The Dolphins looked unstoppable with five-straight wins and most were expecting another dub last Sunday against the Broncos. It is easy to overlook a team’s issues, especially when they aren’t the center of attention.
Miami’s game in Denver, a 20-13 loss, shouldn’t be viewed as a cakewalk — at least in hindsight. The Dolphins have the league’s best first-quarter team with an average of 8.7 points scored in the game’s first 15 minutes.
The Dolphins were riding a win streak because Brian Flores and his coaching staff created a game plan that forced opposing offenses to throw the ball and force errors. However, Vic Fangio, Denver’s head coach who is known as a defensive guru, had a plan in place that mirrored what the Dolphins had done so well for the better part of the last two months.
Miami’s weaknesses, the offensive line and rushing defense, can be negated when the team has a two-score lead. The Dolphins, who often jump out to early leads, force opponents to pass the ball. On the other side of the ball, teams can’t pin their ears back and attack the line of scrimmage when down 10-plus points — one mistake could put the game out of reach for good.
The offense is limited and Fangio’s game plan to keep the Dolphins from running away worked like a charm. However, this loss for the Dolphins shouldn’t raise long-term concerns. The game plan was certainly in place for Miami to win, the execution and talent, though, needs some work.
Tua Tagovailoa took a shot on the first play of the game to Jakeem Grant. Looking for a quick strike, it was the proper play call as Grant was rolling down the field with room to run.
Okay so, first play from scrimmage on Sunday. Grant gets up on a stop-and-go and Tua makes the right read... however the ball was overthrown and Grant slows down to box out a defender with his body... lack of chemistry and a miss that could've changed the game early. pic.twitter.com/YFceUK6dtW— Jake (@JMendel94) November 25, 2020
We can blame a few different areas for this pass falling incomplete, but not one of them being the play calling. Tagovailoa steps up in the pocket and launches the ball down the left side of the field. However, Grant slows down a bit to position himself in front of his defender to box him out. As a result, the ball sails over his head.
Salvon Ahmed ran for four yards on second down and the offense had another deep ball lined up on 3rd and 6.
On 3rd and 6 Tua tries to go back to Grant. Escapes pressure and again, Grant has his guy beat... but the ball sails and Grant can't get under it. Good call, good read, poorly executed. pic.twitter.com/J5fXOKLvAN— Jake (@JMendel94) November 25, 2020
Much like first down, the Dolphins made the right call and Tagovailoa made the proper read, but again the ball falls incomplete.
In order to force the Broncos and Drew Lock (10 interceptions on the year) into mistakes, the Dolphins needed to throw a few haymakers and break out to an early lead. With two missed shots deep, the Broncos defense began to feed on the underneath routes since the offense was unsuccessful at stretching the defense.
The Dolphins did take the lead after an Xavien Howard interception, but the offense had the same struggles on that drive.
No game is decided on the first drive. However, you can't take deep shots on every play and the Denver defense began to load up underneath. Here we see Justin Simmons (had an outstanding game) intercept his first of two passes on the day, even though this was called back. pic.twitter.com/pNl5GjttOw— Jake (@JMendel94) November 25, 2020
Tagovailoa couldn’t get the offense moving with his rollouts and quick strikes because the Denver defense continued to load up underneath, forcing the rookie quarterback to hold the ball too long. He was sacked six times on the day.
Chan Gailey’s offense hasn’t been perfect and he has admitted that in press conferences, but the script was in place to give Miami the early advantage. However, the Dolphins struggled to move the chains and the receives, outside of DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, who combined to catch 10 of 14 targets on the day, couldn’t get going.
With the Dolphins unable to hit on anything deep, having players like Grant, Durham Smythe and Mack Hollins combine to catch 2 of 6 targets doomed the offense. The game remained close where the Broncos could use the clock to their advantage and burn it away with five ball carriers averaging over five yards per attempt.
Miami lost for the first time in six outings and was hit hard by the reality that this team has major holes. However, that doesn’t mean the expectations for the season have gone completely off the tracks.
Trailing Buffalo by just one game, the Dolphins have the opportunity to get back in the win column on Sunday in New York. It could be argued that this is the first must-win game (in order to reach the playoffs) for coach Brian Flores and this will be a good test to see how the team responds.
The Dolphins should be prepared to face the winless Jets, but as we all know — anything can happen on Sunday.
Be sure to check out Phinsider’s preview to Sunday’s action on Spotify, ITunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
new @thephinsider radio @jmendel94 & i preview the @miamidolphins week 12 matchup vs the 0-10 @nyjets +— josh houtz (@houtz) November 28, 2020
-j-e-t-s suck! suck! suck!
-stop the run!
-TEs OTW ⁉️