I’m still only just getting back to being able to look at social media regarding the Miami Dolphins’ disappointing 33-17 “measuring stick” loss to the San Francisco 49ers. I’ve found that my mental health suffers far less when I just stay away for a couple of days before I revisit tough losses like this one, and it has helped. I just rewatched the game, and come away with a few observations that give me a few touches of solace:
- Yes, Tua was bad. No way around it. I counted 8 clearly bad throws and 2 arguably bad throws. The thing is that all but one of them were in the first half. In the second, he mostly rebounded and played much more like the guy we saw in the previous four games. This gives me hope that he had figured a few things out about a 49ers defense that is not just better than I thought but makes a strong case for being the best in the NFL right now. I think Tua is likely to play a more complete game against a defense like that next time around.
- We were without our starting tackles, including elite-level left tackle Terron Armstead. While it wasn’t nearly as tragic as we feared, it made a difference, and we can expect Armstead back soon. Maybe even this upcoming Sunday.
- I had forgotten this, but the Fins were still very much in this game until the final few minutes. It was still a 6-point game with the Dolphins moving down the field until they failed on that 4th-down conversion in SF territory with 6:03 left in the game. The score might suggest a decisive victory, but it wasn’t.
- Some argue that the Fins should have been able to beat the Niners, given that Jimmy G was out and backup Brock Purdy played most of the game. I contend that Purdy played quite well and very much in the same style that Garoppolo would play. Steady. Conservative. Letting the impact guys like Samuel, Aiyuk, McCaffrey, and Kittle do their star thing. If there was a hypothetical drop-off from Garoppolo to Purdy, it wasn’t by much.
The result of all this is that I’m not depressed about this club. After the game, I saw the entire team, top to bottom, cop to the loss and seem to be a team ready to do what it takes to improve itself after a tough road loss to an excellent team.
For the moment, our Dolphins are at 8-4 and take a hit in the standings. I took my third “L” of the year in the picks department:
driftinscott’s 2022 Game Predictions
My prediction was hilariously off, though I will reiterate that I really thought that the rain would be heavier and bog down the entire affair much more than it really did. I truly did not think Tua would miss so many throws, limiting the scoring for Miami.
Now, the team travels down the Pacific Coast Highway to see if they can get right against the Los Angeles Chargers. Let’s see how they stack up.
What do the Dolphins season team stats look like, compared to the ol’ Lightning Bolts?
Dolphins vs. Chargers Key Team Stats
|Pass Yards Allowed
|Run Yards Allowed
|-3 (tie 24th)
|4 (tie 5th)
|Against Penalty Yards
The Chargers’ season has been pretty disappointing to them and their fans, in large part due to a rash of injuries. More on this later, but the result is a Chargers team that sits at 6-6 and has struggled to form a consistent identity after a few big off-season free-agent signings. The numbers suggest a few clear strengths in the areas of passing yards, net turnovers, and penalty yards; however, this hardly seems enough to overcome their serious issues. Most apparent is that they are among the very worst in the NFL in both running the ball and stopping the run. They also give up the third most points per game in the league, which should be inviting to a Miami offense that is looking to bounce back. One other note about the Chargers’ impressive +4 turnover ratio: eight of their 17 turnovers have been fumble recoveries - a notoriously fickle stat based as much on luck as skill.
This is what the numbers suggest. How about what the Chargers have put on tape the last two games?
Chargers’ Previous Two Games: at Arizona and at Las Vegas
Two weeks ago, the 5-5 Chargers went into Arizona to face the Cardinals, a team dealing with its own problems and coming into the game at 4-7. It was a close game between two talented but herky-jerky offenses that moved the ball at times but stalled at others. Arizona offered a couple of big assists to L.A. in the form of one careless fumble early and one Kyler Murray bad decision-turned-interception, which they converted into 7 points. Herbert had a nice game, going 35-47 for 274 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Along with Arizona’s general coaching ineptitude and self-inflicted wounds, he was the main reason the Chargers pulled off a last-second win on a touchdown drive and two-point conversion in the final minutes of the game.
Last week, Herbert and the crew visited their AFC West rival in Las Vegas to meet yet another struggling club in the Raiders. True to the form of recent seasons, Vegas tried early on to chop their own feet off. Josh Jacobs turned the ball over with a careless fumble. Derek Carr chucked a loosy-goosey interception. The Chargers turned these into some points, but by the second quarter, the Raiders had righted themselves enough. Their defense started completely dominating the line of scrimmage, forcing Justin Herbert off his spots and into poor throws. Even when he did have time, Herbert was often off the mark, as evidenced by his 28-47 completion-to-attempt line. Down 27-13 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Chargers did manage one impressive rallying drive to get the score to 27-20 with 8:34 left in the game. But that was where the score would stay, as Vegas’s pass rushers would continue to hector Herbert the rest of the way, stopping them short of another comeback. The most striking thing in this game was how poor the L.A. offensive line looked, getting repeatedly ground to dust by a strong Raiders defensive line. It threw off any sense of rhythm that the Chargers’ offense hoped to build, keeping them at bay for the majority of the second half.
In sum, the current version of the Los Angeles Chargers looks something like the Space Marines towards the end of Aliens: they’ve got weapons and talent, but are really banged up and need some outside help and luck just to have a chance at survival. How does such a football compare to our Miami Dolphins?
Dolphins Offense vs. Chargers Defense
Hard not to favor Miami’s offense here. Sure, the Fins had their issues last week against the 49ers, but I’m choosing to believe that the reasons for the issues won’t carry over. Tua looked extremely shaky for nearly all the first half, thanks in no small part to the excellent San Francisco defense executing exotic looks and coverage schemes that led Tagovailoa to second-guess himself much of the time. He did, however, have a much better second half and nearly brought the team back. You will not be surprised to learn that the Chargers’ defense is not even in the same multiverse as the Niners. Thanks in part to injuries and part to questionable defensive play, they’ve given up the 3rd-most points per game and 4th-most rushing yards per game on the season. They’re closer to respectable in defending the pass, ranking 19th, but it’s clear that teams have been able to move the ball and score against them. While the Dolphins didn’t put up a ton of points or yards in San Francisco last week, they did manage to go a little over the Niners’ season averages in both areas. And that was with Tua having his worst game on the season. I have abundant confidence that with some returns from injury, Miami should have a big offensive showing.
Dolphins Defense vs. Chargers Offense
If one thing was clear from watching the Chargers’ two previous games, it was that their offense is a bit of a mess. Despite having some truly talented skill players like Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, and Keenan Allen, their offensive line is so atrocious that almost none of them can have much impact. The raw talent of those star players is such that they can put together a couple of nice drives every game, but they simply can’t sustain it when defenders come crashing through the backfield every other play, often without blitzing at all. This was true against a mediocre Cardinals defense, which kept the Chargers in check, and it was painfully clear against a strong Raiders defensive line. The Raiders could probably have been rung up on charges for the abuse they levied on Herbert. In both games, a big reason L.A. put up respectable yardage and point totals was that both Arizona and Vegas committed multiple silly turnovers, handing the ball to the Chargers offense and daring them to stay in the games. The Miami defense hasn’t been world-beating, but they match up well here. The pass rush should be able to keep Herbert off-kilter enough that he doesn’t put up a Pro Bowl performance, though I doubt they’ll completely shut down the Chargers offense.
Coaching, Special Teams, Injuries, and Other Factors
Head Coaches: Not hard to give our Mike McDaniel the nod here over Chargers HC Brandon Staley. Though a few questions could be asked of McD regarding last week’s loss to the 49ers, he’s overall proven to be very good at the head coaching thing. Brandon Staley, on the other hand, has yet to disprove some serious doubts about how he’s utilizing a very talented Chargers roster. Granted, injuries this season have hampered him, but some of the ways that his team has found to lose to bad teams have had less to do with injuries and more with some questionable decisions regarding clock management and strategy. The Chargers are disciplined and don’t commit many penalties, which reflects well on a head coach. It’s just not as important an element as overseeing your team consistently lick a fork and stick it into an electrical outlet with its bare hands.
Special Teams: The Dolphins continue to be average in this area. Jason Sanders had another decent showing, hitting his one field goal and two extra points. The coverage team had a few mid-size gaffes that led to some bonus yards for the 49ers, though. The Chargers special teams appear to be very solid, if not spectacular. They may have a little bit of an edge here that could be a factor in a really tight game.
Injuries: If you do a quick search along the lines of “NFL team health rankings,” you will see the Chargers at or near the top of many of those lists. They’ve lost multiple key starters throughout the season, many for extended stretches of time. Defensive monster Joey Bosa is still on Injured Reserve, meaning the Fins don’t have to worry about the other Bosa Bro causing problems. They will be getting All-Pro center Corey Linsley back, which should help their dire O-line situation. However, star CB Derwin James is listed as DOUBTFUL, which doesn’t help their prospects of covering the many receiving threats the Dolphins pose. As for Miami, things continue to look up. Stud left tackle Terron Armstead looks as if he has a good chance to return, which would pay immediate dividends. The only other players of consequence who weren’t a full go by Friday were tight end Durham Smythe and depth receiver River Cracraft. Nice players, but not the most impactful if unable to play.
Locale & Climate: The game is in Los Angeles, where the “fanbase” seems to have trouble turning out in big numbers unless their teams are on the verge of a championship. The forecast is for cool weather, with some rain possibly leading into the game. This type of forecast completely threw me off last week, as the weather ended up having zero impact on the game. This week, I’ll just assume that it won’t sway the game one way or the other.
Prediction: Dolphins 30, Chargers 20
I think Tua gets right and oversees an offense that comes in hungry for redemption. I also think Mike McDaniel sees an error in his lack of a run game last week and gets Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson more involved against a Chargers run defense that has struggled mightily without Bosa stalking around. I envision the Chargers doing what they’ve done for nearly all this season: occasionally moving the ball and keeping some pressure on the opposing team, but ultimately falling short against a team that has more healthy talent and isn’t chucking an umbrella into the spokes of its own bicycle wheels.
What do you think? Do our Fins bounce back to get to 9-4 and right back in the AFC East title hunt, or do they take another one on the chin out on the west coast? Throw those comments down there, and Fins Up!!