Attention Miami Dolphins fans, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!!” The Miami Dolphins dropped their first game of the season last night by a score of 38-17 to the New Orleans Saints.
Obviously since the team lost last night by 21, the team sucks, right? Come on now. Let’s fix that opening paragraph.
Attention Miami Dolphins fans, “The sky is NOT falling!” The Miami Dolphins dropped their first game of the season last night to a legitimate top three team in the league by a score of 38-17. Miami was not over-matched. Miami could have hung in there against the New Orleans Saints if the team did one or two things better.
Let’s take a look at a few observations from Monday night’s loss:
- QB Ryan Tannehill played well and awful at the same time. First off, this kid has all of the talent coaches want in their franchise guy. Tannehill finished the night completing 22 of 35 passes for 249 yards and one beautiful touchdown to TE Charles Clay. Tannehill has complete command of this offense and is one of the best young quarterbacks in the entire league. How did Miami’s young QB play awful? Tannehill threw 3 key interceptions. The final interception was tipped at the line and Miami had no shot of coming back anyways. The second interception was just luck which seemed to be a theme for New Orleans throughout the night. The first interception, however, was absolutely 100% on Tannehill. What an awful decision. Tannehill completely stared down WR Brian Hartline on a slant and CB Jabari Greer broke on the ball and collected what will probably be Greer’s easiest interception of his career. This was a key game killer. Miami had the opportunity to score before the half and open the half with the ball. Instead, New Orleans went on to score and turn the turnover into a 21-10 half-time lead. The second-year quarterback also fumbled the ball for the sixth time this season. Tannehill needs to learn how to hold onto the football and how to slide…
- RB Lamar Miller looked great. Honestly, it is a little disappointing that New Orleans was up 21-10 after the half. Miami strayed away from Miller in the second half. Miller needs to get opportunities to run the football. His big play ability can only help this offense and QB Ryan Tannehill. Miller ended the night with 11 carries for 62 yards and 1 touchdown.
- WR Brandon Gibson is showing his ability to be Miami’s go-to-guy on third downs. Tannehill looked for Gibson on numerous third downs and looks to be more comfortable looking Gibson’s way than he was during the preseason. Gibson finished the night with 6 receptions for 71 yards.
- WR Brian Hartline, statistics aside, had another great night. Hartline only caught 3 balls for 34 yards, but those were 3 big catches. Hartline is clearly this team’s number one receiver.
- WR Mike Wallace has finally disappointed me. I have been supporting Wallace for the first 3 weeks of the season, but that finally ends today. Wallace looked awful. QB Ryan Tannehill threw a deep ball for Wallace, and Wallace had a chance to make a play on the football. He did not. CB Keenan Lewis was in great position on Wallace, but Wallace needs to go up and fight for the football. Wallace ended the night with 7 targets, 2 drops, 3 catches and a measly 24 yards. Great statistics for a $60+ million man, huh? If I’m QB Ryan Tannehill I am forcing Wallace to stay after practice with me for a few hours every single day to work on patterns and timing. This connection HAS to get better.
- TE Charles Clay impresses once again. So far this season Clay has been Miami’s most improved player. We all, myself included, thought the sky was falling when TE Dustin Keller was brutally lost for the season. Well, Clay has given us a glimmer of hope. Clay collected his first touchdown of the season last night. The former Tulsa utility man also collected a career high 6 receptions for 42 yards. Clay now has 20 receptions for 245 yards and one touchdown on the season. Way to prove us wrong Charles.
- Well, the offensive line played well in spurts. G John Jerry was absolutely beaten by rookie NT John Jenkins on that third and a centimeter play on the opening drive – Uh, why didn’t the team just run a QB sneak with Tannehill? It was seriously a centimeter. Okay maybe two. The team gave QB Ryan Tannehill time in the pocket for the majority of the first half. Miami was able to move the ball with ease on offense. And then all of the sudden the offensive line collapsed. New Orleans was able to pressure Tannehill with four or five rushers once the line collapsed during the second half. The best part, DC Rob Ryan was not sending Ryan-like blitzes. Yikes.
- The run defense was finally there holding New Orleans to just 68 yards rushing on 24 rushes – 2.8 yards per carry. The run defense really missed DT Paul Soliai against Atlanta.
- While the run defense was good, these linebackers were pitiful. MLB Dannell Ellerbe was awful. Ellerbe has been worse than last year’s middle man, Karlos Dansby, and actually has me missing Dansby. Ellerbe sucks in coverage and has absolutely no field awareness. Why did RB Darren Sproles score the game’s first touchdown? Ellerbe was completely faked out and was caught out of position. OLB Philip Wheeler had a bad game again for the second week in a row. Wheeler was just plain bad in coverage, but probably played the run the best out of the three starting linebackers. OLB Koa Misi had a very Koa Misi-like game. I really did not see much from Misi and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
- The pass rush was there, kind of, this week. DT Jared Odrick and DE Olivier Vernon were both able to collect one sack each. The team was able to pressure QB Drew Brees a bit, but not as much as one would like. DC Kevin Coyle had me pulling out my hair in third and long situations by sending 3 rushers at Brees. Good idea, let’s give Brees time in the pocket to pick apart our defense. Send at least 5 next time, Coyle. Coaches can learn too.
- The secondary played okay. S Reshad Jones bit hard on a wheel route leading to a Darren Sproles 48-yard catch and run on New Orleans’ opening drive. CB Nolan Carroll, who played well for most of the game, tried to jump a Brees throw and missed leading to a Sproles 13-yard touchdown before the half. Other than that, I thought the secondary did their best to contain these receivers. Notice I did not say stop. Rookie Jamar Taylor was in good position on the 27-yard Jimmy Graham touchdown. Graham just made an incredible catch. Obviously 413 passing yards against your defense is not something we should be bragging about, but Miami’s defense forced New Orleans to throw the ball by completely shutting down New Orleans’ run game.
- A little piggy-back off of Coyle’s genius plan to rush 3 on third and long situations, the team did an awful job of tackling and swarming to the football in such situations. How do you allow New Orleans to pick up a 3rd and 20?
- Not much to say in terms of special teams. P Brandon Fields had a decent night. PK Caleb Sturgis added another field goal to his impressive resume. And KR/PR Marcus Thigpen did a good job via the return game – also had a pretty nifty 50-yard reception on offense. Maybe OC Mike Sherman will be using Thigpen more on offense in the coming weeks. This would be a good move due to Thigpen’s speed in space.
To sum it all up, Miami’s offense was able to compete early on with New Orleans. The team was able to move the ball with ease against New Orleans’ improved defense. But costly mistakes – Tannehill fumble, Tannehill interception and a terrible third and centimeter call by OC Mike Sherman – and Miami’s youth led to the eventual demise of this team.
Miami will look to get back on track this Sunday against the defending champions, the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore handed Buffalo a win last Sunday. QB Joe Flacco threw 5 interceptions, while Buffalo fumbled the football 4 times. Yet Baltimore could not generate points due to Flacco’s inability to find his receivers. Bottom line is that one of these teams has to get themselves back on track this Sunday.