoff spot. The key next year, will be to figure things out much earlier in the season and not let it get away from the Dolphins like it did this year. Losses to Jacksonville and Atlanta stand out as Miami had late leads only to let it slip away in heartbreaking losses.
What Went Right
Clearly, the coach has command of his team and players like playing for him. That is a huge part of the equation in the sports. The Dolphins never quit, even at 1-7. The rookie seasons of Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips, and Javon Holland were fun to watch as the Dolphins hit big in the 2021 draft. The defense was a bit of a mystery as the 2nd half of the season it was a top 5 unit but had that long stretch during the losing streak of not being able to get off the field. Next season, it will need to limit the valleys and hit higher peaks in big games against top opponents. Half the Dolphins wins this season are against the bottom 4 teams in the AFC.
Certainly the Dolphins will need to retool their running game and offensive line. They tried to build it basically exclusively through the draft, and while Robert Hunt looks like a pro bowl caliber guard, the rest of the line is up in the air heading into the off season. At least one experienced, steady tackle seems to be needed. The quarterback position has been much talked about with good reason. While Tua has shown progress and has a winning record over his 2 years it is a spot where if the Dolphins are able to upgrade their talent, they will be aggressive. Another area to watch is the kicking game where there is improvement needed both in punting and surprisingly place kicking. Jason Sanders has always been one of the best in the league but did struggle this season. Perhaps it is just the blip on the radar screen, and he will bounce back strong in 2022.
Two in a Row
While there are no moral victories and no Dolphin fan is interested in consolation prizes, with a win over the Patriots, the Dolphins do have a chance for back-to-back winning seasons. They did not take that next step expected and reach the playoffs this year, but year four under Brian Flores will certainly bring those expectations and then some. The Dolphins have an excellent second half of the season record under Flores, something to hang their hat on as they get into the offseason.
The Dolphins and Patriots kickoff at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium and you can watch it on CBS4, your official Dolphins television station.
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