On a night when the 1972 Miami Dolphins - the National Football League’s only undefeated team to win the Super Bowl - were being honored for fifty years of perfection, the 2022 Miami Dolphins turned in a very 1972-like performance en route to a 16-10 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football.
Sure, it was an ugly victory that saw both teams go scoreless for the entire second half of play, but a win is a win and with that victory, the Miami Dolphins are 4-3 through seven games - once again above .500 on the season.
Now, let’s take a look back at the good, bad and ugly from Miami’s week seven victory over Kenny Pickett, Najee Harris, Minkah Fitzpatrick and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Miami’s severely banged up defense buckles down and leads the team to victory
Injuries matter. Week to week, they play a big factor regarding which teams end up in the win column, and which teams suffer defeat.
Recently, the Miami Dolphins have found that out the hard way - dropping three straight games while relying heavily on backups.
Well, on Sunday, those backups - particularly on defense - stepped up in a huge way to allow the Dolphins to squeak out a win against the Steelers.
Two of Miami’s three interceptions - including the final, game sealing one from Noah Igbinoghene - came from reserve defensive backs. In addition to the Igbinoghene pick, special teams ace, Justin Bethel, came away with an interception on a play where Diontae Johnson stumbled while the Kenny Pickett pass was in the air.
It was a gutsy performance from a team that entered the game with only three healthy cornerbacks on the roster. Defensive backs, Kader Kohou and Keion Crossen, were ruled out of the contest just prior to kickoff.
Unfortunately, as has often happened this season, Miami’s defense suffered another loss mid-game, when starting safety Brandon Jones suffered a knee injury which saw him leave the field and not return. That loss was particularly disappointing, as Jones was Miami’s leading tackler on the season heading into the Sunday Night Football matchup. After Jones was lost for the contest, another special teams contributor, Clayton Fejedelem, came in and played admirably - stuffing Najee Harris on an important run late in the battle.
It was a “bend-but-don’t-break” kind of night. But if Miami can’t get healthy - and fast - I’d suspect they start making some calls in order to find some help in the defensive back room, which is looking more like an infirmary these days.
After Miami’s first couple of drives, the offense sputters and fails to put up any second half points
Dolphins’ quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, returned from injury on Sunday, and he returned with a vengeance - coming out firing dots to Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill and Raheem Mostert for a touchdown on Miami’s opening drive.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much luck for the offense after that as they settled for field goals on their next two possessions, yet did little else for the rest of the game.
They were held scoreless throughout the entire second half of play, but were bailed out by the Dolphins’ defense and still walked away with the victory.
Tua Tagovailoa knows that his performance wasn’t good enough to win most weeks. Head Coach, Mike McDaniel, knows the same. The two men, along with their fellow coaches and players, will need to put their heads together this week to devise a gameplan that will allow them to be successful for an entire game, and not just in spurts.
Mike McDaniel’s rookie head coaching decisions nearly cost Miami the game
It was only Mike McDaniel’s seventh game as a head coach in the National Football League, and his inexperience was evident on multiple occasions against the Steelers.
For one, he needs to get the playcalls in sooner. Too often, Miami is rushing to the line of scrimmage with less than ten seconds before they need to snap the ball, leaving Tua Tagovailoa little time to survey the defense and get his offense in the best position to succeed. Even more frustrating is the multiple times a game when Miami is forced to burn a timeout because they are unable to snap the ball before the play-clock hits zero because the playcall was late getting in. This is something that very badly needs to be addressed moving forward if Miami wants their offense to stay on schedule in the coming weeks.
Secondly, McDaniel’s decision to go for it on 4th and 3 deep into Steelers’ territory, up by six points, instead of kicking a field goal which would have given the Dolphins a two-score lead on a night when Miami’s defense was playing lights-out ball, was flat out just the wrong call. McDaniel would later say that the decision was his alone, and that his analytics team did not advise him to go for the first down in that situation, but that he “had faith” in his players to make the play.
Well, Coach, having faith in your players is great, but not to the potential detriment of the final score. When your offense is struggling and your defense is down to third-stringers playing in key positions, yet still handling business against the opposing offense, you take the points almost every time.
I have faith that Mike McDaniel will learn from his mistakes, I just hope it happens in victory - like Sunday - rather than defeat.
Through seven games, Miami has a record of 4-3. Do you think this offense can regain the success they experienced earlier in the season? Will Tua Tagovailoa be able to knock off the final remnants of rust in practice this week in order to turn in a stellar performance against the Lions next Sunday? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @MBrave13. Fins up!