The Dolphins tried everything in their power to lose Sunday’s game. Fortunately, the Browns are more proficient at losing than Miami is right now.
On Saturday I outlined five ‘keys’ to defeating the Cleveland Browns https://phinphanatic.com/2016/09/24/five-keys-dolphins-victory-cleveland-browns/ and the Dolphins almost, verbatim, did the exact opposite of what was needed. Let’s review, shall we?
Key: Don’t turn the ball over (Failed)
The Dolphins failed on this one a mere :40 into the game when Ryan Tannehill tried to force a pass into Kenny Stills that was intercepted by former Dolphin DB Jamar Taylor.
Miami’s second miscue resulted in a Briean Boddy-Calhoun ‘pick six’.
The final turnover of the game came on a Tannehill fourth quarter fumble and put Cleveland in immediate field goal range with :20 left. Luckily Cody Parkey missed his third field goal of the day and spared the Dolphins a last-minute loss for the third straight week.
Stop the run (Failed)
The Dolphins defense allowed 32 carries for 169 yards. That is the opposite of “stopping the run”. Cleveland came into the game averaging 6.0 yards per carry and Miami’s D “held” them to 5.3 yards/carry but that isn’t much of a victory is it?
Miami is now dead last in rush defense (147.3 yds/game) through three weeks.* In fact, Chicago (142.7) is the only team within 10 yards of Miami in that statistic. The team is going nowhere if this trend continues.
Put pressure on QB Cody Kessler (Accomplished)
Give Cleveland credit. They did everything they could to take pressure off Kessler by running the ball and using Terrelle Pryor in the ‘wildcat’. However, Miami’s defense sacked Kessler three times and planted him on his back at least half-a-dozen times throughout the game.
The Browns ‘Achilles Heel’ turned out to be right tackle Austin Pasztor; who was no match for Cameron Wake and the rest of Miami’s pass rush. Pasztor was flagged for three holding penalties and two offsides. He also gave up the strip/sack to Wake that got Miami the ball back after Tannehill’s first INT.
Show up in the first half (Failed)
The good news? Miami scored its first 1st half TD of the year. The team also put together a nice 10 play, 56 yard drive in the second quarter that led to an Andrew Franks 37-yard field goal.
The bad news? The Dolphins other 5 drives totaled 78 yards and ended INT, Punt, Punt, ‘Pick 6’ and an end-of-half rally that was blown by timeout/clock mismanagement.
Don’t take the Browns lightly (Push)
Did the Dolphins underestimate the Browns? It’s hard to say. They played pretty much the same as they have the previous two weeks; each side of the ball took turns falling asleep for long periods of the game.
As for the “home field advantage” predicted to boost the team emotionally? It seemed to ebb and flow as the game went on. The early INT silenced the crowd and the energy drain seemed to last the rest of the half. In the 4th quarter/OT it seemed like the crowd ‘willed’ Miami to the victory, in spite of the team’s every effort to lose the game.
The Dolphins knew what it would take to beat Cleveland but seemed unwilling/unable to implement that plan. Luckily for Miami, the Browns know less about winning than they do.
If Miami cannot do a better job of grabbing the ‘keys’ to winning and ‘driving’ home the victory, the 2016 season will be a “long walk home”.
*Stat correction: At the time of the original post, Miami was 32nd in rushing. New Orleans allowed 86 yards rushing in the fourth quarter to Atlanta to put THEM last in NFL in rush defense. (149.3/game)