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    Inside the Miami Dolphins’ Plan To Avoid Another Late-Season Offensive Collapse

    The Miami Dolphins don't like swimming in cold waters. But to snap the NFL's longest playoff winless streak, they'll need to change things up late in the year.

    MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — What is it about the seasons’ change that wrecks the Miami Dolphins offense?

    They’re world-beaters in the summer. They’re electric in the fall.

    But come the winter solstice, they turn into icicles.

    Can Miami Dolphins Fix Late-Season Woes on Offense?

    It’s happened two years in a row now, and in 2023, there wasn’t a quarterback injury to blame. Tua Tagovailoa played a full season for the first time in his career, yet the Dolphins still disappeared offensively late in the year.

    The stats from last year are brutal.

    Through their first 14 games, the Dolphins averaged 31.5 points per game, 414.1 yards per game, and 6.6 yards per play. They ranked second in EPA per play (.12), third in success rate (47.8%) and dropback EPA (.195), and fourth in rush EPA (.016).

    In their final four games (including their 26-7 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs), the Dolphins’ averages plummeted to 15.5, 322.3, and 5.4, respectively. And their EPA/success rankings dropped to 24th (-.079), 18th (41.8%), 23rd (-.049), and 20th (-.136), respectively.

    Certainly, health played a role. The offensive line went through a dozen different starting combinations last year, and their top four skill position players — Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert, and De’Von Achane — were all banged up late in the season.

    Plus, the closing stretch was brutal. Their final four opponents — the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, and Chiefs — all ranked in the top five in defensive scoring.

    But that’s what happens when the calendar turns over. The later into the winter you get, the stiffer the competition. And if the Dolphins want to be playing in February for the first time ever, they will need to show up against the best teams.

    The Dolphins’ coaching staff and personnel departments entered the offseason with eyes wide open about their shortcomings and acted accordingly.

    They’ve added Odell Beckham Jr. and Jonnu Smith to take the heat off of Hill and Waddle. They’ve doubled down on running back speed by drafting Jaylen Wright. And they signed or drafted several young, athletic offensive linemen that better fit their scheme.

    But talent alone won’t fix all of the Dolphins’ problems. The scheme has to improve as well.

    “It isn’t just one thing that we looked at,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith said last week. “I mean, ultimately, you take in certain segments of the year, but then you look at the entirety, and for us, it’s just, OK, it’s making sure that we’re maximizing each week because a game in November or December — losing can impact the end of the season.

    “So it’s just making sure that what we’re doing at the end of the season, making sure that we’re setting the foundation now to make sure that we can carry things longer through the season. I wouldn’t say there’s really, like, one thing because we did have a lot of success. But I mean, ultimately, for us, it’s just the execution. The last game of the season was tough, obviously going up there in the weather.”

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    In other words: Don’t choke away a sure win against a bad Tennessee Titans team that costs you a first-round home playoff game. Instead of opening up the postseason in balmy Dade County, the Dolphins had to travel to Kansas City, which was in the grips of an epic cold snap.

    “That normally helps to be able to play here,” Smith quipped. “I think that day we flew to Kansas City it was like 82 [degrees Fahrenheit] here, and when we landed, it was like minus-20. I mean, when you’re scraping frost off the press box, it isn’t ideal.

    “But ultimately, I think it teaches you how important each week is, because the execution, our overall communication as a group, each week impacts our ability to play here at home and in the playoffs.”

    Here’s the reality, however: The Dolphins can’t put all of their eggs in the secure-home-field-advantage basket. Other than the Houston Texans, the best AFC teams play outdoors in cold-weather cities.

    So the odds are very high that the Dolphins will need to win a game in one of those cities to get to the Super Bowl.

    MORE: What Mike McDaniel Expects of His Team During Summer Break

    This means they need to be able to run the football — not just with speed but also with power.

    “Running the football does translate into the postseason,” Smith said. “But the big thing for us is making sure we maximize each week, so if we’re playing in the playoffs, we ideally would like to play at home. You’re having 100-degree temperature variants, and you’re coming out of your stance frozen. Hence why helmets were cracking and whatever the hell was going on down there.”

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