Dolphins season headed down the tubes – will Gase regime follow?

Kirby Lee for USA Today

Tannehill’s return no remedy; Dolphins headed in wrong direction after 10-point lead slips into fifth straight road loss

The schedule says five games remain, but this Dolphins season is over.

The only intriguing question that remains, after a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporated into a 27-24 loss Sunday at Indianapolis, is whether this regime is as well.

Have to wonder what Adam Gase was thinking as he left the field with his head down.

At 5-6 and with a tie-breaker disadvantage to teams ahead of them, he’ll be coaching to save his job now.

Gase said last week that Steve Ross has been supportive and understanding of the toll injuries have taken on the roster. But can the owner forgive letting another lead slip away on the road with the offense going three-and-out on its final two possessions?

The offensive wizard had his quarterback back from injury. Ryan Tannehill had the ball in his hands with 8:26 remaining with a 24-17 lead to protect, and Gase had nothing.

Tannehill starts strong in return, can't finish

Final drives sputter

After a 62-yard touchdown drive on the previous achieved mainly on the ground, Gase started with two passes this time, both incomplete. A run on third down lost five.

After 43 seconds of possession, punt.

On what would be their final possession, Gase opted to run a draw on third-and-10 at the Miami 6, somehow preferring to bank on his shaky defense keeping Andrew Luck, operating on a short field, from reaching field-goal range rather than letting the quarterback he’s staked his job on take a shot on that third down.

Punt again.

Tannehill said after the game that as a competitor he wanted the ball in his hands on that third-and-10 but that he understands why Gase called the draw.

Does Ross?

Injuries are a reality in the NFL.

So is the inability of Adam Gase’s Dolphins to win on the road. They’re 1-5 away from Hard Rock Stadium this season, losing the last five.

They were up 17-0 at Cincinnati and got steamrolled for 27 unanswered points in the game Tannehill got hurt.

He finally returned Sunday, and the Dolphins had to have this one. They were one of five 5-5 teams in the running for the last AFC wild card.

“Obviously, this one hurts,” Tannehill said. “AFC game, on the road, one that we were in a good position to win and to not finish it hurts.”

They outplayed the Colts and Andrew Luck much of the day, particularly in the first half. But they wilted again in the fourth quarter, as they so often do.

As it turned out, getting Tannehill back didn’t change anything.

He was sharp in the first half, throwing for two touchdowns. That was two more than the offense scored in the previous two games behind Brock Osweiler.

Tannehill finally got them in the end zone on an opening possession, ending a 21-game drought, on a 33-yard swing pass to Kenyan Drake.

No answers in stretch

But with the game on the line, there was no magic in his hands – no real sense that Tannehill was in charge and would put the game away. Even Gase didn’t seem to believe.

Instead, it was Luck rallying his team, orchestrating the 20th fourth-quarter, game-winning drive of his career. And making it look easy.

He did it with the aplomb of an elite quarterback. Once again Tannehill shrunk by comparison.

So did Matt Burke’s defense. The defense had its moments, doing what it does best in creating three takeaways, including two Xavien Howard interceptions.

Ultimately, it gave up 455 yards and offered little resistance in yielding 13 points on the Colts’ final three possessions.

In the end, it just reiterated what we already knew. Injuries aside, this Dolphins team isn’t very good. Neither is its leadership.

Smart businessman that he is, Steve Ross must see that too.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns