Hope is a dangerous thing. Sunday’s convincing win over a not-as-bad-as-their-record-might-show Cleveland Browns team is inching me ever closer to hoping for the 2022 Miami Dolphins. Dare I put my trust in them, just to be hurt yet again?
We fans have been here before, and it’s never worked out in the past. But this year’s team is making it really tough to stay non-believers.
Offensive balance was a welcome change
Everyone has seen the fireworks display that Tua and Friends have been putting on for three weeks straight. It’s almost become commonplace to expect a performance like he had against the Browns, i.e. 25/32 (78%) for 285 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INT with a QBR of 93.7 (135 in the Olden Ways). Think about that for a second. That’s insane. Not the stats, though they’re quite good themselves. Rather the idea that you, as a sad, lonely, aqua and orange-clad ball of perpetual disappointment, can now have gasp high expectations for Miami’s quarterback for the first time since O.J. Simpson was relevant for something other than football.
But wait! “An offense can’t be completely one dimensional.” fans who were alive to watch Dan Marino and his teams play say to the empty couch cushions where their family members used to sit. That’s why it was so refreshing to see the Dolphins not only establish a run game on Sunday, but a damn good one at that. Raheem Mostert and newly acquired (possibly new lead) running back Jeff Wilson combined for 184 yards rushing on 25 carries while each reached the end zone once to top it off.
Even more ludicrous is the fact that the offensive line seems...good. I know Tua gets the ball out ASAP and that, coupled with the newfound rushing success, makes the linemen’s lives easier, but come on. Miami’s offensive line being bad is the only sure thing in this world. It’s all I have to cling to. If that goes away, anything can change. Nothing is sacred. Ponyboy. Nothing gold can stay. The point is, it’s almost otherworldly to watch a Dolphins line play well, but play well they have. They’ve been instrumental in establishing the balance necessary to develop a truly dominant offense and I hope it continues well into the future beyond when my brain short circuits from trying to believe it.
Sunday’s sudden combination of a thunderous run game and electric passing game was so effective that the Fins didn’t even punt! Thomas Morestead punted as many times as I did, though my game checks are slightly larger than his (I’m on a Bobby Bonilla deal). The game got so far out of reach that backup (seemingly now QB2) Skylar Thompson got some action at the end.
There isn’t much else to say about the offense. They put together a complete game and showed their strength. Now what about that pesky defense?
The dinged-up defense didn’t disappoint
Pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah went down with a torn triceps and is out for the remainder of the season. That marks the 100th defensive player the Dolphins have put on IR this year, earning the franchise the St. John’s Ambulance Bearer’s award for the most medically disinclined roster before the Bye week. There are a lot of guys hurt on defense is what I’m saying.
Despite being down in numbers, the defense held their own against Cleveland. The pass rush finally came to play, pressuring former Dolphins passer Jacob Briskett on ~40% of his dropbacks, culminating in 3 sacks. Perhaps more impressively, Miami held the Browns’ vaunted running back combo of Nick Chubb (seen here on his way to eat the weak) and Kareem Hunt (not pictured) to 71 yards (33 of which was on just one run by Chubb).
The often underperforming linebacking corps played well, the secondary held tight, and Christian Wilkins was all over the place with 10 tks, 1 sack, and 3 QB hits. If this version of the Miami defense can show up each week, they can take pressure off of the offense to score every single drive, allow them to establish longer drives and control the clock, and play the type of truly complementary football necessary to win deep in the playoffs.
4th down play calls need some consideration
It can’t all be sunshine and happy little trees, can it? This complaint is one of those things that didn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of this particular game. But if we’re going to let ourselves get a leeeeettle bit of hope going for some Dolphins wins in early 2023, it’s one of the little things that can make or break really close games against really great teams.
Late in the 2nd quarter, Miami had the ball at the Cleveland 14 yard line on 2nd down with 1 yard to go. They ran Mostert up the middle for 0 yards. Now 3rd and 1, they went with a pseudo trick play where tight end Durham Smythe stopped his motion, lined up under center, took the direct snap, and fell forward. It’s worked before, but here it gained an additional 0 yards.
Fine. Two runs, 0 yards. It happens to the best of ‘em.
Now it’s 4th and 1. Still on the Cleveland 14 yard line. One option would be to kick a field goal, but Jason Sanders hasn’t been so reliable as of late (he missed two extra points this game to further my point), so Mikey MickDaniel elected to go for it. Still no real problem with the premise from me.
Then, the play comes. An inside handoff to Jeff Wilson for -1 yards. Turnover on downs.
This has happened a few times this season. I know M-squared is a rookie coach. I get it. That said, this team has Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, a QB who can run when required, backs who can catch, and other targets like Trent Sherfield, Alec Ingold, Cedrick Wilson, and Durham Smythe, all of whom are capable of snagging a pass from their quarterback, whose completion percentage has been 70% or above since Halloween.
Come up with something better. It didn’t matter here, but it’ll likely matter when the games matter way more.
Tua and the team forced Adam Archuleta to appreciate them
In week 1 of the 2022 NFL season, announcer Adam Archuleta (seen here prepping for his time in the booth) had the call for the Dolphins vs. *Patriots season opener. He did such a bad job that I devoted an entire Thing of the Things I Think to his chicanery.
When I heard his voice open up the telecast on Sunday, I was just so sad. I was fully prepared for another ignorance apocalypse, filled with horrible humor, terrible takes, and a gross misunderstanding of a sport he spent 7 years playing professionally.
Instead, Archuleta did such a 180 that NASA is studying how he survived so they can better train their astronauts for atmospheric reentry.
I guess that’s what happens when there’s nothing to say. Tua and the offense have been humming along so well that even the nayest of sayers have to say something nice or not say anything at all. There’s no telling if it will keep up the rest of the year and through the postseason (and you know the second the production falls off even a bit, the ‘I-told-you-so’s’ will blot out the sun), but it’s really nice to be able to bask in some of the wildest backtrackings of our generation.
Miami needs to avoid the post-bye bummer
I’m going to preface this by saying I have no data to back this up and searching the whole wide internet for it seems exhausting. Having watched the Dolphins for quite a while now though, I feel in my bones that sometimes, just sometimes, they tend to play down to worse teams, underperform in favorable situations, and fall victim to the dreaded ‘trap game’.
Miami has their Bye this upcoming week before a game against the 1-7-1 Houston Texans. It provides the perfect opportunity to get some oft-nicked-up players a much-needed respite (looking at you Terron Armstead) but also affords the opportunity to lay a monster egg that would soil the makings of a magical season. Some imperfections showed during the win against the Browns: Sanders’ missed PATs, the defense surrendering a long TD run, the poor choice of play call on 4th and 1, and even more injuries to the secondary (Justin Bethel and Keion Crossen both went down at one point). Little things like that can add up and surprise a good team with a bad performance.
Thankfully, this year’s team feels different. I’m expecting the week off to do the Dolphins a world of good and allow them to come out swinging against a very outmatched Houston team.
If they show up in two weeks’ time and trash the Texans, I just might throw caution to the wind, allow myself to get my hopes up, and dare to be stupid.
Rhetorical question? Secondary inquiry? Tertiary query? Invitation to write some comments.