I hope everyone was able to safely land after the exhilarating nonstop offensive explosion of Sunday night’s game shot them into orbit. The Miami Dolphins edged out the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-10 in a contest that Jim Ross might have had a tough time livening up. Squirrelly as it was, the Dolphins came out on top and that’s the bottom line.
Tua brought a spark
The Dolphins’ first drive was magnificent. It covered 71 yards on 9 plays and included passes of 17, 18, and 20 yards to Tyreek Hill, Mike Gesicki, and Jaylen Waddle respectively. Besides an instant false start by Liam Eichenberg and a wasted timeout by Mickey MikeDaniel, it was a thing of beauty. The offensive line performed well, the receivers were open for miles; it all looked swell. Tua Tagovailoa’s return clearly brought a much needed spark to the Miami offense.
Alas, it went out shortly thereafter.
Whether it was the onset of a steady rain, the adjustments of the Steelers’ defense (Brian Flores’ insider knowledge likely gets too much credit), or rust from some time off, Tua couldn’t sustain the early momentum. The next two drives were decent and resulted in field goals, as did the last Fins’ drive of the first half.
The second half drives, however, looked a little something like this:
- Turnover on downs
- End of game
Not exactly shock and awe.
Tua’s typical accuracy, usually his most helpful attribute, was missing. There were some dropped passes, some stuffed run attempts, a couple of miscommunications, and a few penalites here or there. There were also four passes that the Steelers’ defense could have/should have pulled down for interceptions. Tua is still the best quarterback option to lead Miami’s offense, provided he can stay healthy, and I expect that whole group to bounce back next week. Nonetheless, it was an offensive performance that left a lot to be desired.
Playcalling was a letdown
First-year coach Mike McDaniel looked like a first-year head coach. After the stellar opening drive, he failed to adjust the offense to what the Steelers’ defense was doing or the weather conditions. He selected some pretty subpar plays for critical situations, the most egregious being the aforementioned turnover on downs.
With 8:43 to go in the third quarter, Miami had the ball at the Pittsburgh 13-yard line. 3rd and 2, they opted for an inside run with Chase Edmonds, despite finding some prior success with Raheem Mostert and outside runs. As an aside, they still had Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle (and Alec Ingold) on the roster at the time this play was chosen. The -1 yard gain put the situation at 4th and 3 from the Pittsburgh 14. A field goal would give the Dolphins a 19-10, i.e. two score, lead. Instead of allowing Jason ‘so far booting 100% on kicks under 50 yards’ Sanders to add some points, the Fins reached deep into the playbook for a momentum-shifting juggernaut of a play. After rifling through reams of pages, desperately hunting for the perfect riposte, it was finally unearthed:
An inside run with Chase Edmonds.
It gained no yards.
While there may have been no way to predict that the game would turn into a slap-fight between two tranquilized sloths by halftime, I still think you take the field goal instead of running for 0 yards after having just run for -1 yards.
It’s year one of a new staff. They’ll get better. But you know what might not?
The pass rush is pitiful
Emmanuel Ogbah missed the game and if you tuned in during his absence, you might have thought he was replaced by three elderly widows and one divorcee. I realize that the pass rush isn’t exactly setting the world on fire while Ogbah’s in, but every little bit helps I guess?
It felt like the defense rushed four practically every play on Sunday. I understand that the secondary is beyond banged up (see below point), but the best way to take pressure off of those young players is to pressure the opponent’s young quarterback. Kenny ‘Glove Potion #8’ Pickett had an eternity to sit back and survey the zone defense to find gaps. Miami eventually grabbed a pair of sacks (1.5 to Jaelan Phillips and .5 to Christian Wilkins), but forcing a rookie passer into rash decisions is a good way to take over a game quickly, especially when that rookie passer threw three picks without being hassled.
I’m not sure what the answer is, apart from maybe an improvement in player health (as if that’s something new). Ogbah and Trey Flowers both missed Sunday and maybe could have brought some more thunder. Maybe the linebackers need to get sent off of the edge more. I don’t know, I’m not a football sack maker scientist. I just know it didn’t work on Sunday and needs to work going forward, because:
Depth in the secondary is razor thin (but they DGAF)
Miami’s secondary is starting to make this dude look like the picture of health. Before the start of the game, the Dolphins were down cornerback Byron Jones (still), defensive back Keion Crossen, and cornerback Kader Kohou, not to mention cornerbacks Nik Needham and Trill Williams who are on IR. During the game, safety Brandon Jones went down with what appears to be a knee injury. That left the game in the hands of Justin Bethel, Clayton Fejedelem, and a fiesty upstart from Trussville, Alabama: Noah Igbinoghene.
Noah Igbinoghene (Iggy hereafter for my fingers’ sake) was picked 30th overall in the 2020 draft. Prior, he was a two-year player at wide receiver for Auburn, converting to cornerback in 2018. He played part of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season in the secondary before declaring for the draft. He was 20 years old when he was selected.
I give that brief biography to point out a few things:
- Iggy had fewer than two years experience at corner before Miami drafted him.
- He had pre-draft grades around the 2nd/3rd round, but was taken very early by Chris Grier and Brian Flores.
- He was a child.
Everyone seems to love to make him the punching bag since he was brought to the Dolphins, however: He didn’t ask to be overdrafted by a mile. He didn’t ask to be thrown to a wolf shaped like Stefon Diggs in his first NFL action. And, at least to my knowledge, he hasn’t said a word about any of it.
It’s entirely possible that he never evolves beyond his game on Sunday. We may have just witnessed his peak, which included at least one wonky play that was either an inverted Cover 2 that never got going or a busted coverage, some nice man coverage outdone by a stellar catch by George Pickens, and a game sealing interception in the end zone.
It’s also entirely possible that it took him a few more reps at cornerback and some growing before he started to feel comfortable and confident. He may slip back into obscurity when the rest of the backfield gets healthy or he may use this game as a stepping stone to a more substantial role with the team. As much joy as we can get from poking fun at players, I’m pulling for Iggy as hard as a taffy machine in a tug of war.
Hard to love it, but a win is a win
If you read the preceding points, it probably sounds a little like doomsaying or nothing but negatives. On one hand, it kind of is, only in the sense that there were a lot of negatives throughout Sunday’s game. Thankfully, Miami managed to outlast their opponents in Ugly Night Football and come away with a win.
With Tua back, the Fins should expect to win out until the Bye (Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland) and, barring the classic post-Bye-week-doldrums, their first game back as well (Houston). If they can keep things steady through Week 13, they could be 8-3 as they line up to face MM^2’s old employer in San Francisco on 12/4.
Of course, that’s looking way too far ahead and, as the old saying goes, take everything one step at a time try to get a little better each day come out here and work hard for my teammates and just do what the coaches ask of me— Sorry. Got into post game mode there for a second. Where was I?
Oh yeah; go Fins!
Do you think Miami can win their next three? How about their next two? What about next week? Ever again? Scream loud enough into the darkness of the comments and they’ll scream back.