The Miami Dolphins escaped this past Sunday with a 20-13 victory over the Antonio Pierce-led Las Vegas Raiders. The defense powered them to victory in this contest as the offense was inconsistent and Tua Tagovailoa played an up-and-down game (which is saying a lot considering he was the first quarterback to go over 300 yards against this defense). Let’s take a look at where Miami needs to improve and where they shined following their bye week.
Jalen Ramsey is that dude
The addition of Jalen Ramsey has arguably been as impactful as the move to get Tyreek Hill the previous off-season. How the Dolphins were able to acquire two of the best players at two of the most impactful positions in football is beyond me, but here we are. Fangio’s defenses are known for dropping in zones and keeping eyes on the quarterback. While Miami’s blitz-heavy/man defense of the past couple of years might show some of the rust on Howard and Ramsey, this scheme is perfect for both of them.
Luckily for Miami, they signed Jalen Ramsey in the offseason. This first interception is my favorite. He's in a deep 1/4, so he has to carry vertically with the receiver (which he does). The ability to diagnose, plant his foot, and break on this ball is incredible. pic.twitter.com/hNp8g4IHV2— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 21, 2023
Both guys (Ramsey especially) have awesome instincts and ball skills. Ramsey’s ability to break on both of these interceptions and work through the receiver to make the play (while avoiding illegal contact/DPI) is really impressive. The defense seems to be improving each week and will be a big part of their second-half push.
The offense was out of sync
This is the second game in a row where the offense really shot itself in the foot. Again, it wasn’t any one area of the game. They lost fumbles, threw an interception, and failed to convert key 4th/3rd down plays. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen this offense execute flawlessly, and these kinds of performances won’t get it done against top competition.
Unfortunately, this was another offensive performance dragged down by miscues. pic.twitter.com/KgPxbppabA— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 21, 2023
This is one that we can potentially chalk up to bye-week rust. This is an offense that is heavily predicated on timing so that extra week away from game action could easily have thrown them off. There is also the fact that the Raiders defense has been playing great football. They forced a ton of tight-window throws in this game and Patrick Graham has his guys playing tough.
This is the first time that Miami has had this much talent on both sides of the football in a very long time. It was clear from the first couple of drives that there was a large talent gap between these two teams and the Raiders were a 5-5 team coming into this week. The talent is there, but this team still needs to learn how to execute with more consistency. One of the things that is being lost in these sloppy performances is how many difficult throws Tua is still making week in and week out.
I love finding windows within the defense that this Dolphins offense creates and then looking at how they made them. This is where Tua's feel and accuracy are such weapons. Being able to consistently target a specific shoulder 20+ yards down the field isn't normal. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/btUicxMTzi— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 21, 2023
The stats aren’t that far-off, so a lot of fans are assuming that Tua’s level of play has remained consistent over the entire time that Mike McDaniel has been here. We are still seeing a different level of play from Tagovailoa and these difficult timing-based throws down the field are what has kept the offense afloat. As they’ve struggled to consistently run the ball or find explosive plays on the ground, a lot has been put on Tua’s shoulders.
So this feels like a good news/bad news wrap-up. The Dolphins’ best players are still performing at a high level, but they’re also finding it difficult to put together a complete game. The message all season has been for this team to play their best football towards the end of the regular season. If they can put it all together, this team is capable of making a run at the Super Bowl. If they can’t, we’re probably looking at another early exit from the postseason. This next month will tell us a lot about this team, starting with a huge division showdown against the New York Tim Boyles.