NEW ORLEANS -- It's only one loss. No big deal. You didn't expect the Dolphins to go undefeated, did you?
Indeed, I believe the Dolphins are still a good team. But they are not elite for reasons I detail in my column in The Herald.
That doesn't make this 38-17 loss any less painful.
"We're not happy," said quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is pictured getting sacked in the Joe Rimkus photo. "You don't want to perform like that in any situation. So we're not happy with ourselves. But there are things we can correct. and at the end of the day we have a big game coming up in six days. We have to learn from our mistakes in this game and look forward to next week and beat Baltimore."
Learning from mistakes is important. Learning what your team does very well and doesn't do very well also is important.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton, for whatever reason, understood that Darren Sproles was a matchup nightmare for the Dolphins and no matter what Miami did Sproles made plays. He caught seven passes for 114 yards including a 48-yard catch on a double move that fooled safety Reshad Jones.
"We tried variety of different coverages," Philbin said. "We tried zone, we tried man. We tried pressures. Sproles is very good. We knew he was a good going into the game and we tried different combinations but he was very effective. No question."
The Dolphins, particularly on offense, are still trying to figure out their personnel. They tried Marcus Thigpen in the backfield throughout training camp and finally unveiled it Monday night. It worked as Thigpen caught a 50-yard pass out of the backfield.
But the Dolphins tried this only a couple of times. Not nearly enough to make a difference.
Meanwhile, the team apparently still is convinced Daniel Thomas is a good option in place of Lamar Miller. Think about it:
The Saints scored on their first series but the Dolphins seemed to respond immediately. Lamar Miller rushed five times for 33 yards and, mixed with a couple of Ryan Tannehill completions and a keeper on the read-option, Miami was at the New Orleans 9 yard line.
And then on third and an inch that is where the coaching staff decides it's a good time to bring in Daniel Thomas. And they think a wide pitch three yards deep is the play to run.
Yeah, the play lost two yards.
"It's a play we practiced all week," Philbin said. "We told the players going into the game we like it. It was a variation off a similar play we'd had success with and we didn't execute it as well. But I knew we were going to call it. We practiced it. We were prepared. They made a better play."
Quarterback sneak. Just sayin'.
Also, can I officially request the Dolphins use Lamar Miller on first and second down and Thigpen on third down? And leave Thomas and his 2.8 yards per carry this season on the bench? Please? Miller rushed 11 times for 62 yards, which is a 5.6 yards per carry average.
The Dolphins defense, by the way, is very good against the run. The return of Paul Soliai -- who told me he comes out of this game without re-injurying his knee -- was key and that's perhaps one reason the Saints averaged only 2.8 yards per carry on 244 attempts. They're like a team version of Daniel Thomas.
But Miami's pass defense was atrocious.
Drew Brees threw for 413 yards. He threw four TD passes. His passer rating was 144.5.
And after a week when the Dolphins focused on stopping Jimmy Graham and prepared to stop Jimmy Graham, there was Jimmy Graham dunking the football over the crossbar -- twice.
"We have to do better on defense," Philbin said. "We don't want Jimmy Graham running down the middle of the field wide open."
Yeah, he did that on a 43-yard TD. The Saints ran a sluggo-seam to get Graham open. New Orleans had a receiver on the other side of the formation run a slant and go which drew the safety in that direction. And then Graham just ran past Chris Clemons down the seam. Easy.
(Graham caught the other TD surrounded by three, count 'em, three defenders. Kid's amazing.)
Miami's deep threat, meanwhile, didn't show much in his hometown. He caught three passes for 24 yards. That's an 8-yard average. He dropped two passes, including a deep shot that might have been a TD.
We were executing our offense but you have to hold on to the ball.
"He made a good play on the ball," Wallace said of the DB on the play. "I don't think he tipped it. I feel like I should have made a play on the ball."
Everyone agreed on this: The Dolphins cannot win a game in which Tannehill throws three interceptions and fumbles the ball away once.
"I feel like we made plays but at the same time we killed ourselves at times," Wallace said. "We have to finish drives and not give up turnovers. We have to make the plays when they count. We can't turn the ball over in scoring territory, especially against a good football team like this, because they're going to capitalize when we make mistakes like that."