The Dolphins went 1-1 on their opening two game road trip and looked to get a good home stand going against their division rival Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins fell flat on their faces, losing 41-14. It was an embarrassing loss as the Dolphins were outclassed in just about every facet of the game. This was the first real moment that fans could see the team quitting on Joe Philbin.
The box score was about as bad as you could imagine. Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor went 21-29, 277 yards and 3 TDs. The first was a short pass to former Dolphins tight end Charles Clay who weaved his way through the defense, breaking tackles, for a statement touchdown. He finished 5-82-1. The Bills destroyed the Dolphins with the running game, with 34 attempts for 154 yards. The Dolphins bottled up highly paid running back LeSean McCoy, who had 11 rushes for 16 yards. However, rookie Karlos Williams had 12 rushes for 110 yards and a TD.
The Dolphins' offense was as putrid as the defense. Tannehill had his first 3 interception game since the 2013 season finale against the Jets. He finished 26-49, 297 yards, 2 TDs, and those aforementioned INTs. He wasn't as bad as his box score indicates as he was constantly under pressure, receivers struggled, and the coaches stuck with the pass-heavy offense. The rushing game wasn't much help. On paper, it looked like they had a decent outing: 20 carries for 104 yards. However, it wasn't truly that effective. Of the 20 rushing attempts, there were only 9 in the first half, with 7 being "real" rushing attempts; one of those "attempts" was a kneel-down to end the half. Another of those attempts was an end-around by Jarvis Landry for -1 yard. Lamar Miller had 7 carries total for 38 yards, with only 4 attempts in the first half. Jonas Gray got the other 3 attempts. Gray finished with 9 attempts for 38 yards. His six remaining attempts occurred on Miami's final drive when the game was basically over. Rishard Matthews was the beneficiary of Tannehill's 2 TDs, 6-113-2. DeVante Parker saw his first action as a Dolphins getting 3-46-0.
In Miami's first three games of 2015, they passed the ball on 67%, 74%, and 72% of their snaps. That's bad. Despite the idea that the NFL is a "passing league", teams cannot win consistently when they eschew the running game. Buffalo had 34 rush attempts in this game. After this game, Miami had 54 rushing attempts on the season. To this point, Miami had attempted 134 pass dropbacks (attempts + sacks). By comparison, Aaron Rodgers only had 94 dropbacks in that timeframe. The Packers offense had 91 rushing attempts.
I use Aaron Rodgers for the comparison because I consider him the best QB in the NFL. His combination of accuracy, vision, awareness, and savvy make him the most feared QB to play against in my humble opinion. Yet even the best of the best cannot do it alone without a running game. The Packers, who have the best QB, probably COULD win using the heavy pass-to-run system that Miami employed. Yet they DON'T because they understand it takes a running game to have an effective offense.
There wasn't a great deal of good to highlight in this game. Let's begin with the embarrassing touchdown that former Dolphin Charles Clay scores on Buffalo's opening drive.
The Bills have lined up in a heavy set, with two tight ends lined up to the right. Receiver Percy Harvin comes in motion and then lines up at tailback.
The Bills have used that formation with play action. The Dolphins defense bites and moves to play run defense.
You can see from this shot that the Bills have used the formation and play action to set up a screen play for Clay. Clay is at the top left of the shot, moving to his left.
Clay now has the ball and plenty of open field to work with. Linebacker Koa Misi is in pursuit and only safety Michael Thomas and cornerback Brice McCain stand in Clay's way.
Misi cannot catch Clay, who is now putting a juke on Michael Thomas. That's the first missed tackle.
Thomas whiffed and now it's up to Brice McCain. You can see Clay about to put a move on McCain.
That's the second whiff and Clay waltzes into the end zone. It would not get any better for the Dolphins.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Bills are up 34-14, and have brought in their backup quarterback. They lined up in a run formation and the Dolphins have 8 in the box.
At the snap, the Bills use a read-option look. You can see former Dolphin Richie Incognito pulling to the right. Ndamukong Suh is getting doubled by the right guard and right tackle.
Suh has been taken out of the play. Former Bill and current Dolphin MarQueis Gray has completely walled off Derrick Shelby. Incognito sets his sights on Kelvin Sheppard. Running back Karlos Williams cuts back behind the pulling Incognito. The right tackle (#66) has moved off of Suh and is now blocking Misi.
Jones, who was seen creeping into the shot on the previous picture, has slightly overpursued and cannot get to the hole to tackle Williams.
Only the outside corner Jamar Taylor has a chance to tackle Williams before he scores.
No chance. Williams runs 41 yards to the house. It was an embarrassing effort for this defense.
The offense didn't fare much better. Let's review at Tannehill's three interceptions. The first one came off of a pass tipped by the normally sure-handed Jarvis Landry.
Landry has run a smash route (receiver starts route to the sideline, then cuts back to the middle of the field). Tannehill puts the ball on Landry.
Landry has turned upfield before he can secure the pass.
Landry tips the ball into the air, right into the waiting arms of #52.
Here you can see the play right at the snap. I looked at this picture for a couple of reasons. One, you can see the blitzer starting in towards the LOS. The second reason is you see left tackle Jason Fox at least acknowledge the outside defender.
This is the problem picture. You can see the free lane the blitzer has to get to Tannehill. Some will say that this is a case where Tannehill failed to recognize a blitz. That is possible. However, it's impossible to determine that from the film. I'm more interested in the left side of the offensive line. Notice what appears to be a combo block by Fox and Dallas Thomas. That is a failed assignment. The more I watched this film, the more I think this is a communication issue between Fox and Thomas. Notice the inward motion of the edge rushers. They are running a stunt. It is my opinion that Fox correctly diagnosed this play while Thomas did not. The right side of the OL has correctly diagnosed and switched. On this play, Thomas should have been prepared to switch to the stunting edge defender. He wouldn't have been able to block both defenders but likely would have slowed the blitzer just enough.
This shows a small degree of the play design. Stills and Stoneburner slant inside while Landry, who was lined up in the backfield, swings out into the flat. Had the left side of the OL correctly picked up the stunt, Tannehill would have had just enough time to get the ball to Landry.
The cornerback has cut up the field with Stills leaving a large area for Landry to work with. However, you can see the blitzer about to hit Tannehill.
The highlighted edge defender simply stops his rush and jumps up into the passing lane and picks off the pass. Does he do that with an extra half second if Thomas slows the blitzer? Maybe not.
This one is more telling in my opinion. In this shot, you can see Tannehill giving the O-line some kind of directions. Jason Fox, Ja'Wuan James, and Mike Pouncey are turned listening to Tannehill. Tannehill is pointing at something.
A moment later, Tannehill is pointing to the left side, indicating something. Is he pointing out the blitz? That is a strong possibility.
A moment after that, you can see Jason Fox look to his left. Why is this important? Because it would appear that he at least acknowledges the edge player. Regardless of whether there is a blitz or not, there are 5 defenders that the OL has to account for, including an edge defender lined up over Fox.
At the snap, you can see Fox move inside, seemingly double teaming the interior defender while the edge rusher comes free. You can also see the blitzer come into the screen. It's uncertain whether or not those rushers really affected the decision by Tannehill, but I'm not sure Fox and/or Thomas made the right decisions there. Why would they leave that guy unblocked?
In this shot, you can see the Bills playing a zone defense.
Here, you can see the ball (circled). You can also see the route (straight arrow) versus the trajectory (dotted arrow). It seems to me that Tannehill thought Cameron would come back inside in the open area of the zone instead of go upfield into a double team. Without knowing the actual call, it's impossible to determine the play. It could have been a bad decision by Tannehill or it could have been a bad read by Cameron. If it was a bad decision by Tannehill, then it could have been due to the pressure from the edge. If it was a bad read by Cameron, the pressure would have been irrelevant as the throw would have been on target if Cameron had moved inside.
It wasn't all bad for Tannehill. He made some good throws in this game. However, he was let down by his receivers quite a bit. Here is an instance with Jarvis Landry.
Here's a play from the 2nd quarter. Jordan Cameron is lined up offset and then goes in motion left.
In this shot, you can see Landry wide open above the hashmarks just below the 40. Tannehill sees him and loads up to throw.
Here's the end zone angle of the throw. From this angle, it looks like the throw was terribly behind Landry, causing him to stop and come back to the throw. However, if you look at the All-22...
This is the same moment, You can see two defenders (highlighted) moving to the spot Landry was moving to. If Tannehill leads him with the pass, it would have set up Landry for a big hit. Tannehill threw it away from the defenders.
From this shot, you can see Landry has caught the ball, turned upfield, and has plenty of room to work away from the highlighted defender. You can also see that same defender has been forced to adjust his path to Landry.
Instead of running to the left, where he had room, Landry has inexplicably turned back INTO the defender.
The result was an immediate tackle and almost no YAC (yards after catch). This is a BIG issue with Landry. He often times tries to be too shifty and can leave yards on the field. There was no need to make the move he made here. If he runs left, he picks up more yards. If he makes the CB miss, he likely scores on this play.
In the game review of the Jaguars contest, I highlighted a dropped pass by Greg Jennings. If some is good, more must be better, right?
On the game's opening drive, Miami faces a 3rd and 5. This is what Tannehill sees: the non-open receivers are highlighted by red arrows. Greg Jennings, blue arrow, is the only receiver that gets open. Tannehill sees it and makes the throw.
Here is the pass hitting Greg Jennings.
Here is the ball hitting the ground.
This is Miami's next play on the following drive. Notice Tannehill is in his windup before Jennings has made his break. That's throwing with timing and anticipation, something that is suggested Tannehill doesn't do.
Here, the ball is circled. Note that its trajectory is to Jennings' outside shoulder, away from the defender. This is a great throw by Tannehill.
Here's the ball getting to Jennings.
Here's the ball hitting the turf, yet again. I wonder how Ryan Tannehill feels about this?
We feel you brother... we feel you.
That last picture sums up how everyone felt about this game and how the season was going. The game announcers mentioned during the broadcast that Miami was a team that was expected to make some noise in the 2015 season. After this game, not only did fans know that Miami wasn't going to make noise, but they knew something needed to be done about it. The Bills showed what a physical team could do to the Dolphins. They would have to deal with it again the following week against the Jets. Spoiler alert: it didn't get better.