Momentum shifts. That is one phrase used to describe the ebbs and flows of a football game. Here, we look at the key plays resulting in the opening game loss to Seattle.
Coaches will often say that a team’s loss, even in a two-point game, did not come down to one play. It is certainly true that every play throughout the game contributes to the end result. Still, as the Miami Dolphins’ loss to Seattle on Sunday demonstrates, more than one play can have an above-average effect on the game’s outcome. Here are three such plays from Sunday’s loss to Seattle.
Key play number 1: Miami fails to convert on 4th and inches in the first quarter. “Playing to win” and setting a tone support going for a first down from the Seattle 17-yard line in the first quarter. Having an inexperienced center that prevents the quarterback sneak and having no objective confidence that the offensive line will get the necessary push both support attempting the field goal. Miami went for it and failed to convert.
Key play number 2: Kenny Stills drops a sure touchdown pass. With the Dolphins trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, Stills broke free deep. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas was the closest defender to Stills, and he was more than five yards away. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill delivered a perfect pass that hit Stills’ hands in stride. It was a certain 71-yard touchdown, except that Stills dropped the pass. Miami entered halftime trailing 6-3.
Key play number 3: Seattle blocks Andrew Franks’ field goal. Almost one-third of the way through the fourth quarter, kicker Andrew Franks’ 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Seattle defensive end Cassius Marsh. The disappointment could be immediately seen on the faces of Ryan Tannehill and others on the sideline. The play demonstrated that Laremy Tunsil, as talented as he is, is still a rookie and will not play as a Pro bowler on every play (yet). It also showed that Franks still has a lot of work to do, as a better kick might have avoided the block entirely. The block left the Dolphins trailing 6-3.
If the Dolphins come through on any one of those three plays, the chances of them winning the game increase dramatically. But as Dolphins fans have sadly become accustomed to, the opponent makes the plays to win the game while Miami makes the plays to lose the game. Even Seattle should admit, the way the game played out, this was Miami’s game to lose, and they did once again.
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So, which is it? My vote goes to key play number 1, which kept the Dolphins in a hole that they did not emerge from until late in the fourth quarter. I understand that Coach Gase does not regret his decision and reiterated that he plays to win. I understand that Seattle went three-and-out the next series, so “no harm” was done. But not going for those 3 points and failing to convert the first down changed the entire complexion of the game, and each team’s confidence, moving forward. Put the points on the board in the first quarter, on the road, against a playoff-contending team and perhaps the rest of the game would have played out differently.