The Miami Dolphins lost 41-14 to the Dallas Cowboys in an ugly game for the team from South Florida. That is not to say there was not some good from the game, but any time you get blown out like Miami was on Friday night, there is a lot of ugly. What were the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the game? Glad you asked.
Tannehill to Stills. The connection between Ryan Tannehill and Kenny Stills showed up for the first time since Stills arrived in Miami before the 2015 season. Stills may have only caught three passes on the night, but they were a 55-yard gain in which Tannehill hit Stills in stride as he came across the field and two touchdowns. That is making every touch count. It seemed like Tannehill and Stills were finally getting on the same page, and maybe Stills can become a bigger part of the offense this year, giving Tannehill more than just Jarvis Landry as an option. Tannehill himself could have earned the good , going 12-for-20 for 162 yards with the two touchdowns, a 119.2 passer rating in about a quarter-and-a-half. Isaiah Pead clearly deserves a nod as well, gaining 48 yards on four carries. Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod as the starting guard also deserve some kudos (despite Bushrod allowing the only sack in the game).
Special teams mistakes. There were a couple of special teams mistakes that need to be fixed. In a game in which nine different Dolphins players came away with a reception and four more were targeted, Griff Whalen was not included in the offense. He did get a chance to make an impression on special teams, where he had one punt return for nine yards, but he also muffed a kick return in the endzone, having to scramble to get the ball back and take the touchback. It was a small thing, but it could be the difference between Miami keeping Whalen on the roster, or using that potential sixth receiver spot for a different position. The Dolphins also suffered a blocked punt, with tight end Thomas Duarte serving as the personal protector in front of punter Matt Darr and simply missing the block. Both may have been one-time errors, but it could be the difference between Miami keeping Whalen on the roster, or using that potential sixth receiver spot for a different position, as well as Miami deciding if Duarte is a roster player or a practice squad member.
Run Defense/Tackling. I initially separated the run defense in the bad and the tackling in the ugly, but really, they are one and the same. That is why Whalen and the punt block land in the bad section, though it might be a little weaker a bad than it should be. The story of this game was the inability for the Dolphins’ defense to stop the first- or second-team Dallas offense, especially the rushing attack. The Cowboys gained 170 yards on the ground averaging 5.0 yards per attempt. Alfred Morris picked up 85 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown, Darius Jackson added 43 yards on 14 carries, and quarterback Dak Prescott picked up 28 yards on three carries, with two touchdowns. The running lanes were huge for Dallas, and even when someone clogged up the lane, the Dallas runner simply ran through whatever tackle attempt was there. “It surprises me a little bit,” head coach Adam Gase said after the game, “considering how much time we spend on tackling and some of the drills that we’re trying to do. We need to clean that up.” The Dolphins are probably going to have some full contact practicing this week - especially since the practices are now closed to the public - and it is an area that has to be fixed before the regular season starts.