Tua looks good, but after losing to winless Jaguars — are Dolphins now worst team in NFL? | Opinion

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The 20-year curse of Miami football continued Sunday to cap a miserable, heartache weekend for the Hurricanes and Dolphins.

The Fins last won a playoff game in 2000 and the Canes’ last championship came in 2001, and both teams seem miles from reaching either height in 2021 seasons gone off the rails and into a muddy bog.

Actual, verbatim conversation heard in my home seconds after the Dolphins’ 23-20 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London:

My brother: “We just lost to the worst team in the league.”

My wife: “We are the worst team in the league.”

The Fins fall to 1-5 with a fifth consecutive loss by failing to be better than a Jags team that came in 0-5 and had lost 20 games in a row — the second longest losing streak in NFL history — dating to the last season’s first game.

The result came less than 24 hours after the equally cursed Canes fell to 2-4 and 0-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 45-42 loss at North Carolina that seemed headed to overtime on a short field goal until a batted-pass interception in the last seconds.

Misery times two.

Two lost seasons in sad lockstep.

Tua Tagovailoa returned at quarterback for Miami after three games out with a rib injury, and the loss cannot be pinned on him, at least not mostly.

He completed 33-of-47 passes for 329 yards and two TD passes to rookie Jaylen Waddle, the only blotch one really bad, underthrown interception.

Tua was up to the challenge of opponent QB Trevor Lawrence, the overall No. 1 draft pick, who hit on 25-of-431 passes for 319 yards, one TD and a lost fumble.

Tagovailoa actually narrowly had the better passer rating Sunday, 95.1 to 93.4.

Dolphins players inactive with injuries included important receivers DeVante Parker and Will Fuller, and starting cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. It would make Tagovailoa’s day more difficult as it made Lawrence’s easier, yet Tua played solidly but for that one misstep.

Tagovailoa threaded the ball inside tight coverage at the goal line to find Waddle for an opening-drive touchdown and a 7-0 Miami lead, but the Fins failed to build on that early momentum.

In the CBS pregame show analyst Bill Cowher predicted a Jacksonville win because “they have the better quarterback.”

That was not obvious Sunday. What was was that these Dolphins, top to bottom, have regressed sharply from the team that won 10 games last season.

Miami has gone from a disciplined team to a sloppy one killing itself. From the third-fewest penalties in 2020 to the most this year. The Dolphins had seven more Sunday.

Missed tackles continue an issue for a defense that also has regressed. The D showed moments — a fourth-down stop, Christian Wilkins’ sack/strip of his former Clemson teammate Lawrence — but could not produce the major stops when needed.

And Miami’s lack of a decent, steady running game continues glaringly obvious. On Sunday, Jacksonville’s James Robinson was the best running back on the field by a noticeable lot. The Fins’ lack of offensive balance is why Tagovailoa threw 47 passes in a low-scoring game.

Only Tampa Bay’s offense is more lopsided in favor of the pass. And they’re the Super Bowl champs. With a guy named Tom Brady. Passing seems to be a pretty reliable, proven weapon for the Bucs. For Miami it’s necessary because this team cannot run the ball.

A rally to playoff contention is plausible but seeming very unlikely now for the Dolphins.

The balance of this season will serve mostly to answer the pertinent questions moving forward — starting with whether Tagovailoa has shown enough to be the man to lead this team long-term. Sunday offered hints the answer is yes, but, still, he did not do enough, or score, enough to beat a winless team.

As we wait for long-range answers to play out, disappointed Dolfans confront a more pressing question that seemed unthinkable when a 10-win team won its season opener at New England. The question five weeks later:

Are the Miami Dolphins, right now, the worst team in the NFL?

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