Decaying leaves flutter on a gentle breeze just outside the front window of a thatched cottage on the edge of the countryside. The grey clouds sail overhead, threatening rain, but none yet comes. Inside the cottage, a family sits quietly, watching from behind the pane.
The father turns his head toward a scratching sound that seems to be coming from the door. It’s probably nothing. It must just be a tree branch in the wind. But just then: again. Louder. More purposeful.
No longer just a soft scratching, but a growing cacophony; scratching, grunting, stomping. The family huddles together against the far wall as the sounds reach a terrifying crescendo.
The door crashes open with a great roar. It’s just as they feared. Trolls.
Some fans are making more of this loss than necessary
Let’s start with the obvious: this game was bad, it was a loss, and it was a bad loss. San Francisco is a good team, but were working with a rookie third-string quarterback in Brock Purdy. A team like Miami should beat them on a normal day (in my opinion) and certainly on a day like Sunday.
That being said, some of the immediate reactions I saw afterward were mind boggling.
Calls to replace Tua with Skylar Thompson (0/1 with 1 INT, 0.0 QBR on the day Skylar Thompson, btw) are a waste of everyone’s time. Tua is 8-1 this year when playing the entire game. For the number crunchers out there, that’s a win percentage of 89%. Extrapolated over a full 17 game season, that’s a record of 15-2. If you think Skylar Thompson is capable of leading Miami to 16-1 or better, I’ve got a bunch of Skylar Thompson jerseys to sell you.
Classic coach speak often talks about how teams overcome adversity. It’s one of their favorite buzzwords like ‘multiple’ or ‘tampering’. If your idea of adversity is watching the Dolphins drop to 8-4 against a solid 7-5 49ers team, I can’t fathom how charmed your actual real life must be. When you come down from the mega-zeppelin that’s hosting the 76th annual Caviar and Massage Festival, the rest of us will be calmly watching the Dolphins beat the Chargers.
The team made more of this game than necessary.
A handful of fans aren’t the only ones making mountains out of molehills when it comes to Sunday’s game. For whatever reason, be it Mike McDaniel desperately wanting to beat his former team, the players wanting it for him too much, or just added nerves the closer the team gets to the postseason, it seemed like the Dolphins put way too much stress on this game.
In the famous words of new age guru and suddenly average quarterback Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X.
Heading into the game, it seemed like media coverage was doing its best to play up the Prodigal Son Returns angle for M^2 and Miami. Maybe that got into their heads. Maybe they just had a run-of-the-mill off week. People always say that East coast teams traveling West struggle (and I’m sure the less fraudulent and hack-like writers of the world would have some stats to back that up, but you’re not paying for the big boys), so maybe it’s as simple as some old school jet lag.
Whatever it was, the Fins seemed out of sorts in their execution and no one moreso than Tuanigamanuolepola.
Tua left his mind in Miami.
The game plan was fine. The plays were there. Yet Tua, a quarterback who had been having an arguably MVP-caliber run, wasn’t. It was an unusual performance, to say the least. Tua’s best attribute is his accuracy, and it was missing against San Francisco.
Yes, the 49ers have a good defense. Statistically, it’s near the top of a good chunk of categories across the NFL. However, watching the game proves that this loss was far more a failure of Miami’s offense to perform than the 49er’s defense shutting them down.
Tua had wide-open receivers running free from the get-go. Whether his newly reported ankle injury was a factor or not, he looked right at those wide-open receivers and said “Not today, boys!” He had his worst passing stretch of the year, at one point sitting at 2/8 early on and 8/18 a bit later. His stats ended up nearly respectable by the end (18/33 (55%) for 295 yds, 2 TDs 2 INTs), but stats don’t tell the full story for this one.
The numbers alone don’t illustrate the massive dropoff this game was for Tua (though the QBR does. His average over the previous four games was 88.05 and his performance Sunday netted him a whopping 19.2).
Yet, I ain’t shook. Every player has a down week at some point. This was his. Miami has to win three of its last five games (or maybe just two, potentially). If Tua comes out and has a comparably questionable showing like this during the home stretch, maybe it’s a different story. But for now, leave that water under the bridge with the trolls and stay the course.
Miami needs to stick with the plan.
In years past, that’s been devil talk. Whenever someone in the Dolphins organization says things like “Stay the course” or “Stick with the plan” or “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach”, you know that person is out by week’s end. But that’s because they always say it after the early season collapse or the eight-game losing streak, or the late season collapse.
Here, I’m saying it (and will be out by week’s end to keep with tradition) because this loss is an aberration. Miami actually does need to stick with the plan. At least the overall plan. Of having an explosive offense and just-good-enough defense to win more games than they lose.
Both sides of the ball have shown they can be dominant (though the offense has a pretty significant lead there). Getting some players back from injury, e.g. Terron Armstead and the Ghost of Byron Jones will help, along with some savvy year-end pickups like Eric Fisher. They need to do everything in their power to get those pistons firing at the same time and keep it that way from here to February.
The Fins will make the playoffs.
There’s a reason this is titled ‘Things I Think I Think’. That’s to hedge against my constant uncertainty and crippling anxiety. I’m not even sure that I think this stuff. It could just be one of the many others that inhabit my head. Either way, at least one of them is going to be bold enough to make a semblance of a prediction: that, despite this silly (and I do mean silly) loss, Miami will still make the postseason.
At this point, it could be anywhere from the 1st seed in the AFC all the way to the third Wildcard spot. Personally, I think the Dolphins dunk on the Chargers, the Packers, the *Patriots, and the Jets. I figure a cold-weather rematch at Buffalo might be too much to ask. And, of course, (as we all just witnessed) any game can be a loss almost as easily as a win if just a few things (like wide-open passes) go astray.
But the path is there. Miami controls its own destiny, and I expect them to seize it. Like grab it, not like seize up and do nothing. I guess they could do that too. But they won’t! I don’t think. I guess we’ll just see, huh?
Want to predict a bunch of stuff for no benefit? How about tell Skylar Thompson you actually like him and have nothing against him and you’re sorry for pointing out his stat line? Jump into the comments and try to stay afloat.