Defensively the Miami Dolphins looked pretty good last night with the first team unit. Stopping the Tampa Bay Buccaneer‘s from moving the ball with any consistency. In the 2nd quarter when the Dolphins starters called it a night and the second team unit took over you would have though the first team unit had stayed on the field. Yes, it looked that good against a Buc’s first team unit that again, could not move the ball with any regularity. So how did the Dolphins lose? Mental errors. Again.
Twice in the first half of last nights game the Dolphins surrendered the ball on a punt return. The first was a punt that veered off Nolan Carroll who was blocked back into return man Marcus Thigpen who didn’t get a shot at the ball. Tampa takes over deep in Miami territory and a few plays later and a Brent Grimes pass interference at the seven yard line and they have 7-3 lead. The Dolphins defense stops the Buc’s yet again and the ensuing punt return is then fumbled by Thigpen in Miami territory after the Dolphins had made the Buc’s punt again following a penalty. The defense would keep the Bucs out of the end zone where the point increase would only be by three.
Two special teams errors lead to two turnovers that lead to 10 points. Why not finish the game in somewhat of the same fashion? With the two minute warning looming in the fourth quarter and Dolphins holding a six point lead, Jonas Gray fumbles the ball on the Tampa 30. The ball is returned to the Miami 30 and with a minute left the ball is thrown to an uncovered TE for the winning TD.
Offensively, the Dolphins didn’t look bad but there is always room for improvement. Ryan Tannehill finished the night after the first half giving way to Pat Devlin and not Matt Moore who took the night off. Tannehill had one TD pass and should have had at least one more had it not been for a drop in the back of the end-zone by Brandon Gibson. He finished the night with a 90% QBR. While he looked solid despite a couple of passes that were off, Tannehill has stepped up as a leader on this team and he looks far more an NFL QB this year than from a year ago.
The offensive line played well but still struggle with blitz protection at times although the RB’s did a great job picking up the blitz Saturday night. The Tampa defense a year ago was ranked number one against the run and last night showed the NFL they mean to keep that standing. They held the Dolphins to 71 yards but ten of those came on a Pat Devlin scramble. Daniel Thomas was held to three yards on seven carries as he was swarmed every time he touched the ball.
The Dolphins tried to run the ball in close to the goal. Not sure if this is something they are trying in pre-season or what they want to do when in this area but last night it didn’t work well for them. They were unable to move the line into the end-zone and it lead to the FG on Miami’s first 80 yard 8 minute drive. The red-zone, an area of concern last year has not improved and will not likely improve immediately without the teams starting TE, Dustin Keller.
For the offense it was a matter of getting their heads wrapped around the game. Tannehill was the victim of several dropped passes Saturday night and those types of mental mistakes are going to cost the team when the season begins in two weeks. They have the New Orleans Saints next week before the regular season sits in front of them. Joe Philbin must find a way to get his team ready to cut back on these errors.