Losing three games in a row is never a good thing, but the Miami Dolphins did give fans reasons to feel encouraged about the rest of this season. Tua Tagovailoa had a solid (not great) bounce-back performance following a difficult game against the Chargers and the running game absolutely went off in Buffalo.
The frustration from a lot of Dolphins fans is due to some questionable playcalling that proved to be the difference between winning and losing against the Bills. I get that it can all seem really simple from our recliners. The running game is working, so why aren’t we going to it more often in these high-impact situations? We’ll look at some of these plays and see if we can determine why he made the less obvious calls.
The Bright Spots
The running game was dominant against the Bills. The offensive line created massive running lanes and the running backs broke a ton of tackles. They'll need it down the stretch. pic.twitter.com/RBUvzfDPfD— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
The Dolphins emphasized the ground game this week and it really helped this offense to consistently move the football in Buffalo against a tough defense. The Bills have a reputation as being a physical football team, but I think a lot of that comes from Josh Allen running the football. On defense, they are vulnerable to the run and Miami gashed them all night.
Love this throw in the face of free runners. Even more than that I love the play from Terron Armstead to cut off the most inside blitzer and allow this play to happen. pic.twitter.com/vS6lGoS5X5— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
Love this play from Tua and Terron Armstead. The Bills are bringing more blitzers than Miami has blockers. There are going to be free rushers and they play it perfectly. Armstead takes the furthest inside blitzer to buy Tua time and he hangs in to make a big throw early in the game.
Kind of like earlier, the Bills look like they're going two-high pre-snap, but Poyer rotates down and Tua IDs it immediately. This time it's a better throw and Waddle is off to the races. pic.twitter.com/crR3DRVUUH— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
There were several examples of the Bills changing coverage post-snap and Tua picking it up really quickly. The Bills show two-high here but Poyer rotates down to take the middle of the field, which opens up this deep crosser for Waddle. Well placed ball and a long touchdown. Great read and throw from Tua Tagovailoa here.
It's a blitz with man coverage underneath and a single high safety. With the safety being midfield, it gives Tua a comfortable window to lay this in. Perfect throw, touchdown. pic.twitter.com/G1rnANcBlr— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
Another perfectly placed ball in the second half. The Bills are bringing heat and running man coverage underneath with a single high safety (who is shading to Hill’s side). Hill beats White off the line and Tua lays it up perfectly between the safety and corner.
Questionable Play Calling
A lot of fans are frustrated with McDaniel’s playcalling and how he went away from the run at times in this game. I get why, but I don’t think it’s as simple as some people may think it is. Let’s look at some of the more maligned decisions in this game.
The first red zone trip of the day. Only ran it once, but still had two opportunities to score. Should have been six. pic.twitter.com/Rfi60apEG4— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
The first trip to the red zone this evening and they come away with three. They only run the ball once here and curiously it’s to Mostert after his long run (probably just trying to get him the TD). Maybe they should have kept it on the ground here, but in reality, they ended up with two good opportunities to score and just failed to execute.
This was the big 3rd & 1 after the strip sack. The end crashing down doesn't go for Mostert and Tua is forced to let this go quickly. If he has a second longer to let this develop, maybe the defense gets more depth and they convert. pic.twitter.com/A6sGxMNhCs— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
This ended up being a really crucial 3rd & 1 towards the end of the game. The end isn’t fooled by the fake to Mostert and disrupts this play. Tua has to get rid of it a little early and it’s an easy play for the Bill’s defense.
This is one where I think they miss an opportunity to hand it off for an easy first down. It’s a heavy box, but they showed the ability to gain yards in those situations all night. They kick the field goal after this and make it an eight-point lead, which they squander.
These were the first two plays after the Bills tied it up late. I honestly have no problem with these... looks like Tua switches up at the LOS when he sees the Bills stacking the box. Two solid chunk gains to start the drive. pic.twitter.com/ATyQ8hPHdX— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
A lot of folks didn’t understand why Miami came out throwing after the Bills tied it up, but they’re just responding to how the Bills came out to stop them. These are eight-man boxes and they’re gearing up to stop the run. Tua checks into these plays and they end up with two nice gains putting them in Buffalo territory.
I think this is the most maligned play of the drive. It's 2nd & 9 after an unsuccessful rushing attempt on 1st down.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 21, 2022
With Sherfield coming across they have numbers here, the problem is the throw. With a better throw, Tyreek comes back to the ball and Sherfield kicks out Elam. pic.twitter.com/e5ozIwmFSj
Here is the one that really upset fans. It’s 2nd & 9 after an unsuccessful rush attempt on first down and Miami dials up a screen to Tyreek Hill here. With Sherfield coming across the formation, they have the numbers to the right side. If this play is executed well, they’re looking at a chunk gain.
The problem is the throw from Tua. He floats it a bit and Hill has to go up for it which totally kills the play and results in a tackle for a loss for Kaiir Elam.
Well things are getting a bit dicey for the 2022 Miami Dolphins. They’re now in a position where they need to win two of their final three games just to make it into the playoffs. A trip back to Miami should help get them back on track, but they are still in a difficult situation. While this is a lighter portion of the schedule, there are no cupcakes here.
If there is a reason for optimism, it’s that these Dolphins are streaky. When they’re playing well, they can beat anyone in the NFL. This final three game stretch is a great opportunity to win some games and get into a groove before the postseason. By traveling to Buffalo and taking the Bills down to the wire, they’ve shown that they can compete in cold weather games on the road. They’ll be a tough out for anyone in the postseason, they just need to get there.