This game features the Miami Dolphins, owners of the flip-flop season in which they lost 7 games and then won 7 games, with a win before the losing the streak and then a loss to end the winning streak. They face the New England Patriots who are 10-6, and potentially division winners, depending on what happens in the Bills vs Jets game which is also a 4:25PM game. So with 1 game to go, we have regressed from a 10-6 season to now 8-8. The Patriots have improved from 7-9 and are currently 10-6. The Patriots will be playing for a division title while we’ll be playing for pride and to be the spoiler.
One game in a season of 17. Last week the Tennessee Titans exposed us for what we are. An incomplete team. We have a good defensive unit and really an awful offensive unit. I think what the physical Titans showed us is that our good defense isn’t good enough against better teams. It’s been said countless times but we all tend to ignore these sage words . . . “The game is won in the trenches”. The Titans superior offensive line wore down our defense. They took our strength away which is creating pressure in the pass game and forcing errors and allowing our excellent secondary to make plays. They had instead of a balanced attack, a heavy dose of running the ball which simply took away what we do best. I looked at this game and thought we’re going to feast with our pass rush, that QB Ryan Tannehill was going to fold under the pressure. The problem is, the pressure was never there. He had nothing to worry about after all. The run game opened up play action, we had to respect the run because they ran a lot. On pass plays, not even necessarily play action passes, we were held at bay, and when we did get pressure, the athletic Tannehill rolled out which then gave our defenders a choice, stay with the receiver they were currently defending, or or slide off and try and rush the QB who was now 10 yards away. Well, like opening day 2020 with Cam Newton running the college style RPO where the QB runs with a RB laterally in the backfield and either has the choice of keeping the ball if there’s a hole or handing off the the RB if there’s a hole further outside or a corner to turn. We guessed wrong all game that day. We basically did the same last Sunday peeling off a receiver and then rushing the QB which left an easy toss for Tannehill to the vacated receiver. Besides that, the Titans ran all over us, to the tune of 198 yards. Bad decisions were made all day because the Titans beat us in the trenches and frustrated us. Even star Jevon Holland bit hard on play action in the red zone and left TE Geoff Swaim wide open for a TD. It was just that kind of day.
Now to the offense, which was quite offensive. The Titans were more than willing to let us run the football, but they weren’t going to let star receiver Jaylen Waddle beat them. Taking away Tua’s security blanket seemed to throw Tua off all game. He picked an awful time to play very poorly. He wound up on one throw only to have the ball slip out, usually that kind of thing happens when the QB is Jolted during a sack but Tua managed that all by himself. Tua was also under pressure a lot of the day, the Titans finished with 4 sacks. I think the formula for this game could be easily broken down like this:
TENNESSEE TITANS O-LINE > MIAMI DOLPHINS D-LINE
TENNESSEE TITANS D-LINE > MIAMI DOLPHINS O-LINE
That’s really the story. They were better in the trenches than we were. They imposed their will on both sides of the football. Our zero pressure looks with 7 guys up on the LOS actually made it easy for the Titans to break off some big runs. You get a crease while 7 guys are all up close to the line there’s no one left to tackle at the point of attack. D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard both had runs of more than 30 yards and Foreman had another of at least 20. Head Coach Mike Vrabel outcoached HC Brian Flores. He knew his teams strengths, even without their best RB Derrick Henry. He knew he had the horses up front and used them accordingly. They had a small edge with their O-line on offense although like I mentioned, our defensive scheme actually played right into what they wanted to. Their defensive and front 7 were significantly better than our O-line. They had pressure all day and Tua was feeling it whether it was there or not.
So what does this game mean for our team? I think it means a lot. It’s not just that it’s against our hated division rival, it’s about the state of affairs. at 8-8, we’ve been Jekyll and Hyde. One game left to decide which team we want to end the season as. If I’m Chris Grier and Brian Flores, I want to smack the Patriots in the mouth today. I want to beat them so much so that people will be wondering why they’re in the playoffs and not us. After all, we will have beaten them twice this season. I know we’ve had success with our short pass game, but I’d love to either see us open the offense up and let Tua throw the ball downfield, even at his own peril. Either that or I’d like to see us run the ball down their throat, let Duke Johnson and Phillip Lindsay run wild! Of course the question is, with our offensive line, is either plausible? Probably not, which is why we’ll more likely see what we have seen all season. Whatever the gameplan is, please execute it well, and take down the Patriots. There will be no excuses for the Patriots, they need to win.
So what does this game actually mean? Are Chris Grier and/or Brian Flores on the hot seat? Rumors are swirling about on Jim Harbaugh, maniacal spittle and all.
There are so many things to evaluate when making the decision to cut ties with either the GM and/or HC. First off, if you fire the GM, and keep the Head Coach, is it fair to tell the new GM this is your Head Coach or do you try to find a GM that likes Brian Flores. It’s always been my feeling that if you are tearing it down, you tear it ALL down. No half measures, just clean the slate. I like Brian Flores, I want him to be our coach for the next decade or more. I feel less so about the GM. Lots of questionable moves. I’m going to pick an easy one. We sent OG Ereck Flowers packing to WFT for a measly 7th RD pick in April. Ereck Flowers had a good year in 2020, and was probably better than most of our O-linemen. Why trade a solid player for weak draft capital? The Shaq Lawson – Benardrick McKinney trade. I for certain did not want Lawson to be our starting LB/DE, but he would have fine as a rotational player. We traded for a guy that didn’t play football in 2021. At first I liked the idea of acquiring McKinney but I had no idea he was done, damaged goods. Our 2020 draft, filled with tons of draft capital. At pick #5 we chose Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert. Despite what I think, that move appears to be an error. At #18 we reached for a young (20 year old) OT who was a raw product coming into the NFL. He has all the attributes, athletic ability, size, frame etc., but right now he’s a LT playing LG (and poorly to boot!). Our third first round pick, DB Noah Igbinoghene has been a complete bust. he played a very minor role in 2020 playing 28% of the snaps in 16 games as a DB. This year he only appeared in 7 games starting 1 and playing 17% of the snaps. So much for the expected growth. The rest of that draft was hit and miss, OL Robert Hunt and NT Raekwon Davis were hits in RD 2. Safety Brandon Jones was a hit in RD 3. OG Solomon Kindley (RD 4) who may have played a part in the exit for Ereck Flowers regressed this season to the point he was scarcely used. After RD 4, we have only Long Snapper Blake Ferguson still on the roster.
The 2021 draft appears to be an excellent draft so far. Our top 3 picks, the first two both in RD 1 appear to be huge hits with WR Jaylen Waddle and DE/LB Jaelan Phillips. Safety Jevon Holland, our first pick in RD 2 seems to be an ALL-PRO in the making. MFFF who? The other 4 picks are questionable, although less so with the second of two 2nd RD picks. I think Liam Eichenberg is going to be a good OL. Give him a veteran OL with talent next to him and I think he’s going to be just fine. Sometimes you’re only as good as the guy next to you.TE Hunter Long had a rough year with injuries but hopefully he can turn it around next season. He has potential. Only one of the rest of our picks is still on the roster, RB Gerrid Doaks is on the PS. There was also all the trades preceding the draft We moved from pick #3 to pick #12 with the Niners. Then we moved up to 6 to acquire Jaylen Waddle. In the process, the Niners have our ’22 1st RD pick, and we have theirs. We received the Niners 1st RD pick in 2023 as well, so while it burns us next season, it will be good in 2023, provided they don’t finish high in the standings in 2022. All in all, I’d say it’s hard to kill Grier for what he’s put together here. Remember also that Tua was injured and missed 5 game starts, he came in relief for Jacoby Brissett in the win over the Ravens. I know we’re going to take a step back in the standings, even with a win on Sunday. I think Grier has put together a talented team with the exception being the O-line. I think we have talent there, we just a need a couple of talented players added in the mix to make it work, preferably veteran players. At 1-7, it’s amazing that Coach Flores held the locker room, and managed to do what’s never been done before, lose 7 games in a row and then win 7 games in a row. Never been done, probably won’t be done again. It’s hard to keep your team in line when lose like that but the team bounced back. You can certainly fault him for losing 7 in a row, no question about that. Bad decisions were made that impacted those losses. Still, I like Flores, but he needs help. The defense seems to be in good hands with Josh Boyer, but the offense, terrible O-line and all needs a legitimate OL coach and a better Offensive Coordinator.
The Patriots are 10-6, tied for the division lead with the Bills. They’re #8 offensively scoring 24.8 PPG. They are #1 in defensive scoring allowing only 16.9 PPG. Ironically, that’s precisely what we scored game 1 for the 17-16 win to start things off. Either our offense or defense defense is going to have to be special to win Sunday. We can’t show up and win this game. Last game against NEA we hit mac Jones a lot but he delivered strike after strike before getting hit. I thought he played well in the loss. The Patriots are running the ball and the combination of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have yielded over 1400 yards rushing and 19 TD’s. The Dolphins are 24th on offense scoring less than 20 PPG and 16th on defense allowing 21.8 PPG. Like I said earlier, be a little different today. Open it up one way or the other. I’d be fine with running the ball 40 times and winning and I’d be fine if Tua threw 4 TD’s and he was letting it fly. Be special. Be different. Win.