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Dolphins vs Patriots Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Are there words to describe this feeling? Because if there are, I’m completely lost for them.

Saying this was a phenomenal finish is an understatement. This was legendary. This is eternal. This will go down right next to the Michael Thomas interception as one of its best plays in franchise lore.

Anytime the Miami Dolphins defeat the New England Patriots you have a valid reason to celebrate, but this victory means much more than most others.

The Dolphins were 7 seconds away from the end of their 2018 season; 7 seconds away from unofficially firing Matt Burke, endlessly chastising Adam Gase for some (more) horrific play calls, and ushering Ryan Tannehill out of Miami. Instead, we’re tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC.

Below are a few things we noticed from the epic 34-33 Dolphins victory over the Patriots:

1) Who Stole Adam Gase’s Playbook?

Where have these plays been all season?

Dolphins fans have been crucifying Gase for his perplexing playcalling all season, and rightfully so. At times it seems like the head coach and de facto offensive coordinator is unable to adjust or play to his team’s strengths.

This team has an athletic quarterback, shifty playmakers on offense and a banged up offensive line, and yet, bubble screens were the focal point of this offense for the majority of the season.

Coming into this game it was evident Miami needed to do something on offense.

After a television camera caught their actual offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains, (presumably) calling plays, Dolphins fans were quick to credit the offense’s spark with the new man in charge. Unfortunately for us, that was mostly a ploy, as Adam Gase was still in charge of calling plays this game.

Which makes me wonder, why not attempt this earlier in the season when the team was struggling to put up points (they entered this game averaging 20.5 points per game)? Either the team adjusted or they decided to open up their playbook a bit more rather than saving plays for when the season is lost.

This game featured plenty more play action with a healthy mix of RPO and intermediate passes thrown in. Tannehill is extremely accurate when on the move, and fans have loudly wondered why the team isn’t designing more plays to get him out of the pocket. On one hand, you have a quarterback coming off of a knee injury paired with an offensive line that gets mistaken for an amusement park turnstile at times. There isn’t a lot of trust that the line will give Tannehill enough time to fake the run and analyze the pass.

Maybe Gase and company felt they had nothing to lose? Tannehill suffered 7 sacks last week against the Buffalo Bills while spending the majority of the time in the pocket. It couldn’t get any worse, right?

The risks the Dolphins took this game payed off; and when you’re playing Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, you can’t expect to be conservative and win.

Ryan Tannehill threw the ball 56% less than Tom Brady and nearly outdueled him in the box score. Helped out by that final 69-yard play, Tannehill completed 14/19 passes for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Maybe the Dolphins offensive success has more to do with Kenny Stills‘ comments the other week rather than Dowell Loggains holding the playsheet. After experiencing a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Stills called out the team’s quarterbacks by exclaiming that he can’t “throw himself the ball”. Since then, Miami has gone 2-0 and averaged 27.5 points those games. Obviously it’s a short sample size that can change as other teams adjust, but Stills sparked something in this team that Gase and company were unable to ignite prior to those comments.

Miami’s Man of the Year nominee had a stellar game, catching 8 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, but that last-second touchdown by Kenyan Drake overshadows a couple of head-scratching plays Stills made earlier in the game. With Miami looking to take back the lead, Stills caught a 2nd-down pass and inexplicably slid one yard shy of the first down marker.

Of course Miami still had an opportunity to convert the 3rd-down, but a questionable play call led to a Ryan Tannehill sack and the team was forced to rely on their defense to win the game.

The Patriots predictably walked down the field and scored an additional field goal, leaving Miami with just 16 seconds left.

Miami’s victory also saves Adam Gase from having to answer questions about punting on 4th-down with just over 4 minutes left to play near midfield. Though Gase would have been off the hook if Stills held onto a 3rd-down pass that was thrown a tad high, but was well in his hands.

Frank Gore is closer to 25 than he is 35 (he’s actually 35, but he’s really not). The ageless wonder averaged 7.7 yards per carry on his way to accumulating 92 rushing yards and a 24-yard reception. It’s hard to say he’s a better player than Kenyan Drake (who proved that theory wrong on the last play), but there’s a reason why Gase goes to Gore more than Drake. Drake ended the game with 24 yards rushing on 6 attempts.

What the Patriots didn’t predict was the impact Brandon Bolden would have for their AFC East rivals. The former Patriot ran for two touchdowns and caught another pass on his way to having a career game. With all of the “revenge-game” plotlines floating around last week (Charles Clay, Jordan Phillips and Matt Darr returning to Miami), Bolden’s return was overlooked. Seems the Patriots did the same thing in their defensive gameplan.

Though the sample size is small, Bolden has proven that he’s not just a special teams player.

2) How Does One Defend This Defense?

While on the other hand, Miami’s former 4th-round pick in 2014, Walt Aikens, continues to prove why he’s a one-dimensional player. Tasked with covering the Patriot’s speediest receiver, Aikens was burned on a deep touchdown. I’m not sure if he was expecting help from Reshad Jones, but Jones was late to come over and cover Cordarrelle Patterson, leaving Aikens with 1-on-1 coverage and no help on the inside.

If Tom Brady wasn’t busy channeling his inner Josh Allen at times this game could have been a lot worse.

The future hall of fame quarterback uncharacteristically missed throws to receivers that were more open than what we saw last week in the Bills game. It’s not like Matt Burke‘s defense kept the Patriots in-check. If anything, the Patriots did that to themselves.

Like the rest of the season, Miami generated virtually no pass rush all game, giving Brady ample amount of time to throw. Once again, Bobby McCain had a sack coming off the blitz – matching the total the rest of the defensive line had combined this game: one.

Coming into this game the overwhelming thought was that the Patriots were going to attack the underbelly of Miami’s defense, even with Xavien Howard declared out with a knee injury. And right on cue, the Patriots did just that; embarrassing Miami’s linebackers in coverage throughout the game.

Kiko Alonso and Jerome Baker performed well when the play was in front of them, but they were picked apart when asked to cover a receiver. It’s evident the team needs an upgrade at linebacker this offseason, the question becomes who they upgrade over. Do they trust Raekwon McMillan to evolve in his 3rd-season? Or do they try to find a new middle linebacker and retain Alonso on the outside?

Belichick and Brady also knew where they had their mismatch, picking on Cornell Armstrong and Torry McTyer on the boundary throughout the game.

A loss would have only heightened this notion, but Xavien Howard is going to get paid this offseason. The Dolphins cannot continue to run out players like Aikens, Armstrong and McTyer and expect to advance in the playoffs.

Minkah Fitzpatrick had a decent game, though he was exposed on a few routes. On the opening drive, Brady completed a 16-yard pass to Josh Gordon and a 12-yard pass to Julian Edelman with Fitzpatrick in coverage. He was also called for a (questionable) pass interference call on the Patriots last drive. It’s not like he had a bad game, it just wasn’t as flawless as his previous games. With Howard likely to return next week and with Fitzpatrick continuing to evolve, it’s possible Miami’s secondary is the catalyst this team needs to make the playoffs.

3) The Special Teams Weren’t So Special

Everyone’s future head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Darren Rizzi, may have had one of his worst games as the Dolphins special teams coordinator.

After the team’s protection (specifically John Denney) allowed two of Matt Haack‘s punts to be blocked, Rizzi was forced to incorporate more of a ‘rugby’ style punting technique – where the offensive line would spread out and the punter would shift to the side before punting it, leading him away from the threatening rushers.

This resulted in two more shanked punts from Haack, who didn’t seem comfortable punting on the move. These poor punts gave the Patriots phenomenal field position all game, which is typically a recipe for Patriots success.

But the Dolphins special teams unit was fortunate they weren’t the only ones creating mistakes.

The normally clutch Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal as well as an extra point, taking 4 points off the board for the Patriots. Tie these mistakes with Brady’s misplay at the end of the first half  and the Dolphins don’t even have a chance at making a Hail Mary.

Miscellaneous:

Ja’Wuan James stepped on Ryan Tannehill’s ankle at the end of the first half. The quarterback left the field and returned to the lockerroom to conduct some x-rays. These came back negative and Tannehill returned for the 2nd half. After the game, Tannehill was noticeably limping to and from the podium – this will be something to monitor in the final weeks.

Laremy Tunsil allowed his first sack of the season. He has been exceptional this year at left tackle and deserves to make the pro bowl. When the time comes, his new contract is going to be massive.

-Tight end continues to be an empty position for this team. The team’s tight ends didn’t catch a single pass, and Mike Gesicki only saw one target on the day. Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary didn’t get a single target.

-Tom Brady passed Peyton Manning for the most career TD passes for their career (including playoffs) – Brady has 580 while Manning has 579.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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    Bond, David Bond

    December 9, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    We see 1st hand again; “speed kills”. The personnel was perfect on the game winning lateral.
    “Ironman” Tannehill to “The Man of Stills” to Devante “Park Avenue” to Kenyan “Shake & Bake” Drake”; for one of the most exciting finishes ever!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Miami Dolphins

The Levee Breaks in Jersey – Dolphins Giants Week 15 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins break record for most players used, blowout loss ensues

The entire Dolphins operation took a back seat to the A-block story of Eli Manning in his final start at MetLife Stadium. Although riddled with mistakes, Miami played a strong first half, but unraveled after the intermission. With a first half lead, the Dolphins were outscored 16-0 — and out-gained 187-19 — in the third quarter, with the Giants scoring the first 13 points of the fourth quarter as an encore.

Miami’s experimental season became tangibly explainable Sunday as the Dolphins gave its 80th-differnet player a snap. The previous record was 78 players in one single season. Miami’s roster is currently comprised of 23 undrafted free agents (43%, most in the NFL). The Dolphins made 74 roster moves since week one and have 17 players on injured reserve — both of those are second most in the NFL.

Stat Dolphins Giants
Total Yards 384 412
Rushing 122 138
Passing 262 274
3rd / 4th Down 4/16 (25%) 5/11 (45.5%)
Penalties 7 (42 yards) 4 (32 yards)
Sacks For 1 3
TOP 28:53 31:07

 

DolphinsGiants

The things that made Miami a competitive team for the last two months were of the “takes no talent” variety. Dropped passes, penalties, turnovers, missed field goals, even the occasional miss from Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins simply are not good enough to overcome the many errors committed in the blowout loss.

Despite the majority of Miami’s six dropped passes occurring in the first half, Fitzpatrick compiled the most Dolphin passing yards in a single half (234 yards) since Ryan Tannehill’s 2015 game against Houston. The Dolphins moved the chains 14 times (also a season high), combing Fitzpatrick’s arm and legs; he is now the team leader in rushing yards for the 2019 season with 219 yards.

It would be completely understandable for the Dolphins to go into the proverbial tank these last two games. The final home date with Cincinnati on-deck, followed by a season finale in Foxboro, 3-13 looks to be more than a possibility, but rather a probability.

More on how that could affect the Dolphins draft positioning in the recap segment at the bottom of the page. Let’s get to the individuals.

Quarterback

It looked like business for usual for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins offense early at the Meadowlands Sunday. He was ripping the Giants zone defense for chunk yardage, escaping pressure and moving the chains with his legs, but coming up short in the red zone for the second consecutive game.

Miami’s first two drives traveled 99 yards, but yielded no points. Fitzpatrick had two misses that cost Miami points. First, a back-shoulder fade to Devante Parker left too far inside led to a turnover-on-downs. Then, on a later 3rd down, Fitzpatrick underthrew Parker to allow the defensive back to break up the pass. Miami would punt, opposed a fresh set of downs from inside the Giants 35-yard-line.

The dagger occurred on a Fitzpatrick run that resulted in a lost fumble, though the officiating crew blew the call on the field and in replay. Miami dropped six passes — including a ball off the facemask in the end zone — so it’s difficult to put too much of the blame on the quarterback.

Running Backs

Patrick Laird has some moments, but the gaffes are a weekly occurrence. He dropped another pass, failed to win a one-on-one situation on a stretch run that resulted in a safety, and he gets beat in pass protection every game. His 18-yard run saved his average for a respectable 3.8 yards per rush on 12 carries.

Myles Gaskin had a similar, average-saving run. Gaskin popped a 27-yarder in garbage time to get to 43 yards on nine carries, but he too has his shortcomings in pass protection.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Devante Parker has been consistent as they come this season. In his first game off the new contract that is schedules to keep him in Miami through the 2023 season, Parker went for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including another win on a 50-50 ball (more apt to call them 70-30 balls with Parker in range).

Albert Wilson was involved in the plan to the tune of five receptions on eight targets for 59 yards. Wilson has the shifty quality in condensed spaces that will provide the Dolphins with two, highly-utilizable traits going forward: 1.) uncover quickly from the slot on two-way-goes, and 2.) key misdirection to open up space for the rest of the offense.

Wilson’s start-stop ability, along with his prowess as a ball carrier could be a valuable piece in Chad O’Shea’s offense next season. He’ll have to be, in order to justify his retention at $8 million. The upside, for Miami, the commitment doesn’t extend beyond 2020. The team can certainly afford to keep Wilson on the books for another year and a better look at the player two full years removed from the hip injury.

Allen Hurns and Isaiah Ford were limited. Ford was the culprit of the facemask drop on a would-be touchdown in the second quarter, and Hurns only caught one pass. He was playing injured.

Mike Gesicki was involved early drawing matchups on the Giants safeties and linebackers. He had an opportunity on a takeoff against DeAndre Baker, but the pass was broken up. He caught four of eight for 47 yards. He continues to look more comfortable with each passing week.

Miami utilized plenty of offset 12-personnel formations (double tight ends inline to one side of the formation). Miami’s only semblance of a running game comes on stretch runs off this formation, and they do it in behind Clive Walford and Durham Smythe.

Walford was off to a sterling start, but two dropped passes quelled the strong showing. He and Smythe both hit a number of key blocks on Miami’s longer runs of the game.

Offensive Line

Miami shuffled the line throughout the day, and none of the combinations seemed to make improvements. Fitzpatrick was under siege, Miami failed to create any penetration on point-of-attack blocks, and another good scrambling day saved what otherwise could’ve been a shutout type of performance.

Michael Deiter’s issues are systemic at this point. He’s constantly off-balance, lacks conviction and confidence, and misses an assignment each time he’s out there. He looks good pulling and getting the second level, but that’s about where the praise stops.

Daniel Kilgore continues to demonstrate a lack of ability to do the things they want him to execute in this scheme. Reach blocks are an adventure, anchoring is a 50-50 proposition, and he rarely blows anybody off the ball.

Jesse Davis has quietly pieced together a better initial kick slide and pass set as a right tackle. He’s living up to his end of the bargain on those offset 12 runs to the right side.

Evan Brown, Shaq Calhoun and J’Marcus Webb were all difficult watches.

Defensive Line

Davon Godchaux has been the Devante Parker of the defense — consistently stable. Godchaux demonstrates his power with consistency, but he flashes big plays on a weekly basis with penetration. He made five more tackles Sunday, bringing his season total to 65.

Christian Wilkins is a poor man’s Godchaux in his rookie season. He too has the flash plays, but he’s not as consistent and can get moved a gap or two from time-to-time.

Taco Charlton was back after a healthy scratch a week ago. Taking Charles Harris’ spot, Taco made one tackle and saw a lot of runs go for big gains off his edge. The same was true on the other side against Avery Moss and the occasional outside ‘backer condensed inside to a six-technique.

Linebackers

Sam Eguavoen is piecing together a nice run. He came from the CFL as a standout in passing situations, and he’s been active doing just that. Falling into the hook zip and tipping footballs, applying pressure on the quarterback, and picking up a sack for the second straight week, Eguavoen is showcasing the goods to return as a sub package linebacker.

Jerome Baker had quite a day making plays. When he keys it and pulls the trigger, Baker is as disruptive as they come blowing up plays at the line-of-scrimmage. He used that speed to get into the hook zone for two plays on the ball, an interception and a PBU. He also made 12 tackles in the game.

Vince Biegel fell into the hook zone for a play of his own. Dropping in place of a blitzing Nik Needham, Biegel picked off the first pass of his career. He also continues to dent the edge and set up tackles as well as anyone on this defense.

Raekwon McMillan left the game with a hamstring injury. When he was out there, his impact was minimal. McMillan played all over the formation and tried to give Miami some help in more of a Sam ‘backer position.

Defensive Backs

It’s a mix mash of street free agents in the Miami secondary. For the fourth time this year, Miami signed a played on a Tuesday, then played him in the defensive backfield the following Sunday.

Nate Brooks was beaten up and down the field by fellow rookie Darius Slayton. Linden Stephens saw his first action as a Dolphins and made two tackles.

Eric Rowe made four tackles and continues to show his mettle in the box safety role. He’s definitely a fit going forward for that role.

Nik Needham had a day of peaks and valleys. He made an exceptional tackle on Saquon Barkley in space, but then came back and was juked badly by the former number-two overall pick. Needham got his hands on a ball that wound up going for a 51-yard touchdown. It was that kind of day for Needham and Miami.

Jomal Wiltz continues to show the competitiveness and tackling prowess that makes him a favorite to return as a sub package defensive back next season.

Recap

This game looked like a laugher early, in favor of the Dolphins. Despite three bad interceptions from Eli Manning, Miami continuously made errors that turned the game in favor of the home team.

Perhaps that result was best for Miami.

The Dolphins climb now to third in the 2020 NFL Draft. Miami leapfrogged Washington based on tie-breakers, as week 16 presents a pair of huge games in the race for better draft choices. Washington hosts the Giants while the Bengals visit Miami.

Winning one of the final two games would result in no worse than the fifth pick in the draft for the Fins, and Miami can climb all the way to second if the team finishes 3-13.

Whoever Miami deems as QB2 should be there for the taking. The Chase Young option will continue to compel the fan base, but his penchant for the up-field rush will likely make Miami pursue other avenues.

There’s a lot of time between now and the last weekend in April, including two more games. Brian Flores’ ability to get his team up for these final two could be telling.

Or maybe they won’t. It’s perfectly understandable if Miami are unable to mount a competitive fight in the final two weeks. The roster was depleted in every fashion imaginable (trades, cuts, injuries, player shutdowns), and even a good coaching staff has a breaking point.

The upshot for the 2019 season is that Miami secured a high draft pick and added a war chest of offseason resources. Perhaps best of all, the Dolphins now have surefire long-term fits that were largely unknowns just a few months prior.

Parker, Needham, Gesicki, Biegel, Rowe all emerged as surprise breakthrough players. Joining core parts like Godchaux, McMillan, Baker, and those returning from IR (Preston Williams, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Jakeem Grant, Jonathan Ledbetter), reinforcements are on the way for the 2020 season.

This season has been brutal. We’re eight quarters away from its conclusion, and the real season beginning. The 2020 Miami Dolphins offseason.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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