The Miami Dolphins’ 30-15 win against the Houston Texans on Sunday could hardly have started better, with a 30-point first half and scores on 5 of 6 drives to start.
It all fell apart, though, when Terron Armstead left the game. The tackle went out with a pectoral injury with 1:06 left in the first half and the Dolphins promptly gave up sacks on four of their next 13 plays. Armstead never returned and Miami got shut out in the second half, letting a potential rout turn into a too-close-for-comfort contest.
Austin Jackson went out with an ankle injury in the second half, too, and the Dolphins now stare at one of the more daunting stretches of their schedule with the status of both of their starting tackles in doubt and Armstead will likely miss some time, NFL Network reported.
“I didn’t get any cue as far as how serious it would be, so we’ll find out more tomorrow,” coach Mike McDaniel said, “same with Austin.”
Armstead’s injury, which occurred with Miami up 27-0 at Hard Rock Stadium, would have kept him out no matter the score, McDaniel added.
After cruising to 287 yards on 6.7 yards per play in the first half, the Dolphins (8-3) totaled just 52 on 1.8 yards per play in the second half in Miami Gardens, albeit with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa playing only two drives.
The second half against the Texans (1-9-1) did provide a grim reminder, though, of what this offense looked like during the Dolphins’ only losing streak of the season. When Miami lost three in a row in September and October, Tagovailoa was sidelined for more than 2 1/2 of the games by a concussion, and both Armstead and Jackson missed time with injuries. If the two offensive linemen can’t go next Sunday when they begin a three-game road trip against the San Francisco 49ers, the Dolphins will be pressed with finally figuring out how to put together an effective offense without them.
Armstead, 31, has battled a toe injury all year and it knocked him out of Miami’s loss to the New York Jets last month, then kept him from playing the following week in another loss to the Minnesota Vikings. At the same time, Jackson, 23, was out with a high ankle sprain he sustained way back in September in the Dolphins’ season-opening win against the New England Patriots. In the two games without either lineman, Miami scored just 33 total points.
This weekend was the first time the Dolphins had both back since Week 1 — Jackson spent time on injured reserve because of his injury — and the result was one of the best first halves in franchise history. The second half, however, was one of their worst of the year.
Initially, offensive lineman Brandon Shell replaced Armstead at left tackle — he played right tackle for the prior three weeks and didn’t give up a sack — and then he kicked back to the right side when Jackson went out, leaving tackle Greg Little to finish the game at left tackle.
McDaniel took much of the blame for the line’s struggles without Armstead, suggesting he didn’t adjust his playcalling and protections well enough to compensate for the former All-Pro’s absence.
“I put some guys in some unfair situations, was way too aggressive and it was something that I told the team after the game that I’ll definitely learn from because it wasn’t fair to them,” McDaniel said. “When you have some lineup changes, you can’t put them in positions they were put in. I don’t think that was a fair representation of the group.”
Offensive lineman Robert Hunt knows they need to be better, though, and two losses when Armstead and Jackson were hurt are evidence.
“We’ve just got to be on the little things, the little details, pretty much,” said Hunt, who has started every game at right guard. “It’s the small details, not big things. ... If we’re on them I think we’ll be OK.”
This and that
▪ Tyreek Hill also left the game in the fourth quarter with cramps. The star wide receiver caught six passes for 85 yards, putting him on pace for 1,905 receiving yards this season.
▪ Star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle also racked up 85 yards on five catches, giving him the most for a Miami player in his first two seasons.
▪ Jeff Wilson Jr. ran 13 times for 39 yards and a touchdown, and now has a touchdown in each of his three games since getting traded to the Dolphins from the 49ers on Nov. 1. The running back also caught a 13-yard pass.