Last night, the Miami Dolphins lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that was never as close as a even 22-7 score would make it seem. After a night’s sleep, nothing has changed about how the game went, nor how fans feel about it. There will be a lot of analysis over the next ten days, the span between Miami’s Week 4 and Week 5 games, and, at some point, some positives will probably come out of it. But, right now, the game as a whole was really, really disappointing.
As usual, we take a look back at the game and the good, the bad, and the ugly from it.
- Matt Darr, punter - It’s never a good thing when your “good” section starts with the punter, but that is what happened this week. Darr had seven punts during the game, with a long of 66 yards and an average of 49.1-yards per kick. He also had three punts downed inside the 20 with just one touchback. Darr was clearly on his game on Thursday night, and he probably kept the game from being even worse for the Dolphins.
- 3rd-Down Defense - The Miami defense showed up on third downs for the most part. The Bengals were only 3-of-15 on third-down, which should be an awesome stat most of the time. The problem here, however, was Cincinnati converting five of those missed third downs into field goals and they gained a ton of yardage on first- and second-downs, so they were still able to move the ball.
- Run Defense - The Dolphins came into this week with the second-worst run yards per game allowed average. Last night, they only gave up 77 yards on the ground, for a 2.1 yards per attempt average. It may not have been anything that helped them win the game, but it had a big part in the Bengals’ third-down issues and it was at least promising that the run defense finally showed up.
- Pocket presence - This was going to land in the ugly section, but there was so much that was ugly, this got elevated. Ryan Tannehill has to get better about feeling the pressure. It has been a concern since he came into the league, and it bit again last night when Tannehill was stripped and lost a fumble. Ja’Wuan James has to do better on the block, but he actually pushed the rush deep, and if Tannehill had felt it and stepped up - albeit around the interior pressure that was coming as well - he would have avoided the sack and probably could have made a play. There were sacks that Tannehill could have done nothing to prevent on Thursday, but there were some where if he had just felt it a step earlier, he could have avoided.
- Injuries - Every NFL team faces injuries throughout the year, and they either overcome them or they do not. The Dolphins are facing that dillema right now. They have overcome some injuries - like Anthony Steen starting for Mike Pouncey - but on Thursday night, the rash of inuries over the last week or so finally caught up to them. Steen and Pouncey were out, which pushed Kraig Urbik into the starting center role. Branden Albert was out, which pushed rookie Laremy Tunsil out to left tackle and slid Billy Turner into the left guard spot. Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi were both out, leading to Neville Hewitt and Donald Butler starting as the outside linebackers. That does not even mention the concussion to tight end Jordan Cameron, for whom Dion Sims started, and the groin/hamstring issue that continues to sideline running back Arian Foster. The injuries are bad, and, hopefully, the team can use the 10 day break to get some players healthy.
- 3rd-Down Offense - The Bengals were 3-of-15 on third down, but the Dolphins were even worse at 2-of-11. There were dropped passes, bad throws, fumbles, sacks, short runs, and short passes. There were a lot of 3rd-and-Long situations, meaning the Dolphins were not getting it done on first- or second-down, but the inability to convert a third-down was horrible in this game.
- Cornerbacks versus A.J. Green - Green is one of the top receivers in the game, so it is not surprising that he could have a 10 catch, 173 yard, one touchdown performance, but it is bad when the Dolphins cornerbacks just do not seem to have a chance against him at all. There were some good plays, like rookie Xavien Howard’s coverage on the 51-yard pass from Andy Dalton to Green during the Bengals’ touchdown drive. Howard had the position and looked like he was going to make a play, and Green just made the better play. That is going to happen at times when you are up against Green. The repeated single coverage on Green using a rookie in Howard and second-year cornerback who is converting from being a college wide out in Tony Lippett is confusing however. Whatever Byron Maxwell did to land on the bench for this game, it cost Miami and now Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph have to figure out how to fix it.
- Terrence Fede - No matter how much good you do in the world, it often seems one bad moment can be enough to undo everything. That bad moment for Fede came last night when he shoved Bengals punter Kevin Huber well after the kick was away, drawing a roughing the kicker penalty. There was no reason for the shove, and it cost Miami, who had actually forced a punt and would have gotten the ball back with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter, trailing 19-7 and starting the possession at their own 40-yard line. Instead, the Bengals kept the ball and drove down for their fifth field goal of the contest. Would it have made a difference? Probably not, but it would have given Miami a chance to tighten up the scoreline with good starting field position. The play was ugly and there is no way around it for Fede.
- Play calling - Adam Gase admitted after the game that some of his play calling was not up to the level it needed to be this week. There were times that the plays were just giant question marks. How much of that was Gase and how much can be blamed on Tannehill, who has the ability to audible this year, is not known, but whatever the case, Miami’s offense just did not do a good enough job against the Bengals defense, in part from the plays being run.