The Miami Dolphins lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, dropping the AFC East team to 4-6 on the year and making the Playoffs seem more and more like a pipedream this year (though, if New England beats Buffalo tonight, Miami is still just a game out of the Wildcard, some how). There was some good, some bad, and some ugly from the game for Miami, and we take a look at them now.
There are two good things that could make this list, but only one can. Ryan Tannehill has improved his deep ball ability, connecting on two again this game, and having two more that should have been caught, but ended as incomplete passes thanks to good defense or drops from the wide outs (though his poor read on the interception and his knack for trying to extend plays by running backwards only to take a sack further back continues to be an issue). What will be selected as the good for this week, however, will be the defensive line. Yes, the game ended with 386 yards allowed, 166 on the ground, but it was an 80 degree day in South Florida, it was muggy with rain on and off, and, the Dolphins defense was on the field for nearly 40 minutes of a 60 minute game, or 68 Cowboys offensive plays, compared to just 41 offensive plays for Miami. The defense simply wore down. Darren McFadden, who ended the game with 29 carries for 129 yards, picked up 12 of those carries and 75 of those yards on the Cowboys' final three drives. McFadden went from averaging 3.2 yards per attempt to 4.4 yards per carry for the game because of those 12 carries. The defense actually was doing a fairly decent job of containing him until the end of the third quarter.
In pass rush, Miami did some good things like moving Ndamukong Suh and Olivier Vernon around the line. Suh recorded seven tackles on the day, with two for a loss, while Vernon had five tackles, with one sack (plus another negated by a penalty), another tackle for a loss, and four quarterback hits. Taking advantage of matchups and keeping the offensive line guessing as to who was rushing from where finally allowed the Dolphins to start generating pressure without Cameron Wake. They have to keep that up throughout the rest of the year.
Lamar Miller carried the ball seven times on Sunday. Seven. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry during the game, but the Miami game plan went away from the running game, even as Miller ran for chunks of yards early. As a team, the Dolphins averaged five yards a carry, with Miller, Tannehill, and rookie Jay Ajayi all recording multiple attempts, but they only totaled 14 carries as a group. Miami is 0-6 this year when Miller carries the ball fewer than 12 times, and 4-0 in games in which he records more than 12 carries. That is not a huge amount of carries, no one is looking for Miller to set a new NFL record in carries for a game or a season, but more than seven carries is a must.
This almost was the Miller paragraph, but there is something else that seemed worse than not getting Miller enough carries. The penalties are simply killing Miami right now. The Dolphins had nine flags accepted on them on Sunday, giving Dallas a free 74 yards. Six of those penalties came on offense, with two holds from Jason Fox, a hold by Dion Sims, an illegal formation on Fox, a chop block on Mike Pouncey, and a false start by Jordan Cameron. Every single one of those penalties backed up the Dolphins offense, most negated a positive play, and crushed any momentum the team was building.
Only one time in the game did Miami even gain a first down after sustaining a penalty on a drive. The illegal formation on Fox came during Miami's first touchdown drive. Other than that, three times, Miami punted without gaining another first down (Sims holding, Pouncey chop/Cameron false start on the same drive, and Fox holding) and Tannehill's interception came after the first hold call on Fox.
Penalties absolutely killed this team on Sunday - and it is a theme we have all seen a little too much this year. The Dolphins have to figure out a way to play a clean game if they want to win.
(Honorable mention in the ugly is the kickoff return where Jarvis Landry decided to let the ball bounce in the endzone. It then shot out to the four-yard line, where the referees marked it down. The refs missed the call on the play, where it should have been ruled a kickoff return out of bounds (you can read about that explanation here), but that does not change the bad play in the first place. Landry tried to make up for it with a smart play, but in the end, he should have just caught the ball rather than take a chance that the oval ball would take a funny bounce.)