The prime-time meltdown by the Dolphins’ special teams cost an assistant coach his job.
Special teams cost Miami 21 points in the 41-14 loss Monday night. Two blocked kicks led to touchdowns, and the Patriots returned a kickoff 103 yards for another score.
The Dolphins (2-2) also had a punt blocked a week earlier in a loss to the New York Jets. The back-to-back divisional defeats dropped Miami to third place in the AFC East.
Assistant special teams coach Darren Rizzi will replace Bonamego, coach Tony Sparano said. Bonamego was in his 12th NFL season and had been with the Dolphins since Sparano became head coach in 2008.
“It’s a hard decision to make,’’ Sparano said. “I know how hard this guy works. Nobody works harder than him at what he does.’’
Unlike Bonamego, quarterback Chad Henne won’t lose his job. Sparano said he’ll stick with Henne despite an erratic three-interception performance that accelerated the Dolphins’ self-destruction.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,’’ Miami cornerback Jason Allen said. “You can’t expect to win when you’re playing a team like — actually, any team. I don’t care who you’re playing, when we do the things we did.’’
Linebacker Tim Dobbins plays on special teams and said he was embarrassed.
“We all should be,’’ he said. “We let the whole team down.’’
The Dolphins rank last in the NFL in punting, last in kickoff coverage, and 25th in kickoff returns. Continual turnover at the bottom of the roster may contribute to their special teams woes; in the past month, they’ve made 19 roster moves.
“That’s part of the special teams challenge, when you bring new players in and you get them involved,’’ Sparano said.
The Dolphins need to figure out quickly how to block for kicks and cover them better. That responsibility now rests with Rizzi, a former coach at New Haven who took his first NFL job when Sparano hired him last year.
“He’s a very smart guy who has his own way of doing things,’’ Sparano said. “He’ll have his own spin on the special teams area. It’s important that we have some continuity there and fix the problems.’’
The fix might mean more players in the offensive and defensive rotations contributing. Defensive regulars Dobbins, Cameron Wake, and Chris Clemons already have roles on kicking units.
“I want my core players to play better on special teams,’’ Sparano said. “If we need to put some starters out there, then we will.’’
With support from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Smith asked fans to take the players’ side.
Speaking at a tailgate-style fan luncheon a few blocks from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., yesterday, Smith referred to a recent Sports Business Journal report that said the NFL is requiring banks that lend money to its teams to extend grace periods for loan defaults through the end of the 2011 season in the event of a lockout.
“That to me is a step where the owners are protecting themselves in the event that there is no season,’’ Smith said.
Smith said the move, along with provisions in television deals that provide for some payments even if there is a lockout, are evidence that owners are planning for the possibility that there won’t be a season in 2011.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello noted the players are going through the process of approving the potential decertification of their union, a move that could be seen as preparing for protracted negotiations.
“There are many preparations taking place, including the union preparing to decertify and go out of business,’’ Aiello said. “Our focus is on negotiating a new agreement with the union. The longer it goes, the tougher it will be.’’
“We bring a guy into the program that we think is going to give us a little boost,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “You know that we’ve emphasized trying to get this running game in order. We hope that he’ll help in that regard.’’
Seattle released running back Julius Jones, its leading rusher the past two seasons, to clear a spot for Lynch. Jones took a hefty pay cut just before the start of the season, then carried the ball just 12 times for 30 yards and was inactive Sunday.