- R. Matthews was pretty impressive tonight. He showed the ability to read the defense from the slot position, run a route to get open, and showed great hands on a couple of occasions with tight coverage. Good for him. He's a keeper as a 7th round pick, and a very valuable 3-5th WR on any team. If he had any speed at all he'd be a very, very good WR. Next year the Dolphins will have Wallace/Hartline/Gibson/Matthews/Binns - that is a pretty talented WR group.
- The pass blocking was pretty good tonight. Especially since the running game was non-existent. In particular, I noticed the backs doing a much better job at picking up blitzes and even Tannehill showed a little wiggle in the pocket on occasion. I don't fault the last two sacks on the OLine - the first was Tannehill not getting a play called before the 2-minute warning and giving the defense time to call a play, the second was just a poor play by Jerry and a great play by TB McCoy.
- Finding it difficult to list some positives... Umm, football was played tonight in lieu of more rampant speculation about the Martin/Incognito situation. That's a good thing, right?
- The Dolphins definitely read my CAPITALIZED comment last week on using a QB sneak to pick up a 3rd-1 play. And it worked! Nice to know someone reads what I'm writing, happy that Philbin or Sherman saw it. More of that on short yardage please. Also, Tannehill's sneak was a 2-yard gain, which I think was the longest run of the night for the team!
- I think the secondary played a pretty good game tonight. There were a few lost coverages, especially at the start of the game, but overall the back end players did a good job on the TB WRs. This is even more true in the 2nd half when the Dolphins overcommitted on the run almost every play and still the DBs held their own. All this without Patterson. And again, the referees did a crappy job on calling interference - I actually thought it was going to be called on the WR and not Grimes, who clearly had position on the play and was tackled. Even the refs is seemed didn't want the Dolphins and their sullied reputation winning tonight.
- Unfortunately, I can think of a lot of these. But I'll try to remain objective. As a team, I don't think the Dolphins are a playoff team this year. After the Bengals game, I really thought they had turned a corner and had come together. Obviously everything over the last 10 days has shattered that notion, and as pissed off and under attack as the players might feel, the circus surrounding the team obviously had an effect. This just isn't a good enough team to only play a good half or a few good quarters. Teams that have Brady or Manning, or who have a solid core of veteran players like last year's Ravens, can skip out on a quarter or two, turn it on, and win close games. The Dolphins can't. And they aren't good enough to be consistent. And they have lost 4 starters on offense and played without 2-3 of their starters on defense all year. The schedule, seemingly easy a few weeks ago, has also become much more difficult. The Steelers are starting to play. The Patriots are starting to click. The Jets are playing with confidence. The Chargers are a good team. The Panthers are playing lights out. I think most people looking at the team objectively would put the number of wins this season at 6-7 right now. Painful after a 3-0 start.
- That was the worst running attack I've ever seen in an NFL game. No play had any chance of making even an average gain. Holes weren't there inside. No runner could get outside. It was a disaster. I was aghast that Sherman actually called running plays inside the 2-yard line - there was no way the Dolphins were going to get out of that without a Safety. I respect that Sherman at least kept calling a few plays to run, even tried a hand-off to Clay, a QB sneak, but backed up to the goal line was just a bad decision based on how things had been going. TB has a good Dline, but that was the worst. Ugghh.
- The game I believe was lost when Wallace caught the ball with 2:18 on the clock, Tannehill runs up to the line, and can't get the team set to get a play off against a confused defense before the 2-minute warning. Horrible. Does that happen to any other NFL QB? Game after game there is very poor clock management on the field by Tannehill. At this point he is still not capable of running a true 2-minute drill for a TD. He's maybe 1 out of 10-12 in his career so far. Earlier in the game Tannehill is at the line calling out signals, the Bucs have 10 men on the field, and he can't get the snap off before the Bucs call a time-out. He clearly had 4-5 seconds behind the center to snap the ball. Does Brady allow that, or Brees, or Rivers, or most QB's? Time management and field awareness - still not there for Tannehill.
- I think it is time to say the Dolphins do not have a good run defense. Now I do see the Dline getting in there on occasion and stuffing the run. This happens a good 4-5 times a game, with all three of the DT getting in there and once in awhile a DE. What I don't see are the LBs getting in on the action. And it may be time to start comparing last season's unit to this season's unit - what's the difference between the two? Ellerbee and Wheeler vs. Dansby and Burnett. I know they've both been knicked up, but in the running game the two new players on the team are not getting the job done at a similar level as last year's players. They need to step up and earn their contract, or the Dolphins run defense will not get better. They both make a lot of tackles, but they are tackles 5 yards, 8 yards down the field. They are both playing slightly better pass defense, but this is not offsetting what they have lacked so far in the running game.
- Thigpen, it might be time for you to go. Love your speed. Love your ability to break a mid-sized return every few games (one on kick-off and one on punts this year). Don't love your decisions on when to catch punts (not inside the 5 yard line please), or when to FC vs. run (no one around you, don't FC), or when to bring the ball out on kick-offs (please, don't go for the 109 kick-off return. You are on the team to return the ball. Know your craft better than a second string high school kick returner (i.e., me).
- Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy won't Sherman call roll-outs? I just don't understand it. He called two tonight, one worked, the other didn't (2-pt. conversion). The Dolphins have shown that when the defense absolutely knows the team is going to pass, the line caves. This has happened in 4-5 games now. And Tannehill stand helplessly back there, in the pocket in these critical moments of the game, with 3-4 defenders breaking free in less than 1.0 seconds. Why not move the pocket at this stage? Or even during the game earlier so the DE's can't just forget about outside contain? Which leads me to...
- Tannehill. I know you will read this, because you read about my QB sneak comment last week. I'll even capitalize again to make it very clear. PLEASE RUN THE BALL WHEN THE POCKET IS COLLAPSING AND THERE IS NO ONE IN FRONT OF YOU. You are allowed to do this, it isn't cheating. The QB can run the ball for a first down at any time in the game. Or even a TD, like in the 4th quarter, on 3rd and goal from the 9, when you stepped up in the pocket and the entire left half of the field was clear and free of Bucs, where you could have walked into the end zone. That would have been a better decision than firing it into double coverage and taking the FG. And then losing by 3. Run the damn ball now and then!
So there you go. I'm frustrated, but the team is what it is. Lots of potential. But not consistent enough to play up to that potential on a weekly, or even quarter-by-quarter basis. And with all the media pollution and negativity around the Dolphins brand now, I find it difficult to believe the team will be able to overcome everything to finish strong this year. It is very true that leaders have to really step up on both offense and defense - and in the coaching staff. We'll see how it plays out next week against a pretty good Chargers team.