Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dolphins-Titans Game Observations

Well, I certainly didn't see that coming.

Coming into Week 10, I felt the Dolphins matched up very well with the Titans. In particular, I didn't expect Chris Johnson or a presumably rusty Jake Locker to be able to do much of anything against the Miami defense, even with their secondary issues.

Turns out the bad Dolphins showed up, as the Titans gained the momentum early and sucked all the life out of their opponent by the second half. It was clear no comeback was going to happen as it looked like Miami just completely gave up midway through this one.

The Dolphins have a short week with a Thursday night matchup against the Buffalo Bills, so they'll need to have a short memory and rebound from this shellacking similar to how the Titans did after their massive loss to the Bears a week ago.

Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Titans in Week 10.


Offense

  • This certainly wasn't the best game by Ryan Tannehill, who didn't get much help from his offensive companions. The running game was nonexistent and Brian Hartline was the only reliable target, while the offensive like struggled for the second straight week. I put part of the blame on him for the first interception (he should've seen the guy that tipped it), no blame on him for the second interception (blatant defensive pass interference) and 100% blame for the third as he just made a terrible forced throw late in the game. Rookie quarterbacks are going to have their rough patches, but I'm not worried about Tannehill at all.
  • Reggie Bush's fumble early was extremely costly, giving the Titans an easy touchdown and early momentum. That being said, I am totally confused by Joe Philbin's decision to bench Bush for the rest of the half. I get that it led to a Titans touchdown and that turnovers kill games, but we're talking about one fumble, and one fumble by the veteran leader and best player on the offense. If you bench Bush for a whole half, you're not just punishing Bush. You're taking away the team's best weapon and punishing the entire team. I don't get that move by Philbin. That's not the right message to send and it clearly didn't help anything.
  • On the other hand, I did think Daniel Thomas played pretty well, rushing, receiving and blocking. I'm glad to see him getting more playing time after his early-season struggles and multiple concussions.
  • The receiving unit basically summed up the Dolphins' situation. Hartline was reliable but is clearly a No. 2 guy. Davone Bess is a reliable slot guy and made an incredible catch late in the game. We don't have a real weapon at tight end. Nothing's changed here.
  • The offensive line had another down day, even if Tannehill wasn't sacked until late. Jake Long is still not looking like himself, while Jonathan Martin continues to get burned at times and the interior linemen just haven't been getting it done lately. These guys needs to have some pride and start dominating like they have in the past, because the past few weeks they've really been losing the battle upfront. I'm also curious to see Richie Incognito's penalty, where he reportedly shoved an opponent's helmet into the turf and got benched for the rest of the drive by Philbin. Of course, Nate Garner got destroyed on the first play in for Incognito, so penalty or not, I'd rather have Incognito out there.


Defense

  • This was not the best of days for the defensive line and the front seven in general. Not only did they allowed their first 100-yard rusher in 22 games, but they also did it in a fairly embarrassing fashion. They over-pursued all day and were clearly so worried about Chris Johnson's speed that they kept leaving the backside edge wide open for him to cut back. I understand that's a hard thing to anticipate, but when the defensive line clearly has the stretch run sealed off, there is no reason for the linebackers to all take such deep angles the same way. Pursue from the backside and prevent Johnson from turning a loss or short gain into a huge gain.
  • Cameron Wake was probably better than most, playing the run well and putting pressure on Jake Locker despite being constantly held. I swear, Wake has been blatantly held a few dozen times this season that haven't been called.
  • Like I already said, the linebackers didn't have a good day and didn't do a good job of pursuing and sealing off running lanes for Chris Johnson. Karlos Dansby had a good play later in the game but should've made an interception. (I thought the guy was a Hall of Famer?) Kevin Burnett was invisible it seemed, even though he led the team in tackles.
  • I can't remember a single time all game Sean Smith had good coverage, although I assume it had to have happened at some point. It seems like he constantly let receivers catch passes uncontested and, true to form, he dropped a few interceptions. I've never seen a guy that's so cocky play so badly at times, and it makes me just hate him.
  • Jimmy Wilson had a nice sack on a blitz, and if it's one thing I'll say about him, it's that he's doing a lot of little things well. Coverage hasn't been one of them, however, and that's obviously most important. Still, he's giving the Dolphins more than most seventh-round picks do.
  • This also wasn't a very good game for our safeties. They didn't tackle well, they didn't pursue well, and some plays were just boneheaded. Chris Clemons should've laid a on the receiver short of the end zone on Tennessee's early touchdown after the Bush fumble. And Reshad Jones being burned on third and short for a touchdown to Jared Cook was just laughable. These guys have to be better.


Special Teams

  • Dan Carpenter missed a field goal attempt on a windy day, only to be saved by a timeout as the play clock expired. He rebounded and put it through the uprights on his second attempt.
  • This was a rare rough day for Brandon Fields, who averaged just 39.2 yards on six punts and had a few line drives in the wind that really didn't go anywhere. Obviously, there's nothing to worry about here though.
  • Marcus Thigpen had some solid but unspectacular returns, although there wasn't much blocking there. Marlon Moore seemed to be on every special teams tackle and I thought he had a great day.


Conclusion

I've always felt like the Dolphins are a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde team (you never know which will show up) and that's probably the result of the team just not being all that good. We certainly saw the bad version today, and I really didn't expect it because I thought the Dolphins matched up well against Tennessee and brought superior talent to the table.

As we've seen so many times watching this sport, however, turning the ball over a lot absolutely kills you and today was no exception. The Dolphins were thoroughly dominated and seemed to have the life sucked out of them after some early mistakes.

Beyond the on-field issues, I really hope the Dolphins get some other things straightened out. Joe Philbin needs to cut out the questionable or stupid decisions (i.e. benching Bush or challenging nonreviewable plays) and the Dolphins players need to have some pride and keep giving effort all game. We've seen amazing comebacks in the NFL before, but there was no chance of it happening in Miami today because the Dolphins just gave up.

We're probably see the good Dolphins show up next week against the Bills, but I don't know how you could ever predict it. Those with playoff hopes should probably temper expectations and just hope to see some progress from Tannehill and the rest of the team over the second half of the season.