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 »This Week in History
Miami Dolphins

  Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel | Player Wire

  The Miami Dolphins had another game in which they were afflicted by breakdowns in all three phases in Sunday's 24-14 loss to Dallas.

The offense was 1 of 10 on third-down conversions, the defense allowed 166 rushing yards, and special teams had a couple of key blunders, including a late hit by punter Matt Darr.

The self-inflicted damage was too much to overcome.

"It was drops and penalties that really killed us," interim coach Dan Campbell said. "Kudos to those guys over there, they played good football and they capitalized on our mistakes.

"But we really hurt ourselves, really. They took full advantage of those penalties. The holding penalties and the drops early in the game, our two third-down drops, hurt us."

The Dolphins (4-6) fell to 3-3 under Campbell and reduced their wild-card margin of error to near zero. Most likely the Dolphins, who are down in potential tiebreakers because they are 0-4 in division games and 2-5 in conference games, must win their final six games to earn their first playoff berth since 2008.

"We're going to finish 10-6, and somehow fight and claw to get in these playoffs," linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said.

Right now that seems nearly impossible.

The Dolphins are 31st in run defense (138.6 yards per game), 26th in scoring offense (20.5 points per game) and 20th in scoring defense (24.9 points per game). And quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 30 times, tied for seventh-most in the NFL.

The problems run deep with the Dolphins, who in the last three-plus seasons have changed their head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo (18 of 28, 227 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, 83.5 passer rating) returned, and the Cowboys ended their seven-game losing streak. But the bigger factor was running back Darren McFadden rushing for 129 yards on 29 carries.

In fact, Tannehill (13 of 24, 188 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 90.3 passer rating) had a better day statistically, even with an interception returned for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

The Dolphins, who had two interceptions one by cornerback Brent Grimes and another by rookie linebacker Neville Hewitt - but they couldn't get out of their own way.

In the fourth quarter alone, when they were outscored, 10-0, the Dolphins were outwitted schematically, leading to a Dez Bryant touchdown reception, a botched kickoff return that started the offense at the 4-yard line, and a late-hit penalty on Darr that started Dallas at the Dolphins' 21-yard line.

Miami was playing without starting linebackers Jelani Jenkins (left ankle) and Koa Misi (abdomen) and it showed. Undrafted rookie linebackers Hewitt (four tackles) and Zach Vigil (three tackles) struggled against the run and pass.

"I think penalties were huge," Tannehill said. "(We) got behind the sticks. (We) got first downs that were negated by penalties. You can't do that. You have to be able to convert and move the ball on third down. We just didn't make enough plays in the first half.

"We had opportunities and we didn't make the plays."

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