The Miami Dolphins are visiting the San Francisco 49ers this afternoon in a Week 13 contest. The game features the Dolphins’ number three offense against the 49ers’ top-ranked defense. Something has to give today. The question is which will overpower the other.
The Dolphins come into today’s game with a re-made offensive line, replacing both starting tackles. Left tackle Terron Armstead is out with a pectoral muscle injury while on the right side Austin Jackson is out with an ankle injury. Facing a blitz-happy team that also includes Nick Bosa as an edge rusher, Miami’s offensive line will face a tough test all day.
We will keep up with all the action and provide out immediate reactions throughout the first half right here.
First Half Score
Dolphins 10 - 49ers 17
First Quarter Reactions
The 49ers won the coin toss, just the second time this year Miami has not won the toss, and elected to defer. After a touchback, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw a slant to wide receiver Trent Sherfield, who turned upfield and scored on the 75-yard catch and run. Dolphins 7-0.
Well that did not take long. What a perfect start to the game. The 49ers are down 10 seconds into the game after winning the coin toss. Perfect.
The 49ers started the game with a rush from running back Christian McCaffrey for three yards. After an incomplete pass, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo found Brandon Aiyuk for 23 yards and a first down. McCaffrey picked up one yard on the next play before Garoppolo threw deep to McCaffrey for a 33-yard gain. After a four-yard McCaffrey run and an incomplete pass from Garoppolo, linebackers Jerome Baker and Jaelan Phillips sacked Garoppolo for a 10-yard loss, forcing the 49ers to settle for a field goal. Dolphins 7-3.
The defense gave up a couple of big chunks, but they are getting after Garoppolo and they are looking like they are ready to compete in this game.
Two incomplete passes on either side of a four-yard rush from running back Raheem Mostert led to a Miami punt on a three-and-out drive.
Not exactly the way Miami wanted to back up the one-play, 75-yard touchdown possession.
Garoppolo was carted into the locker room during Miami’s possession with an ankle injury sustained during the sack. Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant from the 2022 NFL Draft, replaced him in the lineup. McCaffrey started the drive with a three-yard run, followed by a seven-yard gain. Purdy’s first pass was a seven-yarder to McCaffrey. Running back Jordan Mason picked up 11 yards before two incomplete passes set up 3rd-and-10. Another incomplete pass appeared to end the drive, but a defensive pass interference penalty moved San Francisco forward and gave them a first down. After McCaffrey dan for nine yards, then three yards, the 49ers were set up on 1st-and-Goal at the Miami three-yard line. Purdy threw into the flat to Kyle Juszczyk for the three-yard score. 49ers 10-7.
The defense played that well, except for the pass interference penalty on Kader Kohou. They need to keep up the pressure on Purdy and force him into mistakes.
Miami came back out and saw Jeff Wilson, Jr., pick up three yards on a run, followed by two incomplete pass from Tagovailoa. The Dolphins again went three-and-out.
Ouch. Tagovailoa had open receivers on both pass attempts, but on the first one he was being flushed out of the pocket and he was trying to lay out the ball in front of Waddle as he was on the run and on the second, he short-hopped the pass toward Waddle.
For the third-straight drive, San Francisco started with a three-yard run from McCaffrey. The running back was stopped for a one-yard loss on the next play, but a bad tipping call gave the 49ers 10 free yards and a first down. Purdy then threw to Aiyuk for six yards, followed by a two-yard run from McCaffrey. The 49ers went back to McCaffrey on 3rd-and-2, with defensive end Christian Wilkins blowing up the play in the backfield, tackling McCaffrey for a three-yard loss and forcing a punt.
That tripping call was just bad. Melvin Ingram was engaged and trying to push off with his back leg, but t got locked up with a 49ers’ player’s cleat, with both players trying to shake loos and McCaffrey ran into their legs. That was bad. Good defense from the Dolphins there to shut down the drive after the penalty.
Miami started the drive with another incomplete pass, but then Tagovailoa found tight end Durham Smythe for a 19-yard gain, threading the ball through the defense. After fullback Alec Ingold dropped a pass on a wheel route, Tagovailoa found wide receiver Tyreek Hill for an 18-yard gain and a first down, ending the quarter.
Tagovailoa seems too amped up right now. He is not throwing with his normal accuracy. Too many passes are slightly overthrown, bounced, or behind the receivers. He got lucky on the last play of the quarter, with Hill adjusting to a ball behind him. Head coach Mike McDaniel needs to get Tagovailoa to calm down and get into rhythm.
Second Quarter Reactions
Mostert ran for no gain on the first play of the drive, then Tagovailoa found Hill for 17 yards. Tagovailoa went back to Ingold on the 1st-and-10 play, picking up three yards. Mostert then ran for four yards and another Miami first down. The Tagovailoa to Ingold connection came back for a seven-yard gain, followed by a two-yard gain with the fullback falling down, getting up, making the catch, and fighting to within a foot of the first down. Tagovailoa was sacked on the 3rd-and-1 play, leading to a Jason Sanders 43-yard field goal. Tied 10-10.
That felt like McDaniel purposely started calling some plays to get Ingold into the flat or on a wheel route to give Tagovailoa a sure-throw and allow his quarterback to settle down and find his rhythm. The sack was Nick Bosa being Nick Bosa, fighting through a chip from Ingold, avoiding the cut-block attempt from Jeff Wilson, and getting to Tagovailoa. Unfortunately, the drive ended with a field goal, but at least Tagovailoa seems to be settling down some.
After receiver Deebo Samuel attempted a run up the middle for no gain, Purdy was able to throw to Juszczyk for five yards, but cornerback Keion Crossen broke up the third-down pass attempt toward Samuel and the 49ers were forced to punt.
Zach Sieler is having a good first half. He has two tackles and a quarterback hit early and seems to constantly be in on the play.
Incomplete pass. Incomplete pass. Incomplete pass. Miami’s next possession lasted 25 seconds.
The offense cannot get into a rhythm right now. Tagovailoa is 7-for-16 for 144 yards with the touchdown, but take out the 75-yard touchdown and it’s 6-for-15 for 69 yards. Even when he is getting the ball to the receiver, they are struggling to bring in the reception. This might be an example of an offense just too overhyped for a game. They have to figure this out. With a seventh-round rookie quarterback making his first significant playing time, the Dolphins need to put the pressure on him by putting points up on the board.
After a Purdy pass to tight end Tyler Kroft for 14 yards, Mason ran for 19 yards. The Dolphins defense was reeling, with another Mason rush for seven yards continuing the onslaught. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel broke up the rhythm with a sack, pushing the 49ers back seven yards. After a Purdy pass to Aiyuk for six yards, Purdy again looked to Aiyuk on 4th-and-4, but cornerback Xavien Howard intercepted the pass.
That is the first interception for Howard this year. It took way too long for him to break through, but offenses have been staying away from him all season.
Tagovailoa threw a dart to receiver River Cracraft on first down, picking up 18 yards. After a two-yard run from Mostert, Tagovailoa threw toward an open Hill deep over the middle, but was again high on the pass. On 3rd-and-8 after a Miami timeout, Bosa got to Tagovailoa again and Miami was forced to punt.
Tagovailoa has to figure out what is going on. These high passes are not only ending drives with incompletes, but they are going to get picked off at some point. And, Bosa is being Bosa again.
Purdy threw a bubble screen to Samuel on first down, with Kohou there to immediately make the tackle for a four-yard loss, only to have the receiver spin out of it and somehow turn it into a seven-yard gain. After an ineligible player downfield penalty on San Francisco, setting up a 2nd-and-8, Purdy threw to McCaffrey for a nine-yard gain. The clock reached the Two-Minute Warning after the play. Wilkins stuffed McCaffrey for no yard after the break, then Purdy overthrew Aiyuk to bring up 3rd-and-10. Linebacker Jaelan Phillips had a clean shot at Purdy on the third-down play, but the quarterback stood in, took the hit, and found tight end George Kittle for 19 yards. After a Miami timeout, Purdy threw incomplete on first down. After a 49ers timeout, Purdy found Jauan Jennings for 19 yards up the sideline, with Wilkins having to come from behind to make the tackle. Wilkins forced a fumble on the play, but the ball went out of bounds. Howard was called for pass interference on the next play, giving the 49ers a free first down. Purdy threw to McCaffrey for 18 yards, then McCaffrey ran for two yards to get the ball to the Miami three-yard line. After a timeout and an incomplete pass, Purdy threw to McCaffrey in the flat and the running back finished the drive in the endzone. 49ers 17-10.
The defense is letting Purdy pick them apart right now. They are getting pressure on him, but they are not shutting down the receivers. McCaffrey was left too open on the touchdown pass.
The clock ran out on the kickoff.
The Dolphins are doing some things well, and some things are head-scratch-worthy. The biggest issue it Tagovailoa, who is the most accurate passer in the league this year, especially downfield, but he is off today. He has been high on way too many passes, and he is lucky it has not led to an interception yet. This feels like a big game, both for the Dolphins to prove themselves and because there are so many former 49ers, starting with head coach Mike McDaniel, on the team. Has that led to Tagovailoa letting the hype get to him, with the quarterback trying to force passes and make big plays?
The defense has an opportunity to get after a seventh-round rookie, and they are getting there, but they are also struggling to keep coverage on some of the receivers. McCaffrey is only averaging 2.7 yards per carry, but he also has five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown already. The Dolphins need to do something there.
The 49ers get the ball to start the second half, so the defense has to be ready to shut them down before this becomes a big deficit early in the second half.