There is plenty of blame to go around after Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. And whether you want to point the finger at Chan Gailey’s offense or Josh Boyer’s defense, there’s an argument to be made for both sides of the football.
I believe the Dolphins defense did what we’ve come to expect them to do this season. Which is continue their ‘bend don’t break’ mentality of football. And yes, creating turnovers in 16 straight games is a nice stat, but you would’ve hoped holding the Broncos to 20 points on offense would mean Miami heads back to South Florida 7-3—but that’s just not how this day ended.
I might dive into the Dolphins struggles to stop the run (later in the week), because that was definitely a key factor in the outcome of this game. However, for the sake of this article, I will focus on Miami’s offensive woes which starts up front with the trenches.
3rd and 21, tua has no time to let things develop and another stunt by the broncos defensive line results in a sack. 29/29 pic.twitter.com/lu8Bcy4FBT— josh houtz (@houtz) November 24, 2020
Miami’s offensive line got abused for most of the game and had no answer for Bradley Chubb—who found ways to create pressure in a variety of ways. Which I think is what was so disappointing about the way the offensive line played. It was a reality check for fans and the Dolphins players and coaches.
At most times, Denver was creating pressure with three or four defensive lineman, using twists and stunts to confuse Miami’s inexperienced offensive line. Tua was sacked six times and the pressure forced him to make some poor decisions.
denver only rushes three and still gets pressure on tua. dolphins forced to punt 21/29 pic.twitter.com/WB8WD8jZxh— josh houtz (@houtz) November 24, 2020
But for as off as Tagovailoa looked—and I will get at that in a minute—he really didn’t have many places to go with the football. Which brings me back to something I’ve said time and time again this season.
I was wrong.
Miami’s wide receivers are not as good as I had originally believed. Yes, they saw opt-outs to Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns early on. And the injury to Preston Williams isn’t helping matters. But this group outside of DeVante Parker can not be counted on. Which seems crazy for me to type.
this was one of the few times tua had time to throw on sunday. but as we've seen all day, miami's skill players continue to struggle with separation. nice job by grant of working to get open. 16/29 pic.twitter.com/bwPSO1x9qk— josh houtz (@houtz) November 24, 2020
Now that we’ve talked about Miami’s poor offensive line play, the lack of run game, poor play-calling and the wide receivers inability to create separation; the thing everyone wants to talk about is Tua Tagovailoa’s struggles, and rightfully so.
If you’re following me on Twitter, I posted an All-22 thread late last night with 29 videos from Sunday’s game vs. the Broncos. The thread can be found below and will be referenced throughout the rest of the article.
If you would prefer to see every snap from the CBS broadcast angle, I made a video for that too.
all-22 tua vs denver thread— josh houtz (@houtz) November 24, 2020
stats | 11/20 83 yards & 1 TD. pic.twitter.com/DEb7rARo34
The first thing I need to know (and still don’t) is whether or not Denver’s altitude played a factor in some of those early throws that Tua missed deep to Jakeem Grant. I’ve done research that states NFL kickers believe a ball can travel ten yards further in Denver, so maybe I’m on to something.
BUT I’M NOT HERE TO MAKE EXCUSES
I’m here to remove my homer glasses, and be completely honest with you.
Tua Tagovailoa did not play good on Sunday.
And it was evident from the very first play from scrimmage.
I mean, if this wasn’t the perfect representation of how the Dolphins entire day would go.
Bradley Chubb beats Austin Jackson with a nice inside swim, Tua steps up and sails a ball over jakeem grant’s head who had a step or two or three on the defensive back.
He then followed it up with another Jakeem Grant miss two plays later.
jackson and flowers again struggle to contain the rush off the EDGE. but tua does a nice job of sensing the pressure and stepping up into the pocket. unforunately, tua gets excited and sails one well over grant's reach. this is the second 'bad' throw on the opening drive. 2/29 pic.twitter.com/Wjon8pac8R— josh houtz (@houtz) November 24, 2020
Not only was he off with his accuracy, which is one of the strongest parts of his game, but he held onto the football too long. He also struggled to see the field as well as he usually does, resulting in a few missed opportunities.
this time chubb lines up opposite of jesse davis on the left side of denver's defense. the pressure again makes tua uneasy and he never sees a wide open devante parker running a corner route at midfield. tua gets a few yards on the ground but miami is forced to punt. 6/29 pic.twitter.com/EpgM2MkcTZ— josh houtz (@houtz) November 24, 2020
It wasn’t all bad for Tua. We continue to see a player with elite footwork and although the accuracy wasn’t there on Sunday, we know what he’s capable of. He’s a young rookie that started his fourth career NFL game....without a preseason. We can all take a step back and #relax.
I do love seeing this developing relationship between DVP and Tua.
.@tua + @devanteparker11 = 4/29 pic.twitter.com/V9Kv6igMYV— josh houtz (@houtz) November 24, 2020
Tagovailoa was eventually benched and although Brian Flores continues to say he wanted to add a spark to the offense, I think that sixth and final sack greatly swayed his decision. I would’ve let Tua try to battle back down 10 in the 4th quarter. But I understand him wanting to protect his quarterback. Especially, after the unfortunate injury Joe Burrow suffered earlier in the day.
(Note: We will never find out the full story behind Tua’s benching)
Ultimately what it comes down to is Chan Gailey has to do a better job of putting his players in position to succeed. The wide receivers need to create better separation, the offensive line must protect better and of course, Tua Tagovailoa must continue to get better.
And that’s exactly what Tua and the Dolphins offense plans to do this Sunday vs the Jets.
We’re on to the JESTS!