The Miami Dolphins loss on Sunday in no way is shouldered by star cornerback Xavien Howard but one has to wonder why he intercepted Brock Purdy.
On Sunday, the Dolphins found themselves tied with the 49ers midway through the 2nd quarter with inexperienced 2nd year QB Brock Purdy leading the 49ers offense. Miami managed to hold the 49ers on 3rd down in their own territory.
The 49ers had driven to the Dolphins 38 before Miami’s defense sacked Purdy on 2nd down losing seven yards. On 3rd down, the Dolphins gave up only six yards on a pass to Brandon Aiyuk who was pushed out of bounds by Howard at Miami’s 39 yard line.
Opting to go for it on 4th and four, Purdy threw downfield to the Dolphins 19 yard line where Xavien Howard intercepted the ball. The interception would end the 49ers drive, give Howard his first interception of the year, and give Miami possession at their own 19 yard line.
The interception prompted a debate on social media, did he do it for his own reasons or was it simply natural?
What Howard should have done was dropped the ball or batted it down. Field and situational awareness. So was this a matter of just being in the moment or was Howard looking to finally get his first INT of the season?
Personally, my thought is he was caught up in the moment. The Dolphins CB had good coverage in a tight game and made a play. It cost the Dolphins 20 yards. On the first play after the interception, Tua Tagovailoa hit River Cracraft for 18 yards. Miami would take a sack on third down after not being able to move the ball on the series.
The 49ers would score a touchdown on their next drive and take a 17-10 halftime lead.
Miami fans wondered on Sunday why Howard didn’t just let the ball hit the ground and give the offense 20 more yards to work with. It is something that the media will likely ask him about when they have a chance.
It’s tough to tell a player not to make a play and it is akin to a punt returner natually fielding a punt inside the 10 when for so many years you are told to let it go and hope it goes into the endzone. Howard could have let hit the ground but at the same time, how do we know it hits the turf or doesn’t bounce back into the air? In the moment, you do what you are conditioned to do. You take the ball, that is the sure thing and Howard, regardless of reason, got the sure thing.