What had been billed as the first chance for the Miami Dolphins to prove to doubters that they’re finally on their way to becoming a true competitor instead became more evidence of wilting under the bright lights of prime time.
The Fins fell to the Eagles 31-17 on Sunday Night Football in a game that, no one can deny, took place.
Miami hung around for a while despite injuries
The Dolphins came into the game without starting corners Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard. Add in still recovering Nik Needham and the secondary was a little worse for wear. During the game, Jevon Holland collided with David Long, sending both toward a date with the concussion protocol (at least for the time being).
Offensively, the line entered down starting LT Terron ‘Up My Heart’ Armstead and center Connor Williams. The line was further weakened with the loss of guard Isaiah Wynn, bringing the grand total of remaining starters to two.
Despite all of the bandages flying around causing the team to look like a stage production of The Mummy Returns, the Dolphins kept it a one score game until late in the 4th quarter.
A loss is a loss. But some losses are better than others. Miami managed to hang (ish) with a Superbowl caliber opponent while missing a good chunk of critical contributors. If the team is going to have injuries (and history tells us, they must), it’s better to have them early in the year so they can head into crunch time at full strength.
Losing in a hype train game is always a huge bummer, but the Dolphins were right in the thick of it.
A few key plays from a totally different game
Tyreek Hill had an uncharacteristic drop on his way to an almost surefire touchdown. A touchdown pass was negated by a holding penalty. A facemask call on a 4th down play to Cedrick Wilson was missed.
They’re small things, but often times, all the small things are what make or break a game. Yes; it’s true that the officials called 10 accepted penalties on Miami and 0, as in none, on the Eagles.
That’s not great.
It’s not great in the sense that there were a fair number of penalties committed by Philadelphia that went either unnoticed or unheeded and also not great in the sense that Miami committed 10 penalties, which is just sloppy football. Sloppy football doesn’t often beat great teams.
The refs can shoulder some of the blame, if not to the level of conspiratorial obsequiousness to the Draft Kings Gods, then certainly to the level of being objectively inconsistent throughout the game.
But Miami and their coaching staff can shoulder the rest for being underprepared and underperforming.
If I’m hunting for silver linings, the fact that a teensy handful of plays going the other way could have flipped the momentum (and score) entirely will have to do. Sadly, the cloud that holds those linings is pretty big at the moment and it’s shaped like the offense.
The last offensive drives were the first that looked hapless all year
With :09 left in the 3rd quarter, Miami had the ball at their own 31 yard line down 24-17. That’s the perfect scenario to drive down, score a touchdown, and give the ‘finally holding down the fort’ defense a boost and a chance to get the ball back for the offense in a tie game.
Instead, the offense put together an 8 play, 45 yard drive culminating in an interception near the goal line.
While not a guaranteed backbreaker, that was the time to shine.
Philly scored on its next drive, putting the Dolphins behind the eight ball down 31-17 with 4:46 to go.
Even still, this season has taught us not to count the Fins’ offense out. They’ve scored in 9 seconds before. 4:46 is plenty of time. It might take a quick defensive stand or turnover or onsides kick, but dagnabit, they’re not out of it yet!
4 plays, 0 yards, 1:27. Turnover on downs.
That’s some Joe-Philbin-ass offense right there.
I know that the o line was depleted. I know that Philly has a good defense. I also know that Miami had the league’s top offense coming into the game. What they put out there on the final two drives was inexcusible and hard to watch. Showings like that won’t hold up against any defense worth a damn. And Miami will be seeing lots of those if they expect to run deep into the playoffs.
Speaking of hard to watch:
The Brotherly Shove can shove it
I won’t labor here. The name is dumb. Tush Push is worse. The play is dumb. It will almost certainly be made illegal by next year.
For right now though: it’s legal and it works.
That’s all well and good. If Miami had a play that never failed, I’d demand they run it every chance they got too.
But [redacted] tapdancing [Editor’s note: No], how boring is that to watch?
What an absolute nightmare in place of entertainment.
If Philly wins the Superbowl by picking up Jalen Hurts and walking him into the end zone for Brotherly Shoverly Tush Town Downtown: Electric Bugaloo 3,004, I’ll know the NFL is rigged.
I’ll still watch the Dolphins, but I’ll hate every snap at least 8% more than I do now.
Miami needs to tweak, not overhaul
Just like beating up on bad teams doesn’t mean you declare your work is done, losing a decent game to a great team doesn’t mean you blow it all up.
The defense came to play against Philly and seems to be trending upward. Getting back the best players on the backend will only help keep that missile cruising.
The offense left a lot to be desired, but maybe some returning players on the line and in the backfield will soon bolster their side of the ball. In the meantime, they need to rely on the incredible talent they still have on the field.
Additionally, the Dolphins coaching staff needs to figure out how to get the team ready to rock for big games against real competition. They’ll have a chance to sort it out in a not-that-big game against kinda-real competition next week at home against New England.
Yeah, the *Patriots just beat the Bills.
They’re still bad.
Miami should wreck them.
If they don’t, maybe more than a tweak is on the horizon.
Burned all your jerseys after Sunday night? Replaced them all with custom Cris Collinsworth jerseys? Burned those and now you just wear a trash bag everywhere? Smart. Weather proof. Share all your fashion tips in the comments below.