I’ve had some time to calm down and rationally view the Miami Dolphins 23-17 loss to the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. After much introspection and reflection, I can say with certainty: what the hell was that garbage?
Adjustment. Adaptation. Acclimation. These are a few synonyms for the same thing. I did some digging, and Mike McDaniel’s alma mater (some podunk school called Yale) does in fact have an English department, so I assume he’s been exposed to such arcane terms. His degree was even in History, so one could be forgiven for thinking he’d learn from the past.
This loss wasn’t entirely on the coaches, but they get the first swing of my rage stick.
The coaching staff needs to check its fly: its inexperience is showing.
There were wasted timeouts, a bad challenge, and poor tackling. These kind of things happen to the best of them, though they’re occurring a little more frequently than Fins fans would like. The real standout failure of this week’s monumental letdown was the offensive game plan and the staff’s seeming refusal to adjust it in the face of a better one presented by the Chargers’ defense.
How many times do you need to watch the offense burn 60 seconds off the clock on the back of three consecutive incompletions on passes over 15 yards downfield? Is it as many times as an entire football game takes? Miami had 10 possessions, and the longest drive was 3:33. I never thought I’d say this about a Dolphins team, but the offense is looking downfield too much. Sunday looked like your bratty little cousin playing Madden and running Four Verticals over and over until you slap the controller out of his grubby hands.
Someone needed to slap M^2’s controller during halftime. Against San Francisco, there were plays open, but Tua missed his throws. So be it. Against Los Angeles, players weren’t getting open in the first place. So why in the world did the team insist upon sticking with plays that weren’t working? Yes; there were oddballs like the post to Tyreek Hill and the go route to Jaylen Waddle that inexplicably didn’t connect on good passes, but the specific reason aside: THEY STILL DIDN’T CONNECT.
There was no run game, no short passing game, and no creativity. For an ‘offensive coach’ and ‘run game guru’, the offense was embarrassing.
Remember when Jeff Wilson ran for over 100 yards? This season? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Good things can happen when he touches the ball, like a totally nonsensical fumble TD from Tyreek Hill, if I’m just thinking out loud. Of course, Wilson was injured and carted to the locker room on Sunday, as is the fate of all Dolphins who fly too close to being successful, and I expect his injury will be a bigger loss than we all might hope if he misses considerable time. Regardless of who steps in during his absence, you have to run to pull the linebackers out of your precious middle zone and to make play action a viable threat.
There are other players besides Tyreek Hill, despite what the stats might show. Not to mention that the Tyreek Hill, available on Sunday night, was hobbled from an ankle injury. Tua takes a lot of unfair criticism, but I’m going to criticize him for Sunday, and it sure feels fair.
Tua appeared to lock in on Hill way too often. Once Hill started spending more time on the sidelines, Tua locked in on his first read or even one side of the field. Despite the agonizing insistence to call plays designed to gain 80 yards a clip, there were openings underneath, but Tua didn’t look toward any of them.
What happened to ‘take what the defense gives you?’ Los Angeles’ defense was daring Miami to run, throw to the outside, throw short, throw slants: or anything other than throwing deep down the middle, and Miami politely declined. Tua was 3/17 at one point. That’s so bad it looks like a typo. It may have even gotten worse, but I lost track. Unless he decided to try throwing right-handed prior to kickoff, that’s inexcusable for him and everyone else involved.
Miami’s offense has looked dreadful for just about ten quarters since the bye. I still believe Tua is more than capable, along with the rest of the offense, so I’d love if they would go ahead and start looking like it again.\
Christian Wilkins is going gangbusters.
Silver linings. Lipstick on a pig. Shining a turd. Whatever your favorite aphorism is, it might be what I’m doing here, but Christian Wilkins deserves some recognition nonetheless. He’s playing like a monster. He had two tackles for loss and one sack to bring his season’s total to 16.5 and 2.5, respectively.
16.5 TFLs. Those are Aaron Donald's numbers. Just kidding. That’s .5 more than Donald’s career-high and Wilkins has four games to go. The point is, he’s anchoring the defense and playing his heart out. It’s hard not to root for the guy, and I sure am.
A quick shout-out to Jaelan Phillips and Kader Kohou too. Phillips has been stepping up his game since a slow-ish start to the year, and Kohou is proving as good a corner as Xavien Howard right now for a lot less money. Another extremely quick shout-out to the refs for taking away Phillips’ seventh sack of the year on one of the worst roughing the passer calls I’ve ever had the displeasure of suffering through. Patently ridiculous. Insubordinate. And churlish. The rest of the defense needs to start eating the same kind of Wheaties these three are if they don’t want to close out the season with a whimper.
There’s not much ROI on rookies.
Speaking of Kader Kohou, where my rookies at? This year’s draft class saw Miami pick linebacker Channing Tindall in the 3rd round, wide receiver Erik Ezukanma in the 4th, and linebacker Cameron Goode and quarterback Skylar Thompson both in the 7th.
Goode has spent the year on the practice squad. Thompson has been filling a roster spot based predominantly on his successful preseason but has played poorly when called upon in real games so far. Ezukanma was passed over before this week’s game for Freddie Swaim. Tindall might be the most worrisome since he was not only the highest pick, but also plays in the worst position group on the defense (and probably the team).
Meanwhile, the undrafted duo of Kohou and safety Verone McKinley III are contributing and/or killing it. It’d be one thing if the Dolphins were crushing their competition week in and week out, eyeing a Superbowl run, and ready to seize their window of opportunity with the high-priced vets already on the team. As it stands, the Fins are going to need their rookies to start filling in spots that are soon to become vacant due to contracts, cap space, or subpar performances. Otherwise, the team may be in for a much larger overhaul into 2023 than anyone was planning for.
The Dolphins are breaking my brain.
There was supposed to be an actual point here, but I can’t form thoughts through the cloud of anger and confusion. Here. This always makes me laugh.
Miami might need another miracle.
Before the game against the Chargers, Miami was sitting pretty pretty. A win against a depleted defense and struggling offense would be just what the doctor ordered to propel the Dolphins into a nearly guaranteed playoff spot.
Yet. Here we are.
Suddenly the Fins have gone from cruising into the postseason on the back of a dominant offense to potentially missing it entirely while they gain fewer yards per game than I do. Are the ‘bright lights of prime time’ just actually too bright for them? Like physically? Can we get them sunglasses or darkened contacts or something?
Miami seems allergic to big national games. Unfortunately for them, next week is another. And it’s at Buffalo. And it’s at night. And it’s supposed to snow. And it’s on a Saturday. So, just all bad all around.
Then they finish the season against the Packers, the *Patriots, and the Jets. Just last week I’d have said (and probably did say) that those three games are very winnable and should be wins. Now, I can believe anything. In the bad way. In a way that makes me sad. In the way that says ‘If you don’t like December collapses, then you don’t like Dolphins football.’
Maybe I don’t.
Do you think the Dolphins will make the playoffs? Do you care? Has all of the life force been sucked out of you? Join the piteousness of deflated balloons in the comment section.