I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of it: Miami beating New England. It’s just good old fashioned fun.
This week saw the Dolphins sweep the *Patriots for the 2023 season with a 31-17 win at home.
Isn’t it a strange position to be in where games against New England feel like foregone conclusions? Except with the Dolphins on the winning end? Still hard to believe after so many years of chea— suffering. But boy, does it feel nice.
The offense could adjust to scheme changes a little faster
Let’s start off with one of everyone’s favorite things: a nitpick!
Miami’s first drive stalled out after 25 yards, resulting in a punt. The announcers, despite being 50% Adam Archuleta, made a good observation that Bill ‘What have you done since dear Tommy left’ Belichick’s defense was scheming to limit the Fins’ passing game on in-breaking routes across the middle of the field.
Next Miami drive: an interception on an in-breaking route across the middle of the field.
I’m sure that Mike McDaniel and company are as observant as the booth crew. I’m just so absolutely certain of it. The most sure you can be of anything.
So seeing the offense take the bait and commit a turnover in that situation was disappointing.
“Now wait just a goshdarned minute!” you yell at the screen like Julian Edelman begging for an undeserved flag, “Miami scored on the next drive!”
That’s true. And that’s awesome. The Dolphins followed that interception with a quick strike touchdown to Tyreek Hill, who split the defenders that were sitting down to take away the very route that led to the pick in the first place.
Like I said: it’s nitpicking. When I say ‘a little faster’, I mean literally one drive sooner.
I love the aggressive response from Tua and the offense to rebound after the pick. I love the aggression to go for it on 4th down repeatedly throughout the game. I love the aggression of the players not backing down from their opponents.
I would just also love if the team identified that scheme one interception sooner. If all goes according to plan, the Fins will soon be in games where little mistakes make a big difference.
Speaking of big differences:
The offensive line at full strength will be a game changer
Terron Armstead is still out. Connor Williams was active, but not playing. Kendall Lamm went down at one point, along with Robert Hunt. Pretty sure I saw Dallas Thomas trying to suit up for a minute toward the end.
Point being: the offensive line has been operating at less than full strength, to say the least. With one more game (at Kansas City, Germany) before the Bye, there’s a decent chance that the team can head into the back half of the year looking less like a group that could collectively be referred to as ‘The Aftermath.’
Thanks to a lightning quick release by Tua, smart play design by the offensive staff, and valiant efforts from the reserves, the offense was still able to put up 31 points, produce two 100 yard+ receivers (Hill [112 yds] and Jaylen Waddle [121 yds]), and only give up two sacks.
On the flip side, the run game was only able to muster 78 total yards. While that would have probably been a season high only a couple of years ago, this version of the team is used to much more gaudy rushing stats. The Fellowship of the Bigs will solidify Miami’s shakiest unit, as of late, and help the offense reach its apex.
The secondary at full strength will be a game changer
Mirroring the offensive line is the secondary. Jalen Ramsey returned to the field to make his presence felt, but the Dolphins are still down Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland, and Nik Needham in the defensive backfield.
Just adding Ramsey alone made a monumental difference in the defense’s day. They held McCorkle Jones to 161 yards passing and kept the New England rushing attack under a hundred total yards (77).
Once the Return of the Kings is complete, the Dolphins’ secondary should be one of the league’s best. Ramsey, Howard, Holland, and DeShon Elliott across the back with Kader Kohou and Needham in the slot, plus Brandon Jones floating around, is a really top tier group. I mean, beating New England doesn’t take all of them, but beating some of the better teams just might.
I know it’s only eight games in, but it appears that Miami’s gearing up for a run at the playoffs (and hopefully further), so getting healthy at the right time is essential. We all know it takes each and every little thing coming together to get to the promised land.
So, it’s time to make a brief return to pick another nit:
The punter needs to be better
Miami let Thomas Morestead go to the division rival New York football Jets in the offseason, while bringing in former *Patriots punter Jake Bailey to replace him.
I’m not really sure why.
According to Pro Football Reference, Morestead was 23rd out of 35 eligible punters with more than one kick last season in Net Yards/Punt.
Bailey was 35th.
Punts inside the 20 yard line: Morestead 5th (45.9%), Bailey 25th (32.4%).
Touchback percentage: Morestead 6th (3.3%), Bailey 34th (13.5%).
Maybe they thought a change of scenery would flip the script?
This season so far has their rankings for Net Yards/Punt, punts inside the 20, and touchback percentage at:
Morestead - 5th (44), 13th (40%), and 18th (5%).
Bailey - 16th (41.8), 29th (25%) , and 29th (10%).
I’m not a Special Teams specialist, but that seems like a downgrade in every meaningful category across the board.
If Miami is going to seriously contend down the stretch, they need to take care of the little things. Flipping the field via the punt game isn’t even little: it’s critical.
I don’t really have a solution outside of getting a new punter mid-season, which seems intense. Here’s Bill Belichick looking mad.
The showdown in Germany is a big deal
Everyone is waiting on bated breath: will Taylor Swift be at the game in Germany?
I’m banking on her starting at QB myself.
Maybe Mahomes and MaAuto take the day off.
Maybe the refs get involved in an always-unwelcome way that impacts the outcome far more than it should. Who knows?
In any case, the Dolphins are gonna have to play whoever shows up over there. It’s set up so perfectly for a classic Miami letdown: the Fins coming off a convincing win, their opponent coming off a ludicrous loss, all the chatter about the team not being able to beat good teams, and the game being played in the strangest venue available.
This will be a great indication of how this team differs (or not) from teams of the past.
Heading into the Bye, this game is a golden opportunity for the Fins to put a stamp on the front half of their season and go into the rest of the year riding high.
The Swifts will be ready and should make for quite a challenge.
Gonna start drinking at 9:30 am? Earlier? Haven’t stopped since Sunday? Judge your friends in the comments below.