Some outstanding personal performances ended all in vain as the Arizona Cardinals overcame the Miami Dolphins, 24-21 in overtime, thanks to a Jay Feely field goal.
However, the development of the Miami Dolphins looks to be in full swing. Despite their shortcomings, and roster issues (of which there are still quite a few), Miami gave it their all against the unbeaten Cardinals, and were unfortunate to leave Arizona with nothing to show for their efforts.
Notwithstanding their loss, Miami played well this weekend, in what was arguably one of the most compelling, unpredictable games of football in Dolphins’ history.
Unfortunately, the loss leaves them at the foot of the AFC East with a 1-3 record, after two consecutive overtime defeats, but there were more than a few good signs to come from their visit to the desert.
There were some simply outstanding personal performances at University of Phoenix Stadium last night, and due to public interest, we’ll start with the man everyone is talking about…
Ryan Tannehill looked like a franchise quarterback for the majority of the game.. I know that it’s early days, but when a rookie throws for 431 yards (the second greatest in NFL history by a rookie, missing Cam Newton’s record by a yard), you find yourself becoming cautiously optimistic.
The Dolphins have had a fair few false dawns at the position, so it would be irresponsible to suggest that Tannehill will become a franchise quarterback, but the talents that led to his selection in the draft were clear for all to see.
Tannehill completed 26 of 41 passes for 431 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline (more on him later), but it was some of the so-called “lesser” actions that caught my eye.
The rookie twice sidestepped oncoming blitzers, demonstrating excellent poise in the pocket, before making good throws.
He wriggled away from would-be sacks and remained calm under pressure on more than one occasion too, but the moment that really highlighted his growth, was when Tannehill delivered a pump-fake in the face of an oncoming defender.
The defender bit on the fake, jumping to bat the ball down, and Tannehill allowed him to land, before delivered a complete pass. That was the rookie making adjustments, and learning from his struggles in Houston, and it was very encouraging to see.
As previously mentioned, his 80-yard touchdown to Brian Hartline was the big-play moment that the media love, and Hartline deserves the recognition that will come his way after an incredible game which saw him set a new franchise record for most receiving yards in a game (breaking Chris Chambers’ record set in 2005).
The wide receiver pulled in 12 catches for 253 yards, and one touchdown, against a dangerous cornerback tandem of William Gay and Patrick Peterson. He was outstanding throughout, getting open, and making adjustments for catches.
Now Hartline leads the NFL in receiving yards. Who saw that coming?
Davone Bess was his usual reliable self, making some good catches, and vital yards after catch, with seven catches for 123 yards.
Jovorskie Lane, nicknamed the “J-Train” by commentators (is that a thing now?), found the end-zone for the second week running on a short-yardage run. He is a big, big back, and could be a very effective weapon for Miami this year.
Lane bulldozed a defender on his way to the end-zone, and was solid blocking once more. I’d love to see the Dolphins find him in space in the passing game a little more, as I’m fairly sure he has a “Beast Mode” setting which they haven’t discovered yet.
On defense, there were some impressive accomplishments too, not least from the previously “sack-less” Cameron Wake.
Yesterday, Wake made up for that, as he completely dominated the Arizona O-Line, and rookie tackle Bobby Massie, to register 4.5 sacks. He turned his pressures into sacks, and came up huge for his team when they needed him on third-down.
The defensive line also held Arizona to 1.9 yards per rush, and 28 rushing yards overall. Starks and Soliai have been dominant versus the run, and Miami find themselves in the top 3 teams against the run.
Miami recorded 8 sacks in total, with Jared Odrick finding another sack, Karlos Dansby bringing down Kevin Kolb (with the former Cardinal celebrated by dancing like a bird), and Koa Misi registered the final 1.5 sacks for Miami, which was nice to see considering his struggles as a pass-rusher.
Sean Smith, meanwhile, picked off Kolb twice while shadowing Larry Fitzgerald. He used his height to make a high catch having tracked the wide receiver stride-for-stride down the sideline, but his second pick was even more acrobatic.
Defending Arizona ball on Miami’s three-yard line, Smith made a terrific catch, toe-tapping to make sure the Dolphins kept the ball. It was a brilliant play on the ball, and one that Miami will hope to see more of this season. (It is, however, worth mentioning Smith was lucky to get away with a rather obvious push which launched Fitzgerald out of bounds, allowing the cornerback to make the pick.).
Arguably the best news of the day came from New York though. The Jets lost 34-0 at home to the 49ers. Sexy Rexy was not happy. It was enjoyable.
The Dolphins’ run-game, so potent against Oakland and the Jets, could not establish itself against Arizona, as the opponents’ defensive line closed down any rushing lanes quickly.
Reggie Bush did manage 67 yards on 17 carries, with a longest gain of 21, but on the whole the run-game did struggle. Fortunately, their air attacks were more successful.
Jake Long gave up his third sack in four games, which is worrying, and the Dolphins did give up sacks at important times. Tannehill lost 14 yards trying, unsuccessfully, and perhaps unwisely, to evade pressure, and late in the fourth he was strip sacked by a marauding Daryl Washington, who ran straight by Richie Incognito, and was too quick for Lane.
From the fumble, the Cardinals took over at their 49, and found the end-zone with 22 seconds left. The secondary again failed to keep their opponents out of the end-zone when it mattered most, and they need to improve their play in the clutch moments. Tannehill had seemingly done enough to lead Miami to victory, but the defense failed to hold up their end of the bargain.
The defense also failed to cover tight end Rob Housler on a key third-down in the fourth. Miami still struggle to contain athletic tight ends.
There wasn’t much the rookie quarterback could do then, but he did throw two picks, and had another reversed by the video ref. He is still liable to the odd “rookie” moment, and has to improve ball security at key moments.
Miami need to improve on third-down conversion, having made just six of 16 attempts too. Clutch performance is the key for the Dolphins.
Lauren Tannehill did not seem to be in attendance, and if she was, the cameras failed to find her. Very disappointing indeed.
Dan Carpenter missed a 51-yard field goal, which, although tricky, is well within his range. Could it be a wise idea to bring in competition to push “Kid Rock” Carpenter, or should Miami just accept he’s had a poor two weeks, but he is a pro-bowl kicker and will improve. Jeff Ireland has a decision to make.
The offensive line’s inability to keep pressure off Tannehill at key moments ended up costing Miami the game.
First, the strip sack allowed the game-tying touchdown, and then Paris Lenon hit Tannehill as he threw, gifting Kerry Rhodes an easy interception which gave the Cardinals good field position and they took advantage.
The defense’s inconsistency is frightening at times. They kept Arizona out of the end-zone all first half, and then, 14-13 down, gave up two big plays back-to-back. The 32-yard pass to Housler was followed by a 46 yarder against Richard Marshall, although Miami looked to be playing zone defense at the time.
Later, two sacks were followed by a 32-yard completion on third-and-18 on Arizona’s final drive. They were also torn apart by Kolb on the final drive of normal time, having held the Cardinals without a point in the first half. It becomes very frustrating to see them struggle in the clutch, particularly as this was a problem in several games last season too.
What the issue is, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps the secondary needs improved leadership?
Legedu Naanee’s Dolphins’ career is not going as planned. He made his first reception in four games for Miami last night on a 19-yard pass from Tannehill, before promptly dropping it in front of Patrick Peterson, who ran the ball back to Miami’s 3-yard line (leading to Sean Smith’s heroics). His position would be under threat, if Miami had anyone to threaten it…
Miami also outgained Arizona by 480 to 297 yards, but failed to win the game. However, the Dolphins can be proud of their performance. They deserved to win the game. Turnovers are the key.
The Miami Dolphins must feel like they did enough to win in Arizona. They were very unfortunate not to, considering they made nearly 200 yards more than the hosts.
However, the game comes down to those clutch moments, and neither the offense, nor defense, were able to make the plays that would win them the game.
Despite this, the Dolphins played very well, against an unbeaten opponent. Tannehill had a big game, and showed promise, while Brian Hartline, Sean Smith, and Cam Wake all made huge contributions to Miami’s effort.
The Dolphins may have lost, but the game really didn’t feel like a loss. So many things went right, that they easily outweighed the bad.
It’s important that Miami begin to play more consistently, and if they can continue their form into next week’s road match at the Cincinnati Bengals, then they will have a good chance of picking up their second win of the season.
When the Dolphins come through in the clutch, and Miami begin to win these tight contests, then they will have a chance of the playoffs. This year that might be have come too soon though.