The Miami Dolphins defense seemed to turn things around from the last game playing with better coverage and being more physical although they did let the Cardinals back in the game from a few scores down.
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This game is hard to review in any great detail with so much going on from the wet field conditions. With 10 minutes left in the first half the Cards had commented 4 turnovers already. Passes were bouncing off receivers that Carson Palmer had thrown to quite a bit in the rain. And the Miami Dolphins defenders were in proximity this time and nearly coming up with interceptions on many occasions.
On the first drive the defense allowed one first down and when the Cards got to midfield Mike Hull got his first interception during his first game playing as a starter.
The offense scored fast allowing the defense to play with a lead which is said to be how the defense was designed to play. However the defense quickly allowed the Cards to score. WR JJ Nelson ran one for 56 yards scoring a TD, that would be the longest run of the game followed by RB Kerwynn Williams with 20 and David Johnson having 19 as his longest, collectively they ran for a total of 175 yards.
The next time the Cards had the ball they went back to picking on the middle of the field where they had some success the last drive but Bacarri Rambo was there for the interception this time and was able to return it 17 yards. They would go back to the middle with passes to TE Jermaine Gresham throughout the rest of the game he had 7 targets catching 5 for 45 yards in the game with the longest being 14 yards.
There was a greater physicality displayed and at one point late in the first half you can see Ndamukong Suh having words on camera with former Dolphin Ulrick John on the field after he allowed Suh into the backfield and Suh was probably letting John know about it.
Also back this game was better pressure on the QB, on a 3rd and two play with 3:47 left in the first half Cameron Wake got to QB Carson Palmer with Ndamukong Suh close in tow. This pushed the Cards back to a 41 yard FG attempt that was missed.
Wake also had a forced fumble as did his partner in QB pressure Andre Branch who also had a sack of his own. When these two are getting after the QB in the backfield and getting sacks it makes for a much easier and better game from the rest of the unit as a whole.
The defense opened the second half being up by 12 points and forced a three and out. On the next drive Carson Palmer would start from his own 8 yard line and get the benefit of a Spencer Paysinger holding call on Larry Fitzgerald. Andre Branch got his forced fumble here with a tomahawk move on Palmer’s throwing arm that he recovered. Then Branch had a pass deflect off his outstretched arms that Palmer threw from his own end zone with nothing but open space ahead off him for what would have been a TD. A failed run on 3rd and 18 caused a punt.
This is where special teams gave the ball back when Kenyan Drake ran into Jarvis Landry lodging the ball loose. The defense did their job stopping the Cardinals now they have the ball back on Miami Dolphins side of the field. After two consecutive calls the Cards found themselves back on their own 30 yard line 2nd and 33 to go, two bad incomplete passes and they punted.
On the next drive the offense had is where Ryan Tannehill got hurt and coach Gase went conservative with all running plays called for backup OB Matt Moore resulting in a three and out of sorts because they tried to draw offsides on 4th down and the defense goes right back on the field.
The defense must have been gassed at this point starting the 4th quarter as they allowed a 99 yard drive resulting in a TD. Aside from Palmer scrambling out of pressure for a short gain most of the plays this drive were passes. The defense allowed a first down that had a penalty called on them and then a second one negating a sack by Wake on that same first down. Already in Miami Dolphin territory a third penalty of pass interference allows them even more yards as well as a first down. Bobby McCain who appeared to leave the field hampered earlier in this drive was back in allowing the TD pass in the end zone to WR Brittan Golden.
After scoring the Cardinals did not try for two points but instead it was the Miami Dolphins special teams unit that scored two on the blocked extra point, Jordan Phillips blocked it and Walt Aikens returned it. Making the score 23 to 15 Dolphins. The same scenario played out with Gase calling running plays going 3 and out with backup QB Matt Moore.
With 5:14 left to play the Cardinals get the ball down by 8 points at midfield after a Matt Darr punt from his own end zone. JJ Nelson would score the TD pass and also the two point conversion to tie the score. The Cards would get the ball back with 1:55 left in hard-driving rain and a chance to win with a successful drive and a score but this defense stopped them leaving 1:29 on the clock for the Dolphins offense who would kick a winning FG with just 1 second left in regulation.
Team Stats Cardinals
First Downs 21
Net Pass Yards 125
Total Yards 300
Turnovers 4 3
Third Down Conv. 4-13
Fourth Down Conv. 0-0
Time of Possession 29:56
WR JJ Nelson scores on the biggest running play the Cards had on the day 56 yards.
•The defense forced three turnovers in the first quarter, tying a team record for most turnovers forced in the first quarter of a game.
•Spencer Paysinger had the most tackles with six, he also recovered a fumble and played off the line of scrimmage a fair amount.
While it would be nice not to have the late game theatrics there was some unusual circumstances surrounding how it took place.
The wildcat working against this defense is concerning as they had it nailed down in past games but the Cards used it effectively.
Doing just enough to get by is also concerning but it’s hard to fault coach Vance Joseph with the depleted roster he is working with, however they seem to be close to hitting another gear with just some minor adjustments.