There is no reason. In Sunday’s 26-20 loss to Green Bay, the Dolphins were as healthy as they had been in a while, and had won 11 of their previous 12 home games. Sure, they’re on a three-game losing streak, but that loss in Buffalo was so inspiring it almost seemed like it wasn’t a real loss. Things seemed to be going in the Dolphins’ favor over the final three games of the regular season.
If that’s what you think, you’re seeing a mirage.
quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had three interceptions in the fourth quarter As the Dolphins’ path to a playoff berth for the first time since 2016 is complicated.
dolphins don’t panicwhich is a good thing.
But it’s legitimate to worry about their talent, mental toughness and sense of urgency right now. Any of those three games could be a factor in the team’s final two games: Sunday at New England and Jan. 8 against the New York Jets.
But first, let’s review the disappointing loss to the Packers.
Those three interceptions in the fourth quarter were killer. Tagovailoa (16-for-25, 310 yards, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 80.8 passer rating) was at his worst when the Dolphins needed his best. Pass protection is good. Tagovailoa was sacked twice and hit six times. That’s not the problem. Wide receivers Tyreek Hill (4 catches, 103 yards) and Jaylen Waddle (5 catches, 143 yards, 1 touchdown) did their thing. That’s not the problem. Targets are reasonably dispersed. Waddle and Hill were each targeted six times, running back Raheem Mostert was targeted three times, wide receiver Trent Sherfield, tight end Mike Gesicki and running backs Alec Ingold and Jeff Wilson Jr. were each targeted twice, while tight end Durham Smythe was targeted once. That’s not the problem. Playing on the phone is also not a problem. Tagovailoa, for the first time this season, is a major concern. He has to play better and he knows that.
The Dolphins rushed for 82 yards on 18 carries for 4.6 yards per carry, which isn’t bad. The problem was that they didn’t have much meaningful offense in the second half, when they carried seven carries for 14 yards. Of course, the Dolphins only played 45 times in the game and 21 times in the second half. We know three of the 21 plays in the second half were fourth-quarter interceptions, so there aren’t many opportunities in the run game. But given that running isn’t the offense’s strong suit — it’s almost an afterthought — you can’t really blame that element of the offense for being unreliable. The Dolphins rank 31st in the NFL (second to last) in rush attempts with 331. Balance will help this offense tremendously.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ performance was not particularly good. He made 24 of 38 shots, advanced 238 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and a passer grade of only 78.6. The Dolphins finished with two sacks and three quarterback hits as Rodgers used his feet to dance around the pass rush and gain some yards (18 rushing yards, seven carries). The Dolphins had seven passes defended and possibly a couple of free throws that weren’t called, and all things considered pass defense did a good job. But after losing wide receiver Christian Watson (six catches, 49 yards) to injury in the second half, the Packers deserve credit. The Dolphins weren’t great in that regard, but they seemed good enough for a win.
Green Bay didn’t have much success on the ground, totaling 79 yards on 25 carries. Running back AJ Dillon (11 carries, 36 yards, 1 touchdown) is the leading rusher, and you can tell by his totals that the run defense is effective. The effectiveness of the run defense becomes even more apparent when you consider that the Packers had runs of 18, 12 and 11 yards totaling 41 yards and accounting for half of their rushing total. Excellent run defense, currently ranked 10th in the league with 109.1 yards per game.
Yes, the Dolphins managed to shut down a fake shot. But they missed a 48-yard field goal attempt from right and allowed a 93-yard kickoff return that led to the Packers field goal. Those six points were crucial in a six-point loss for the Dolphins. Kicker Jason Sanders’ 12 consecutive field goal attempts ended in bad time. Punter Thomas Morstead only used it once, which resulted in a 2-yard return and a tackle inside the 20-yard line, which was good. But Miami’s returning team allowed 21 yards on kickoff returns in addition to 93 yards. Hats off to the defender for only allowing a shot on that ball. Special teams have to be better.
Defensive game plan is good. This works. Offensively, on special teams, the game plan was fine, but the players didn’t execute. It’s not the coach’s fault, it’s their responsibility. It is the coach’s responsibility to make sure things are done correctly and efficiently. That didn’t happen against Green Bay. Coach Mike McDaniel has to find a way for his offense to prove that it’s not just big games, and that proof has not been common this season. In fact, this is a team that relies heavily on big moves on both ends of the floor and has struggled with the grounded grind it needs to be effective. This is a dangerous trait. The Dolphins still have two more games to find out what they can do effectively on a consistent basis, whether it’s big plays or down-to-earth dirty work. If neither of the Dolphins make the playoffs, the season will surely be considered a failure, and McDaniel will be battered in his rookie coaching season.
Nothing can make you feel optimistic right now. Run defense is good. In fact, the entire defense was pretty good, especially on the first possession the Dolphins started at the 9-yard line, allowing the Packers to keep the field goal. But it’s hard to reward a defense that allowed 26 points, even if it was effective in short-range situations a few times. The offensive line is okay, and runs a big offense with a couple of long catches. But overall nothing good. For the first time all season, it’s hard to be optimistic about anything after a loss. With at least two games left, the Dolphins face a win situation. That’s about the best you can say about a team that lacked killer instinct when it mattered the most.
The widely known offensive player averaged 24.3 points per game, ninth in the league. Congratulations. That’s exactly how the Dolphins averaged under coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill in 2014. The 2022 offense couldn’t score any points in the second half against a questionable Green Bay defense. Keep an eye on this unit for the last two games. The jury is still out on conviction. So far, it appears to be a group that has been strong against middling or worse teams, but has struggled against strong teams or December opponents like New England (20 points), Buffalo (No. games, 21 points), Cincinnati (15 points), New York Jets (17), Minnesota (16), San Francisco (17), Los Angeles Chargers (17) and Green Bay (20). Yes, the offense scored 29 points in Buffalo (loss) and 42 in Baltimore (win), but it almost made its name against bad teams and no pressure.