DAVIE, Fla. — As the Miami Dolphins spread out across two fields for the start of practice Wednesday, the air filled with the snap of the blocking sled and the thud of rap from the PA system.
There was grunting and shouting and chatter and laughter, but not one single official’s whistle.
So maybe there’s hope for coach Adam Gase’s penalty-plagued team.
The problem has been getting worse, and a rapid remedy is needed if 16½-point underdog Miami (4-6) is to have any chance Sunday at New England (8-2).
“It’s something we can fix,” Gase said.
They haven’t fixed it yet. And the Dolphins have dropped four in a row. They’ve been flagged for 42 infractions during the skid, including 17 last week, one shy of the franchise record.
Their season total of 84 penalties ranks second behind only the Seattle Seahawks, and they’re on pace to set a team season record.
Infractions cost Miami a season-high 123 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That might have been the difference in the outcome, given that the Bucs kicked a field goal to break a tie with 4 seconds left.
“I wouldn’t say we’re playing undisciplined,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “I’d say we’re making mistakes in tough situations. The one thing I would say if I remember all the penalties — which I don’t — is a lot of them were in game, not pre-snap.”
But six of the 12 penalties against the offense were for false starts, and those mistakes vexed the coaching staff the most.
The Dolphins lead the league with 33 pre-snap penalties, according to nflpenalties.com. New England, by contrast, has committed 16.
“We’re addressing in the meetings,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “We’re addressing it hard in practice. We’re trying to pull guys out of there if they jump offside. We’re trying to do everything possible, but so far it hasn’t helped.
“That was probably the worst week we’ve had. It’s unexplainable. It’s unfathomable to me that it happens this late in the season. Procedure penalties — that’s bad ball. There’s no other way to say it.”
Assistant head coach Darren Rizzi also said the coaching staff has stressed the need to cut down on infractions, especially pre-snap mistakes.
“Those are things that have nothing to do with the opponent,” Rizzi said. “Those are a mental thing, a discipline thing, an accountability thing. Where we need to improve, being Captain Obvious, is in the pre-snap stuff.”
Other penalties have further undercut an offense tied for next-to-last in the league with 17 touchdowns.
“It’s very frustrating,” running back Damien Williams. “A big play and then, ‘Oh no, it’s coming back.’ It drains you. That’s something we need to eliminate.”
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil leads Miami with 10 penalties, including seven false starts, but the issue is a team effort. There have been 44 penalties on the offense, 29 on the defense and 11 against special teams.
“I know we’ve got guys that are going to work hard and make sure that they do everything they can to get these things fixed,” Gase said. “If we get some of these things cleaned up, we’ll put ourselves in better position.”