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Week 9 Film Review: Should the Miami Dolphins be Concerned with their Defense?

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins managed to win another shootout against the Chicago Bears. Fans should never complain about a road win over a game opponent in the NFL, but for the second straight week, the defense struggled to keep the opposing offense out of the end zone.

It’s easy for fans (myself included) to think we have all the answers. Blitz more! Run more Zone! Put Channing Tindall in! It doesn’t matter what higher-level decisions a coach makes if the team doesn’t execute. That has been the biggest problem the last few weeks, the defense has been inconsistent in their execution.

With that said, let’s start with some positives in this game...

The Offense Continues to Roll

There’s no reason to spend much time going over this offense-they’re executing at a high level and it starts with the quarterback. One of the narratives you’ll hear is “the receivers are just so open. All Tua has to do is hit these wide-open players.”

It’s true that Mike McDaniel schemes guys open and gives his quarterback some easy throws each week. It’s also true that each week there are 5-10 tight window, difficult throws that Tua needs to make-and he is executing in those situations.

The offensive line continues to protect at a high level since Tua returned from injury. His quick decision-making and release have made a huge difference, but the guys up front are getting it done as well.

What Went Wrong for the Defense?

There are several things that we need to point out before we can get down to what went wrong in this specific game. First off, this has been a defense that thrived off strong secondary play the previous two seasons. This is also a defense that is missing 3/5 of their secondary in a nickel package (which is more and more commonly used in the NFL). We need to recalibrate our expectations for what they’re going to be capable of this season.

With that out of the way, the Bears executed a really strong game plan against this Dolphin defense. They used a variety of different plays and managed to keep the defense on its heels. The Bears used screens, moving pockets, play action, and option plays to keep the defense guessing and prevent them from leaning into their attacking nature.

On these plays, it only takes a split second of indecision for an athlete the caliber of Justin Fields to make you pay. There aren’t too many quarterbacks that can make Jaelan Phillips look slow, but Fields is one of them.

These are just situations where the defense was in great position but fails to execute. The pass rush gets home, but Keion Crossen gets flagged for DPI way down the field. The pass rush squeezes the pocket and flushes Fields out, but the spy can’t make an open-field tackle. Most egregiously, the defense is in a zone look on the final play of this video but manages to miss several tackles and give up a 60+ yard touchdown run to Justin Fields. Execution, execution, execution.....

It is also important to note that the defense had its moments as the game progressed. Once they routinely stuck Duke Riley in the quarterback spy role, it really limited Field’s ability to hurt them on the ground. As the game progressed they forced Fields to stick in the pocket or scramble for a short gain-a situation where he was far less dangerous.


When your offense is playing this well, you are going to win a ton of games. Their ability to put up points has really given the defense a lot of room for error. With that said, they just need to execute at a higher level. Some of these problems are pretty basic; tackle, don’t lose contain, get your head snapped around and play the ball to avoid DPI calls. They have injuries but this group is capable of much more.