That’s my intro. That’s the whole sad thing.
Playcalling was better until it mattered.
Over the previous two weeks, coach Mike McDaniel took some very fair criticism about his insistence on calling plays that didn’t work. In the face of defenses smothering his game plan, he changed nothing and kept getting smothered. Against the Bills, the offense pulled it back together.
It wasn’t the lights-out, Greatest-Show-On-Grass from the middle of the season, but it certainly wasn’t anemic, out-of-sorts, strung-out nonsense from the 49ers and Chargers games either. McDaniel started the game by establishing the run, something he seems to avoid like the plague despite his prior role as a Run Game Coordinator. In Orchard Park, Raheem Mostert racked up over 100 yards on the ground in the first quarter. He could have had even more if he’d pick up his darn feet and not get tripped by the skin of his aglets every other carry. Even long-forgotten Salvon Ahmed notched 43 yards on six carries with 1 TD (over the full game).
“So what are you complaining about?” you ask, about to be answered.
Well, hypothetical reader, for one: Miami lost. So your question is silly, to begin with. But, specifically, Miami’s play-caller extraordinaire went away from the run game that had worked so well in the situations where it mattered most.
In 3rd and 4th down short yardage situations (5 yards to go or less, for my purposes), the Dolphins' day played out as follows:
3rd & 1 run = convert
3rd & 5 pass = fail
4th & 1 run = convert
3rd & 1 pass = fail
3rd & goal (3) pass = fail
3rd & 4 pass = fail
3rd & 5 pass = convert
3rd & 4 pass = convert
2 PT attempt pass = fail
3rd & 2 pass = fail
3rd & 3 pass = fail
3rd & 1 pass = fail
Tallying up all the jazz gives us 2/2 (100%) on rushes and 2/10 (20%) on passes. I know in the postgame presser, coach McD said Buffalo was stacking the box, but three of those failed conversions on pass plays were the same quick-out route thrown to a blanketed receiver.
Of course, no loss comes down to a single play (or player) but is a beautiful fragrant bouquet of missed opportunities. Those 3rd down conversions add up to a lot of missed opportunities, though. Yes, he is a first-year head coach, and so on and so forth, but he needs to get better at picking up short yardage in key situations. It was a killer for this otherwise winnable game.
Defensive depth is near the Earth’s core.
Coming into this game, I really expected a drubbing. Something on the order of 42-17 wasn’t out of the question. Thankfully, the Fins held their own better than I gave them credit for. The fact that they managed to do so with the trauma ward that is their secondary is some serious voodoo. I don’t know who put that evil on them, but it’s getting out of hand.
Safeties Eric Rowe and Elijah Campbell were ruled out before the game to go with Brandon Jones, who is on season-ending IR. That thrust Clayton Fejedelem onto the field to be instantly beaten for 45 yards by Dawson Knox. At one point, “Still-Possibly-Defensive-Player-of-the-Year-if-He-Has-a-Few-Record-Setting-Games” Jevon Holland left with a neck injury. They called me to take his spot, but I was too drunk to fly a plane, so Holland just went back in.
Duke Riley got a lot of time in the middle of the linebacking group and blew his assignment to allow Nyheem Hines to score an easy touchdown. To be fair, even some starters got in on the action. Holland got burned by rookie tight end Quintin Morris for his first career touchdown, and Bradley Chubb seems to be weighed down by his Scrooge McDuck sack of money.
I’m not saying these guys aren’t playing their hearts out. They most definitely are. They managed to keep the game within reach against a top-level team, on the road, in a hostile environment. But imagine if the talent was at the level of the expected starters. And if Josh Boyer didn’t like soft coverage so much. And if the refs knew how to call intentional grounding. And if Josh Allen didn’t win an EGOT for his portrayal of Man Wronged Along the Sideline.
Yes, all those things are super lame, but the defensive injuries are a major challenge that the Fins are doing their best with. Unfortunately, their best may not be good enough for the playoffs.
Dudes with the initial M.G. have no room at M.M.’s inn
I’m adding this because it’s both interesting and depressing. Myles Gaskin and Mike Gesicki: I guess you’re the Ghosts of Christmas Past this year. People like to say good coaches know how to get the best out of their players. I’m not sure what this case says about M^2.
Myles Gaskin played 10 games in 2020, amassing 584 yards on 142 carries (4.1 avg) with 3 TDs. He then played all 17 games in 2021, rushing 173 times for 612 yards (3.5 avg) and 3 more TDs. As a receiver, he added 41 recs for 388 yards and 2 TDs, then 49 recs for 234 yards and 4 TDs successively. He’s not putting up video game numbers there, but he’s doing an excellent job. He’s proving he can be a contributor.
This season, Gaskin has ten carries for 26 yards and four recs for 6 yards. Of course, I have no insight into the inner workings of the team, but that feels like skills being underutilized.
The more blatant case is his fellow M.G. Mike Gesicki.
Gesicki put up career highs for receptions and yards in 2021, with 73 recs for 780 yards. Though he only scored twice in 2021 (and has 4 TDs so far in 2022), his production has completely disappeared since the bye week. He has one rec for 5 yards over the last four games.
I’ll write an exhaustive eulogy for him when he inevitably leaves in the offseason, but no matter your opinion on his blocking, scheme fit, or elusiveness (I’ll give you that one; he’s like a baby deer), he has talent. He’s currently 20th on the Dolphins all-time receiving list in terms of yardage and is 2nd among all TEs in both yardage and touchdowns. 568 yards and 2 TDs would put him 1st in both categories ahead of Randy McMichael.
Again, I don’t know the machinations of the Miami (sound) Machine, but not getting production from a productive player is a waste by any definition.
NFL Network is a trash concept
This is a personal rant. My apologies to no one. I pay for both NFL+ (formerly Gamepass) and Sunday Ticket. That’s good money that could be spent on blackjack and other inappropriate things. Yet, because the NFL insists on trying to have its own dedicated network that nobody cares about, I have to jump through hoops to watch the game because I don’t live in the market area.
Then, I have to listen to Mark Sanchez gargling on his own tongue while (I assume) wearing a full-a$$ buffalo costume.
What was that announcing? Who was that for? I felt like I was on a hidden camera show the entire game.
DID YOU KNOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO SNOW?
And then, get this if you can handle it.........IT DIDN’T.
And then, I know you won’t be able to believe this turn of events, hold onto your hats, you better be sitting down, and take a deep breath........LATER IT DID.
NFL. If you’re going to make me go out of my way to watch your unnecessary channel, don’t punch me in the face when I get there.
The Fins are taking it down to the wire again.
Can’t Miami ever just march confidently into the playoffs before the final week of the season?
Despite the outcome, the game vs. Buffalo offered some hope. Tua looked more like himself than since before the bye week. If Tyreek Hill or Trent Sherfield had held onto either of the consecutive touchdown passes that hit them in the hands on the first drive (and everything else in the game remained exactly the same, as it obviously would have), Miami walks out with a win.
If Tua can keep his floor high and maintain consistency, it seems to me he’s got one major skill to add to his repertoire before becoming a singular player that opponents dread facing: his ability to improvise.
He seems hesitant to leave the pocket and run (given his injuries this season, I get it) even when there are opportunities. He does it so rarely that his body sometimes betrays him and he trips over nothing like on one scramble on Saturday. He also seems hesitant to deviate from the play design, like any of the 3rd down attempts where he insisted on throwing the quick-out pattern while the receiver was wearing a defender as a cape. Meanwhile, he doesn’t seem hesitant to just chuck it toward Hill if he gets in a panic, which he also needs to improve upon. If he learns to look elsewhere or extend the play with his legs, it will help bail out some of the suspect play calls that keep popping up.
What was I supposed to be talking about?
Oh yeah, the playoffs. Miami must win two of their last three against Green Bay, New England, and New York (the Jets, not the Little Giants). They should. They should win all three. But the Miami teams I’ve lived with don’t. They fall to pieces and make us look at mock drafts before MLK Day. This team felt different this season. I hope they start to feel that way again.