After a rocky 10 days, the Dolphins put forth an inspired effort Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders. Energy and execution wouldn’t be enough, as the Dolphins committed just enough penalties and critical errors to wind up on the wrong end of the final score.
Overzealous officials called a ticky-tack game. Miami was guilty of four penalties that negated first down plays – most notably a 31-yard catch and run by Damien Williams wiped out by a questionable holding call on Jarvis Landry. Instead of a first down on the doorstep of the red zone, the Dolphins faced a 1st and 20 from its own 35-yard line.
Oakland capitalized, forcing a three-and-out, and took the ensuing drive 87 yards to extend its lead to 11 points.
On the Dolphins first possession, a 19-yard gain was wiped out by a procedural call on right tackle Ja’Wuan James. Cris Collinsworth admitted that most teams line up that way, and that call could be made on every play – ticky-tack.
It was more than just the penalties. Kenyan Drake’s first half fumble in the red zone gave Oakland the ball back trailing by three. The Raiders would back up on their own penalties, yet still moved the sticks after facing a first and 25.
Reshad Jones was in perfect position to break-up and prayer heaved by Derek Carr, but was out-leaped by Johnny Holton for a lengthy Raiders touchdown.
Every time Miami seized momentum, the pendulum quickly shifted back in the favor of the road team.
The new look Miami offense emphasized a change in scheme. The outside zone scheme was traded in for inside zone and power running plays. Kenyan Drake popped a 42-yard run on a power-right trap play. On the play, Anthony Fasano peeled back and sealed off the massive running-lane.
The offensive line played its best game of the year. Jesse Davis continues to improve at left guard and both tackles were locked in on pass protection assignments. Mike Pouncey and Jermon Bushrod continue to struggle immensely – replacements should be considered.
Jay Cutler dazzled in his best game as a member of the Miami Dolphins. Cutler played with conviction, poise, decisiveness and was pinpoint-accurate. He manipulated launch points and navigated the pocket well, making plays when things broke down.
The new look backfield of Kenyan Drake (104 yards from scrimmage) and Damien Williams (61 yards from scrimmage) helped Adam Gase implement the offense he prefers. A balanced attack that gets the ball to the backs in the passing game just as frequently as it does in the running game. Play-action, short, rhythm throws and built in shot plays all had varying success throughout the game.
Drake and Williams combined for 165 yards from scrimmage, caught 12 passes on 12 targets, and had zero rushes go for negative yards (Gase’s point of contention with Ajayi.)
Devante Parker returned in a big way, providing the big-play spark and Jarvis Landry continues to flash his unrelenting intangibles.
Julius Thomas finally got involved and Anthony Fasano was terrific in the running game.
Defensively, Miami was burned by the big play. Oakland converted eight of 15 third down plays – three of which came on third and nine or longer.
Ndamukong Suh was as dominant as ever. He, along with rookie Davon Godchaux, ate up double teams and held the Raiders running game to 3.78 yards per rush.
The edge players were neutralized throughout the night. The only pressure Miami put Derek Carr under came on blitzes. The field conditions may have had something to do with it, but negating Cameron Wake, Charles Harris and Andre Branch’s effectiveness allowed Oakland to be successful on third down.
Reshad Jones had a tough game in coverage, Michael Thomas still doesn’t take proper angles, and Xavien Howard was picked on consistently.
Matt Haack continues to be a shaky punter and Cody Parkey missed his third extra point of the season.
Despite the loss, Miami remains in the thick of the AFC wildcard hunt. Although recent performances would suggest that the Dolphins don’t have the look and feel of a playoff team, the second half of the season is full of important game.
2017 has been a year mired in bad breaks. The focus for the final eight games is to find pieces that can be long term cogs on the offense, and continue implementing this effective defensive scheme.
Miami travels to Carolina to finish up its primetime trifecta. Six of Miami’s final eight games come against teams with winning records.
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