Now we find who the Dolphins are

After ugly loss to Titans, the season grows steep

MIAMI GARDENS - This Sunday already was a mess, an example of who the Dolphins can be on their worst day, when word filtered through a nearly empty locker room it was the most lopsided home loss for the franchise since 1968.

Marlon Moore, the last remaining Dolphin, chuckled in a way that wasn't a chuckle.

"I was a couple of decades from being born then,'' he said.

History may not treat the Dolphins kindly this morning after a 37-3 loss to Tennessee. But at least thanks to this dreadful loss you don't have to hear any of the foolishness about them being a playoff team anymore.

You didn't honestly think this rebuilding team was good enough to be near the playoffs, did you?

Now we find something else out, something nearly as important as being good enough or not in today's NFL. We find out if they're tough enough to hang through the first surprising punch they've taken this year.

"We didn't execute at all," defensive end Cameron Wake said of Sunday's loss. "Backside (runs). Front side. Pass game. Pass rush. Pass coverage. Special teams. It was embarrassing to say the least."

So now we find out who the Dolphins are. We find if they can handle the boat taking on water. We find if they work harder and smarter than Sunday. Because there's a reckoning coming quickly when you look at the schedule.

At 3-6 Buffalo on Thursday, a short week.

Home against 6-4 Seattle.

Home against 6-3 New England.

At 6-2-1 San Francisco.

Part of the charm of the Dolphins' nice little start this season was how they covered some obvious holes with bold decisions and deft strategy. That was easier when you play one team with a winning record in your first seven games, as the Dolphins did. That's about to change ahead.

At the same time, in today's NFL you make no more lasting judgment from this loss than you should have about Tennessee a week ago during its worst loss in franchise history.

"Everyone was killing us, even the owner,'' Titans running back Chris Johnson said about the 51-20 loss to Chicago. "We just stuck together as a team. We knew we could play like this."

That's what the Dolphins should do, what everyone expects them to do a day to forget. They had more turnovers (four) than third-down conversions (two-of-13). Chris Johnson became the first running back to top 100 yards on them in 22 games.

Running back Reggie Bush was benched after a fumble. Guard Richie Incognito yanked after a personal foul penalty. Ryan Tannehill hadn't thrown an interception in 107 passes up through Sunday's first quarter. He then threw three in his next 25 passes.

"Don't throw it to the other team,'' Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said when asked what Tannehill needed to learn.

Sometimes it's that simple. The Dolphins got outworked and outthought Sunday. That needs to change, as does so much else.

"This is the most adverse situation we've been in,'' Incognito said. "We'll see now how everyone responses. I think we've got a lot more character than to go in the tank."

Everyone knows this team still needs a receiver or two to offer some semblance of a downfield passing game. That's six quarters this offense has gone without a touchdown.

It needs some playmakers on defense, too. Tennessee had four turnovers on Sunday? The Dolphins went a second straight week without causing one.

No one wants to be judged off their worst game, which is what the Dolphins had on Sunday. But the season comes quickly at them Thursday and then grows steeper.

Safety Reshad Jones at least had the right thought. He's one of those who played well much of this year and came up as empty Sunday as he did on a whiffed tackle of Johnson.

"I'm going home to watch film of Buffalo right now,'' he said.

Sounds like a start.

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