The Miami Dolphins (6-5) will be returning home from Colorado with an L after a hard-fought, frustrating and gut-wrenching game to the Denver Broncos (8-3). Dennis Green's loosely quoted words (once again) reign throughout my mind when thinking about this game; "We had them were we wanted them, but we let them off the hook!"
Here are six thoughts, plus notes & quotes, on the 39-36 thrilling, heartbreaking game between the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos:
1. Dolphins offense does its part
Much to the surprise of many, the Dolphins offense put up it's fourth 30-plus point game of the season against a Bronco defense that's laced with talent. The Dolphins were able to overcome an injury to Ja'Wuan James, who had been replacing Branden Albert at left tackle, and finish the game strong with a line that was patched together with glue.
Ryan Tannehill was only sacked once in a game where he made a number of great throws. Tannehill displayed pocket presence and decision-making that has progressively gotten better throughout the season and delivered a more than a handful of excellent throws. The Tannehill-led offense of the Dolphins put up 36 points on the road while duking it out with a future Hall-of-Famer in Peyton Manning.
Tannehill's lone blemish of the day was a fourth quarter interception that bounced off of the hands of Jarvis Landry to virtually seal the game for the Broncos.
The one gripe I have with the offense is that I would've liked to see is more running as Lamar Miller averaged 4.9 yards per carry but was only given 12 attempts.
Nonetheless, Miami's offense did it's part. They went three and out only once and punted only three times. They put up 36 points. They scored on all four of their redzone possessions.
2. Dolphins defense is surprisingly manhandled and fails to close (again)
Miami's defense allowed an eye-popping 22 fourth quarter points after having a comfortable 11-point lead after three quarters.
The Dolphins' defense was uncharacteristic while the Bronco offense lived up to it's reputation of being a high-scoring team.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the game is that the Miami defense was being thoroughly beaten up front by a highly-scrutinized Bronco offensive line. The Broncos ran for 201 yards, the most the Dolphins defense has allowed all year.
The Dolphins coaches tried to use different personnel and different packages to combat the Broncos rushing attack, but too many linemen were losing one-on-one battles for the defensive front to be effective.
The defense was not cohesive, and it all started up front. Miami generated little pass rush the entire game. The Dolphins' only sack of the game came on a coverage sack where Manning fell to the ground under his own power.
Not only that but...
3. Tackling was atrocious
According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Dolphins missed a ridiculous 14 tackles.
87 of the Broncos' 201 rushing yards came after contact.
It's hard enough to stop a Peyton Manning-led offense when you aren't giving up extra yards due to poor tackling. It's nearly impossible when the extra yards are surrendered and the down-and-distances become very favorable for the offense.
4. The Dolphins final drive....
Could it have been the go ahead touchdown drive had Landry held onto the pass that he tipped so gingerly to Broncos safety TJ Ward the possession before? This is the question that eats away at me. But football is not a game of coulda, shoulda, woulda. The Dolphins failed to make the few plays that swing a game and lead to victory.
Landry, as spectacular as he was in the game, couldn't make a play when it mattered most for the offense. Whether or not he was interfered with before the pass arrived is a different debate, but I believe it was a borderline play that could've gone either way.
It's frustrating that we were unable to see if Ryan Tannehill could lead a go-ahead drive against a perennial Super Bowl contender to pull out a victory on a day where the offense was in such a rhythm, but that's the way the ball bounces sometimes (isn't that right TJ Ward?).
Speaking of not being able to make plays...
5. What was up with the onside kick attempt?
I get these creative attempts. Onside kicks have a low percentage of success, so why not spice things up to try to improve the odds? But the "rabona" kick attempt by Caleb Sturgis was an absolute failure and gave the Dolphins special teams unit no chance at a recovery. The play likely would've been had a better chance of success if Sturgis simply kicked the as hard as he could at a Bronco player and trying to bounce it off of his chest back towards the Dolphins (which is actually not a terrible idea....)
6. Another heartbreaker
This game was the third of the season that Miami's defense allowed a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It's a heartbreaking, frustrating loss, but Miami needs to keep context and logic in mind when evaluating this game.
The Broncos are 19-2 at home under Manning.
They're one of the most prolific teams in the NFL.
And the Dolphins went toe-to-toe with them for four rounds, winning all but the most important round.
Would Dolphins teams of the past be able to go into Mile High and accomplish this feat, being able to overcome devastating injuries along the way?
I know many don't believe in moral victories, but this could be a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season for these Dolphins. These Dolphins know they can play with the best of them, it's just a matter of finishing the job when the end is in sight.
The Dolphins now enter their December slate of games, when pretenders are revealed and contenders get into the playoffs. They know what they must do to get in following this loss, and I expect to see a determined team.
The Dolphins have come out strong in their next game following their other two heartbreaking losses this season. And there is no reason to believe they won't do so again against the New York Jets next week.
There is much reason for optimism for Miami Dolphin fans. The team showed you why yesterday.
NOTES & QUOTES:
- Injuries were rampant for the Dolphins. But somehow the injuries weren't overly devastating. That's a mark of a good team. Next man up and perform.
- The odd part about the injuries was that the replacements weren't who were being victimized in the game. Regular starters were losing their battles, especially on defense.
- Pass protection was incredibly good for a line that was held together with glue.
- Dolphins offense started fast, scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the game.
- Tannehill completed over 70% of his throws and had a rating over 100 despite throwing an interception.
- The Broncos were 9/13 on third downs in the game, mostly due to the fact that most were 3rd-and-less-than-5.
- "We were consistent pretty much the whole day. It got to the middle of the fourth quarter there and like I said we had that negative-yardage run, the tip-pick and that can’t happen in that crunch situation. You’ve got to find a way to move the chains." - Ryan Tannehill
- "We feel like we got to win. The situation is what it is. There’s a lot of good teams in the AFC." - Ryan Tannehill
- "We definitely could have played better on defense. We had a lot of big plays on us– broken coverages, missed tackles. Our defense didn’t play the way we needed to. We beat ourselves. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make, and it showed in the game in the second half." - Koa Misi
-"Well, we all know football’s still a game of blocking and tackling. My first glimpse is they blocked us relatively well, I don’t know that we tackled great. From the naked eye without reviewing the film, and without looking at it 16 different times, that’s what I saw." - Head Coach Joe Philbin
- "We knew what they were going to try to do and that’s run the ball. We just have to find a way to stop them better than that. We didn’t do that as well as we wanted to, we got put in some situations where we were forced to stop the run and there were times where they gashed us too much—five, six, 10, 20 (yards)." - Koa Misi
- "It was tough, but I’m proud of every single one of those guys on the team, especially the defense. We’ll work next week and fight again." - Jared Odrick