Two in a row.
The Miami Dolphins fell by a score of 17-23 to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, marking the team’s second straight loss. In arguably the team’s worst performance of the season, the final scoreline suggests a much closer game than what actually transpired on Sunday night. Here’s three reasons why the Dolphins weren’t able to defeat the Chargers in Week 14.
Reason 1: Lack Of Adjustments
In contrast to last week’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers, this one is largely on head coach Mike McDaniel, and his lack of in-game adjustments.
While the Chargers’s defense managed to take away Miami’s greatest strength in the middle of the field, they still left acres of space underneath. However, for some strange reason, the Dolphins refused to adjust and take advantage. Where were the short routes? The flats, the outs, the slants?
Sure, this is partly on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as well, who at times, simply didn’t take what the defense gave him. But regardless, McDaniel’s gameplan entering the game was entirely wrong, and the lack of halftime adjustments only exacerbated the issue. The Chargers were giving Miami 6-7 yards of open grass every play, and the McDaniel refused to take it. Make those adjustments, and the Dolphins may just have come away with a win.
Reason 2: Where Was The Running Game?
In a story as old as time, the Dolphins’ running game simply could not get going on Sunday night.
Leading rusher Raheem Mostert managed just 37 yards on 11 carries, while Jeff Wilson Jr. had 4 carries for 26 yards. Similar to last week, the Chargers dropped 7-8 guys into coverage on nearly every play, and the Dolphins flat-out refused to make them pay. In fact, with only 16 designed running plays on Sunday night, it’s not even that the Dolphins run the ball poorly, it’s that they simply don’t run it enough.
What’s wrong with picking up 3-4 yards on 1st-down via the ground game? Does every single play need to be 24-yard dart over the middle of the field? At this point in the season, you have to keep defenses honest. The way to do that, is to run the heck out of the football. On Sunday, the Dolphins didn’t do that, and it cost them the game.
Reason 3: Didn’t Control The Game
On his way to throwing for 367 yards on Sunday, Justin Herbert completed 39 of his 51 passing attempts, yet only completed a single pass over 40 yards.
The fact is, the Dolphins’ defense suffered death at the hand of a thousand cuts on Sunday. Averaging just over 7 yards per attempt, Herbert and the Chargers sliced open the Dolphins’ defense via dink-and-dunk passes, screens, and checkdowns. As a result, Miami’s defense couldn’t get off the field, and it led to the Chargers dominating the time-of-possession battle (39:38 to 20:22).
Offensively, the few times the Dolphins received the ball, they threw it away with risky passes, and unnecessarily aggressive plays. The truth remains that you can’t win games in the NFL without controlling the clock, at least not consistently. The scoreboard may indicate otherwise, but the Dolphins were never really in the game to begin with on Sunday.
The Dolphins travel up north this weekend, as they’re set to take on the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 on Saturday night. The Bills are coming off a 20-12 win over the New York Jets in Week 14. Having defeated the Bills in Week 3 earlier this season, a win on Saturday would mark the Dolphins’ first sweep of the Bills since the 2016 season.
What did you think of the Dolphins’ performance in Week 15? What were your biggest concerns? Let us know in the comments below, or at @ThePhinsider and @flameosumeet on Twitter!