The Miami Dolphins beat the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in an ugly game for both teams. Offense was nearly non-existent for the teams, with the Titans leading the way with 188 yards of total offense. Miami finished the contest with 178 yards of offense. In other words, there was a lot of ugly on both sides of the field.
That does not mean everything was ugly, especially when it comes to Miami’s defense, but it does continue the trend of the Dolphins struggling to score points and hoping that their defense can keep the opponent to a low-scoring game. It is not a recipe for sustained success in the NFL.
What was the best of the good, the bad, and ugly? We take a look back at the 16-10 Dolphins victory.
The Defense. Try to single out one piece of the defense to say was the “good.” You cannot do it because you will be forgetting someone else. Reshad Jones is back to looking like a Pro Bowl safety. He recorded two fumble recoveries, including a touchdown return, tied for the team lead in tackles on the day with seven, and he added a half-sack. Lawrence Timmons was a beast at linebacker, recording seven tackle and simply playing like the player the Dolphins thought they would be getting when they signed him. Kiko Alonso was also in the seven tackle group, while Rey Maualuga made his debut with the team and looked good, recording five tackles. The defensive line was active all day, both shutting down the run, 69 yards allowed on 20 carries (3.5 yards per attempt average) and pressuring Matt Cassel constantly, recording six total sacks (including linebackers and safeties on blitzes), with 11 quarterback hits (four of them from Cameron Wake, who had a half-sack). Charles Harris recorded his first career sack. Overall, the defense was clearly there to play on Sunday, and they looked really good.
The offense. I am not someone who thinks this team would be any better with Matt Moore starting at quarterback than it is with Jay Cutler, but something clearly has to change when it comes to the offense. Moore might give the team a spark, but he could also be subjected to the same dropped passes, poor poss protection, and non-existent run-blocking we have seen from the offense thus far. On Sunday, sitting in the stadium, it was impossible to miss just how many times Cutler was forced to either short-hop a pass or launch the ball out of bounds because no one was open. The running game reached the 100-yard mark (exactly), but only averaged 3.2 yards per attempt, with Jay Ajayi picking up 77 yards on 3.1 yards per attempt, along with a lost fumble. They were not horrible, but they were bad. The receivers dropped passes, including a potential touchdown when Jakeem Grant was hit in the endzone and could not complete the reception. Julius Thomas continues to be invisible as a tight end, recording one catch in four targets. Jarvis Landry and Ajayi were the only players to have more than one reception during the game. Overall, execution was bad on Sunday.
Offensive play calling. Execution was bad, but the play calling was ugly. Nothing seemed to work and the offense became predictable. Runs and bubble screens could be spotted from the stands, not usually a good thing. Head coach Adam Gase admitted after the game that he should have brought the play-action into the game plan earlier, because the team seemed to find a rhythm once that was added - but the run needs to be established for run-fakes to work. The Dolphins are stuck as a short-yardage offense, and there does not seem to be anything the team can do about it right now. Maybe that is a function of the struggles in execution, but it also, in large part, is because of the play calling. Gase needs to adjust something quickly.