From the start of his first year as coach of the Miami Dolphins, Joe Philbin stressed the need for steady improvement. Instead, a late-season tailspin has the team headed yet again toward a long offseason.

The Dolphins (5-8) have lost five of their past six games, ensuring a fourth consecutive year they'll finish .500 or worse. With its next game against Jacksonville (2-11), Miami is virtually assured of missing the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 years.

Following a 27-13 loss Sunday at San Francisco, Philbin attributed the skid not to a lack of talent but to a "lack of playmaking" at critical times. The Dolphins rank fourth worst in the NFL in yards.


Online: and