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Dolphins defense flops, offense flies, moral victory?

DENVER -- It doesn't seem the Dolphins are going to win the AFC East because they're three games back with five to play. It would require a Patriots collapse and the way they're playing lately, that's unlikely.

But the Dolphins considered themselves playoff worthy before Sunday game against the Broncos. They were not in, per se, but they led the list of teams in the hunt.

Well, a 39-36 loss later and the Dolphins are dropping like a rock -- having fallen behind San Diego, Cleveland and Baltimore among the team that are not even in the top six. (Six teams qualify for the playoffs so technically the Dolphins are No. 10 now).

The Dolphins may have to go 5-0 to get in the playoffs because even at 4-1, which would give them a 10-6 record, that is no guarantee of a postseason berth.

But I'm talking about playoffs.

And, as I wrote in my column today, the defense that is supposed carry the Dolphins to the playoffs is instead showing signs they cannot overcome elite competition.

No, elite defenses don't always overcome elite offenses. But Miami's defense has had precious few moments of winning against elite offenses this year.

The Dolphins gave up 201 rushing yards. That is not a misprint. It happened against one of the NFL's worst rushing offenses.

"You just have to give it to the big boys up front," running back C.J. Anderson said after he gained 167 yards. "They just took so much from the outside and the media all week (after a terrible game against St. Louis) saying they're terrible and this and that. 'Are they going to get it together? Are we going to get the run game established?' They went out there first play of the game and said, 'Hey, this is our game today.'

"They made a statement and I just took the right holes and ran." 

C.J. Anderson, by the way, is Denver's third-string running back.

In the losing locker room?

"We had a lot of big plays on us," linebacker Koa Misi said before going through the litany of Miami problems.

"Broken coverages, missed tackles. Our defense just didn't play the way we needed to."

The offense did. Any time you score 36 points and lose, something is wrong with the defense but you cannot rip the offense.

Indeed, Jarvis Landry was good with two touchdown catches. Ryan Tannehill had a very good game, completing 26 of 36 passes for 228 yards with three TDs and 1 INT. He had a quarterback rating of 104.9.

So what is my small complaint on offense?

The run game. Not that the Dolphins don't do it well enough, but rather don't do it often enough. Look, 21 runs in a game is no way to keep the football away from Peyton Manning. Lamar Miller averaged 4.9 yards per carry. But he only carried 12 times.

So is it a moral victory the Dolphins lost by only a field goal?

"[Expletive], we lost, I don't  know," Mike Wallace said. "I don't take nothing positive from no loss except that we [expletive] lost. We get back to work Monday and try to get ready for the Jets. It's a tough loss. We played a good football game. We lost to a good football team. We can't win them all."

The Dolphins are 6-5.