The Miami Dolphins held on for a 15-13 win against the Baltimore Ravens in a game that was not the prettiest execution by either team. At the end of the day, the Dolphins came away with a win, figured out that the running game needs to be the star of the offense, gave the younger players on the roster an expanded role and saw them respond, and gutted out an ugly win. It was not a bad day, even if there were parts of the game that clearly fell into the bad and ugly category.
As we do each week, we take a look back at the game this morning, providing one good, bad, and ugly thought about the team's performance.
It was an ugly game for Miami, but there actually were several of good things during it. The young players got experience, with many of them responding. DeVante Parker, Jordan Phillips, Bobby McCain, Jay Ajayi, Matt Darr, Andrew Franks, and Neville Hewitt are just the rookies who had key roles in this game. That does not even include players like Olivier Vernon and Jarvis Landry, who are 25 years old or younger, and have critical roles on this team. The younger players on the Dolphins' roster are doing a lot, and they are starting to respond nicely.
The good, however, is another 25 year old, running back Lamar Miller. For weeks, the call from fans and the media has been to get back to the running game. Bill Lazor was fired, ultimately because he refused to run the ball. The Dolphins coaches and players talked all week about how the running game was going to be featured this weekend, despite the Dolphins played the eighth ranked rush defense coming into Week 13. Miller was fed the ball early and often during this game, reaching 20 carries for the first time since Week 13 of the 2013 season and for just the second time in his career. He took those 20 carries and ran for 113 yards, giving him a 5.7 yards per carry average against a team that prides itself on stopping running backs. Miller was clearly the good for the offense on Sunday, and Miami has to continue to ride Miller the rest of the way.
Two things come to mind immediately for the bad. The team is still horrible on third down, converting 31 percent of the attempts on the day, going 4-for-13 against the Ravens. Baltimore was not much better, going 5-for-14, so the Dolphins' third-down defense was pretty good (though the Ravens still had 22 first downs and 375 total yards compared to 8 first downs and 219 yards for Miami).The Dolphins have to get out of the third-and-long situations, they have to throw the ball more than three-yards down-field on third-and-long, and they have to figure out why they stumble every time the down marker changes to a three.
The other one is simply the tackling by the defense. This is an issues all around the league, but, Dan Campbell wants Miami to be aggressive and physical, yet they seem to miss tackle after tackle. Ravens running back Javorius Allen ran for a 41-yard touchdown after a short reception by running through three players who were able to get to him, two of them actually touching him. Repeatedly throughout the game, Miami defenders were trying to arm tackle players, and they were unsuccessful at it. There were other factors that could have played a part, like the set field making players slide, but it does not change that the Dolphins missed too many tackles. Again, the tackling is an issue around the league, but if Miami is going to be the physical team Campbell wants, the Dolphins have to fix the problem.
Ryan Tannehill's 9-for-19 for 86 yards wit a touchdown was clearly the biggest concern - and ugliest part - of this game. He never looked comfortable in the pocket and he just could not complete passes he really should have. Looking back, there were three drops that could have helped Tannehill's completion percentage and yardage, but there were also throws that did not make sense, and Tannehill continues to throw the ball short on most plays. The deep bomb to DeVante Parker was a thing of beauty, but also accounted for 38 of the 86 yards for which Tannehill threw. One good thing of note is that Tannehill was only sacked one time during the game, on the team's last offensive play when Tannehill dropped to the turf to make sure he did not roll out of bounds and stop the clock, purposely giving up the sack because it was the right move on a questionable play call (why was Miami throwing in that situation?).