The Dolphins special teams has had some great moments from Marcus Thigpen this year and got excellent all-around games from the entire unit, particularly at New York, this season.
But lately, the special teams have had to fight to merely keep from hurting Miami's chances of winning games. And on Sunday, special teams fully hurt Miami's chances to win the game.
Three weeks ago, special teams set the tone for the game (in exactly the wrong fashion) when Leodis McKelvin returned a first quarter punt 79 yards for a TD and a Bills lead.
Two weeks ago, the Dolphins fought to tie the game against Seattle in the fourth quarter and on the ensuing kickoff Leon Washington returned the kickoff 98 yards to give the Seahawks the lead again.
In fairness, it must be said that Thigpen eventually answered McKelvin's blow with a kickoff return TD of his own. And the Dolphin overcame the lapse against Seattle by rallying late.
But Sunday, there was no bailing out of the special teams by Thigpen or other units.
Yesterday, long snapper John Denney delivered a bad snap to punter Brandon Fields after Miami's first possession. And Fields didn't field the snap and then didn't cleanly grab the ball on the ground, having instead to snatch it twice. The hesitation was a killer so Fields decided to run to get himself daylight and a position to kick.
He was tackled at the Miami 12 yard line.
And the defense, put in a tough spot, could not save the Dolphins. They gave up a touchdown.
In the second quarter, the Dolphins apparently stopped Tom Brady and company on downs at his own 29 yard line. But when the Patriots punted, Jimmy Wilson rushed headlong into Zoltan Mesko's thigh. Roughing the punter. Fifteen yards.
The Partiots drive had new life at their own 44 yard line.
And, again, the defense wasn't able to bail out the special teams. The Patriots drove the rest of the way in 11 plays for another touchdown.
Obviously, it was not the special teams that gave up the points. Obviously the defense didn't provide heroics on the first New England opportunity and basically caved in giving up 56 yards more on the second New England opportunity.
But the Miami special teams cannot give up such opportunities.
As center Mike Pouncey said, "We have a low margin of error."
And the special teams lately has been hurting that margin.