clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Dolphins vs. Titans 2021 Week 17 final score and immediate reactions

Miami Dolphins v Tennessee Titans Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins came out trying to extend a seven-game winning streak and keep themselves in a playoff position. Instead, they got stomped by the Tennessee Titans, who, along with the weather, kept Miami’s offense off-balance all game. With a big lead, the Titans were able to rely on the rushing attack most of the game, negating Miami’s pass rush and chewing up clock.

With the loss, the Dolphins are not eliminated by could be by the end of the weekend. If they are going to make the playoffs, they now need a lot of help from across the AFC. It is not likely for the Dolphins to make the postseason this year as they fall back to a .500 mark.

The Titans, meanwhile, are in a position to claim the top seed depending on the results from the Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals game.

Final Score

Dolphins 3 - Titans 34

First Quarter

The Dolphins received the opening kickoff, with Phillip Lindsay returning it 16 yards to the Miami 17. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looked deep to wide receiver DeVante Parker for 20 yards, then, after an ineligible player downfield penalty backed Miami into a 1st-and-15, running back Duke Johnson ran for 16 yards. After that, however, the drive stalled, with Johnson running for no gain, Tagovailoa throwing a pop-pass to receiver Jaylen Waddle for no gain, and a sack of Tagovailoa leading to a punt.

That is the start the Dolphins wanted, but it all fell apart quickly. Good to see the team looking deep early and trying to get Waddle involved, but nothing worked on those final three plays, including Tagovailoa holding the ball way too long on the sack.

Tennesse began at their own 30-yard line after a short punt from the Dolphins’ Michael Palardy. Running back Dontrell Hilliard was stuffed for no gain on first down by Christian Wilkins, before quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two incomplete passes. The Titans punted on the three-and-out.

The Dolphins defense has not allowed a third down conversion on 17 straight attempts now.

Miami matched the Titans with a three-and-out of their own. Johnson picked up one yard on second down, but Tagovailoa threw incomplete on first- and third-downs, leading to the punt.

That was not a pretty possession. The offense looked out of rhythm on all three snaps, and Tagovailoa missed on both throws.

The Titans picked up four yards on first down with a run from running back D’Onta Foreman, then a Hilliard run for five yards set up 3rd-and-1. The Dolphins defense, however, fired out on the play, with linebacker Elandon Roberts stuffing Forman for a three-yard loss and another Titans three-and-out.

Safety Jevon Holland’s hit to end the run on second down was gorgeous, and it set up what looked like an end to the streak of holding on third down. Roberts was not having that, though, and crashed through to shut down the run almost as soon as Foreman got the handoff.

The Dolphins again looked out of rhythm on their next possession, starting on the first play when Tagovailoa was trying to get players into the correct formation almost all the way to the end of the play clock. That play resulted in a run from running back Phillip Lindsay for no gain. Tagovailoa tried to hit Parker on a slant on second down, but the pass was broken up by Kristian Fulton. On 3rd-and-10, Tagovailoa was flushed from the pocket and forced to scramble for a one-yard run, leading to another three-and-out punt.

Offenses are struggling right now. Five possession, five punts, one first down so far this game.

After an incomplete pass on first down and a false start penalty on second down to make it 2nd-and-15, it appeared the Titans were setting up for another three-and-out, but a 25-yard pass from Tannehill to receiver A.J. Brown moved the chains for Tennessee for the first time on the day. Foreman ran for three yards on first down, then Tannehill threw to Hilliard for two yards before Tannehill threw to tight end Anthony Firsker for four yards. On 4th-and-1, Tannehill converted on a sneak for two yards. Foreman then ran for 14 yards, setting up 1st-and-Goal from the one. Tannehill then threw to tight end Jeff Swain for the score. Titans 7-0.

Miami’s defense cannot allow the Titans to get into a rhythm like that.

In looking to respond, things got worse for the Dolphins. After a Tagovailoa incomplete pass on first down, the quarterback failed on a handoff, with Elijah Molden recovering the loose ball for the Titans.

Ewwww.

The Titans, starting at the Dolphins’ 14-yard line, ran Foreman on the first two plays, gaining nothing, then four yards, before the quarter ended.

The Dolphins are clearly out of sorts right now. The rain seems to be impacting Tagovailoa, who cannot hold the ball and is inaccurate on his throws.


Second quarter

Tannehill threw to Firsker for five yards, with Eric Rowe stopping him a yard short of the first down. The Titans kicked the field goal. Titans 10-0.

The stop from Rowe made it 20 straight third-down stops. That is impressive. But Miami has to figure out something quickly before this becomes a runaway.

After the touchback on the kickoff, Miami turned to an up-tempo run game to get the drive started. Johnson picked up 14 yards on the first play, then 11 yards on the second snap. After a Lindsay run for a yard, Tagovailoa dumped it to him in the flat for a eight-yard gain. On 3rd-and-1, the center-quarterback exchange failed and the Dolphins were lucky to have Johnson jump on the ball. Going for it on 4th-and-1, Tagovailoa threw a short pass to tight end Durham Smythe for a 15-yard gain and a Miami first down. After an incomplete pass on first down, Tagovailoa was forced to throw the ball into the ground - somehow avoiding the intentional grounding call. On 3rd-and-10, Johnson picked up six yards, setting up a 39-yard field goal attempt from Jason Sanders. Titans 10-3.

This rain is clearly bothering Tagovailoa. He is not using his normal mechanics, he is having trouble with gripping the ball, and it is causing issues all across the offense. The referees had to be looking at tight end Mike Gesicki as being in the area for that grounded pass, but he was nowhere near where the ball bounced. That was a lucky break for the Dolphins. Miami looks like they can run against the Titans, so a heavier dose of Johnson could be coming. And, where is Myles Gaskin?

Foreman started the drive with a four-yard run, then another rush for five yards. Tannehill then threw to Swaim for five yards, ending the Miami third-down stops streak at 20. Tannehill came back to find Brown for 16 yards. On 1st-and-10 from the Miami 45-yard line, Foreman picked up four yards. Foreman then tried to take a run off the right, but rookie linebacker Jaelan Phillips tracked him down, chasing from the opposite side of the field, to pull the running back down for a one-yard loss. Tight end MyCole Pruitt was injured on the play. After the stoppage for Pruitt’s injury, the referees gifted the Titans a defensive pass interference call, setting up a 1st-and-10 at the Dolphins’ 34-yard line. Foreman then ran for six yards, with Hilliard running for two yards after. Tannehill then ran for five yards on 3rd-and-2. After an incomplete pass, Foreman ran for 21-yards and the touchdown. Titans 17-3.

Oh, that injury to Pruitt was just nasty. His leg looked like it exploded. When the first move of the trainers and medical personnel is to cover the leg with a towel, it is not pretty. When coaches and trainers from both teams rush out to help, it is not pretty. That was a bad break. The defensive pass interference call was ridiculous. Chester Rogers clearly pushed off on Nik Needham, then slipped on the wet turf, so he grabbed Needham’s jersey and yanked him to the ground too. Somehow, that became interference on Needham. Just a miserable call that absolutely gave the Titans a touchdown when it looked like Miami had stopped the drive.

Starting at the 25 after the touchback, Miami took possession with 3:18 remaining in the half. Tagovailoa threw incomplete on first down, with Johnson picking up a yard on second down. On 3rd-and-9, Tagovailoa found tight end Mike Gesicki for a 14-yard gain and a first down. After the two-minute warning, Tagovailoa was flushed out of the pocket, eventually finding Gesicki again for 14-yards. Three straight incomplete passes ended any chance Miami had at putting up points, leading to another punt.

Tagovailoa is just off today. He is overthrowing or underthrowing way too many of his passes. Is it the rain? Something is not right.

The Titans ran Foreman for two yards and seven yards to end the half.


Halftime Reactions

That was an ugly first half for Miami. They are out of sync on offense, simply put. Tagovailoa is struggling. The rain is not helping anything, but the Dolphins have to make some sort of adjustment and get the offense in gear.

The Titans have a two-touchdown lead, which means they are going to be running the ball more and more as this game progresses. Miami’s pass rush works best when they have a lead and can just blitz. Right now, that is not going to happen.

The second half has to be different for Miami.


Third quarter

The Titans started with the ball for the second half, opening with a five-yard run from Foreman. Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts was injured on the play. Tannehill there to Swaim on second down, then to Rogers on third down to move out to the Titans’ 40-yard line. After a three-yard run from Foreman, running back Jeremy McNichols picked up two yards. After Tannehill threw to Hilliard on a screen pass that turned into a 52-yard gain, an illegal blindside block negated most of the play, but the Titans had 1st-and-10 at the Miami 42-yard line. After a four-yard run from Foreman and an incomplete pass, the Dolphins defense finally got to Tannehill for a sack as Jerome Baker got to Tannehill. The Titans punted, with the ball rolling all the way to the Dolphins two-yard line.

Finally! The Dolphins took way too long today to get to Tannehill.

Starting at the two, Tagovailoa threw incomplete on first down before finding Parker for 11 yards. After running back Myles Gaskin picked up eight yards, then one yard, the Dolphins brought in Jacoby Brissett, who looked deep for Waddle but the ball fell incomplete; a hit to Brissett’s head led to a roughing the passer penalty and a Miami first down. Tagovailoa then went to work over the middle, finding Gesicki for 15 yards, then Smythe for 21 yards. At the Titans 27-yard line, however, the drive stalled as Tagovailoa threw incomplete, to wide receiver Isaiah Ford for no gain, then was sacked. Sanders attempted a 53-yard field goal, with the ball bouncing off the crossbar and falling back into play for a failed kick.

That was a good drive for Miami up to the last three plays. Tagovailoa was sharp with the ball and the team was picking up chunk plays. They brought it in closer on those final three offensive snaps, looking for screens or throws to the flat, rather than continuing to attack. Sanders kicked the ball exactly 53 yards and got unlucky on the bounce. His tendency of good even-numbered years and off odd-numbered years continues - given this is the 2021 season.

The Titans started the drive at their own 43 after the field goal miss. Foreman picked up three yards on first down, then Tannehill threw to Rogers for six yards on second down. Hilliard picked up the first down with a one-yard run. Three straight penalties on the next three snaps included two holding penalties on the Titans on either side of a defensive pass interference penalty on Miami. Now 1st-and-20 at the Titans 45-yard line, Tannehill threw to Hilliard for three yards before a fumbled handoff that Tennessee recovered. McNichols gained 12 yards on a 3rd-and-21, leading to the end of the quarter.

The Titans offense is trying to run clock. The Dolphins need to stuff the run and get the ball back quickly to keep the hopes alive for a comeback.


Fourth quarter

The Titans punted to begin the quarter, with the ball kicking up and being downed at the seven-yard line.

Kern has been impressive with his ability to kill the ball inside the ten.

Miami once again was able to start moving the ball on their drive. After an incomplete pass, Tagovailoa found Johnson for a ten-yard gain. Another incomplete pass was followed by a six-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Johnson, then another six yards on a pass to Parker. Tagovailoa looked deep for Waddle, picking up 45 yards on the throw and moving to the Titans’ 26-yard line. On a flea-flicker attempt, Tagovailoa was sacked and stripped, with Liam Eicheberg falling on the ball for the Dolphins. Tagovailoa then threw a pass to the flat for Smythe, picking up one yard. After an incomplete pass, Tagovaloa looked deep to Parker on 4th-and-11, but it fell incomplete.

I completely understand Parker’s reaction after that four-down play. He was clearly pulled down and there should have been pass interference. Especially after some of the calls we saw earlier in the game. But there was nothing flagged on the play. Just horrible refereeing and Parker reacted to it. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for yelling at the referee.

Taking over on downs, the Titans began at their own 42-yard line following the penalty on Parker. Foreman ran for no yardage on the first play, then for nine yards on the second snap. On 3rd-and-1, Foreman took the wildcat snap and rushed up the middle for 35 yards. After Hilliard was stopped for a one-yard loss, Tannehill threw to Firsker for a 15-yard touchdown. Titans 24-3.

The Dolphins defense is starting to look tired.

After the touchback on the kickoff, Tagovailoa threw to Waddle for two yards, then was incomplete on a drop from Waddle. Parker caught a pass for nine yards on 3rd-and-8, giving Miami a new set of downs. Drops from Johnson and Parker set up 3rd-and-10, with Gesicki picking up eight yards on the pass from Tagovailoa. On 4th-and-2, Tagovailoa looked deep toward Parker, but the two were on different pages and the ball fell incomplete.

Miami’s offense is just a mess today. Bad throws, drops, everything.

Taking over at the Miami 44-yard line, the Titans just looked to eat the clock. Foreman picked up two yards, then four yards, then no gain to set up a punt. A roughing the kicker penalty on Brandon Jones gave Tennessee a first down, however. After a Foreman run for a three-yard loss, a Foreman run for no gain, and a Tannehill run for no gain, the Titans kicked a field goal with 2:58 remaining on the clock. Titans 27-3.

On Miami’s first play after the field goal, Tagovailoa found Gesicki, but the ball bounced up and was picked off by linebacker David Long.

Seems right for the way this game has gone.

Tennessee replaced Tannehill with Logan Woodside as they work to kill the clock. Hilliard ran for a two-yard loss on first down, then picked up a yard on second down. After the two-minute warning, Hilliard bust through for a 39-yard touchdown. Titans 34-3.

Just more misery.

Gaskin picked up six yards on first down, then was stopped for no gain but a face mask penalty gave Miami a first down. Two more runs from Gaskin, tallying four yards each, ended the game.