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Film Review: Mental Errors Sink the Dolphins in a Close Game Against the Chiefs

We saw the defense put up their best half of football this season, but they couldn’t overcome miscues on offense.

NFL: Frankfurt Games-Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What an absolutely heartbreaking finish for the Miami Dolphins in Germany. Their franchise quarterback (who is usually as clutch as can be) mishandled a 4th down snap to end their comeback bid against the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The final two plays will be remembered, but it was really their offensive performance in the first half of this game that sunk their chances.

The running game was nonexistent early and a brutal fumble in Chief’s territory by their first ballot hall of fame receiver (Tyreek Hill) that was returned for a touchdown put them in a hole that they just couldn’t quite climb out of. This game stung even more than their previous two losses, but there were some positive things to take out of this. Let’s go over where they fell short and how the defense absolutely shut down KC in the second half.

Offensive Miscues

The Chiefs’ defense has been playing at a high level the entire season, so no one should have expected Miami to really put it on them in this game. With that said, they had opportunities to put up more points than they did. As we all expected, the Chiefs were physical at the line of scrimmage and tried to throw off the timing of the offense. The Chiefs brought well-timed and executed blitzes and the Dolphins faced way too many long down and distance situations.

The difficult thing with wrapping my head around their offensive struggles is that there’s no one area to correct. I know the mainstream sports networks have latched on to some late mistakes from Tua, but when breaking down this film it’s clear that he isn’t the main problem here. The problems span across all parts of the offense. We see drops, fumbles, missed throws, and blown protections. It will be up to Mike McDaniel to figure out why they seem to be coming up short in these big moments.

A Defense Coming to Life

As bothersome as the offensive tape was, the defense was equally inspiring. As I had predicted in the preview article, it didn’t feel like the Chiefs had a clear advantage against any portion of the Miami defense. They played tough up front and with Ramsey/Howard/Holland back, there weren’t too many open areas in the secondary. They only allowed two scoring drives, with one of them being a flawlessly executed opening drive by the Chiefs.

Early in the season when Fangio was getting a ton of heat from fans, I said that the ability to adapt and improve is what separates great coordinators. This Dolphins defense is starting to play their best football halfway through the season. Some of that comes down to getting players back, but they’re also starting to settle into the new scheme. I would expect to see this unit continue to improve and potentially win then some games down the stretch.

What are the main problems with this team?

If you watch too much ESPN, you might think that Tua is the problem with this offense and football team. Tua had some missed throws and mistakes in this game, but overall he had a good day against the Chiefs. It would have been nice to see him rise to the occasion better towards the end of the game, but he was a big reason why the offense did work at times.

The main question that we need to ask is why things seem to fall apart in games where they need to be at their best. The biggest play in this game was Tyreek’s fumble that got returned for a touchdown before the half, but is it fair to blame him for the loss? Of course not, the offense wouldn’t function in the same way without him on the field. Is it on McDaniel for calling that play? I don’t really agree with that either, but they need to find a way to clean these up and be at their best in big moments.

Final Verdict

They played tough and showed resilience, but fell short in a big game... again. The defense is rounding into shape, while the offense has sputtered in these big moments lately. Who would have seen this coming after their week one victory over the Chargers? The good news is that they have the talent across the board to win these big games. The bad news is that they haven’t put together a complete game against top competition yet. They’ll have a lot to work on during the bye, and let’s hope McDaniel can get it figured out so that this team is playing their best ball down the stretch.