Dolphins First Half of the Season: The Drop
Calling the Miami Dolphins season a rollercoaster is easy. They had a seven game losing and winning streak in the same season. No team had done that before in NFL history. It was a only a slight climb, beating New England in week one thanks to a fumble forced by Xavien Howard, before a steep drop.
The low points: losing to the winless Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons in back to back weeks. Both losses came on the final drives. Tua Tagovailoa had a rib injury that kept him out of four games. Backup Jacoby Brissett struggled in his absence. The end of the streak would come when the Dolphins lost at Buffalo 26-11. It was Miami’s seventh straight loss to the Bills.
Dolphins’ Climb Back to Playoff Contention
The Dolphins seven game winning streak started with a win against the Houston Texans, but it would get kicked into high gear the following week against the Baltimore Ravens. The 22-10 win set the pattern for the streak: short passing, in particular to Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki from Tua Tagovailoa, and a blitzing defense that sacked and confused opposing quarterbacks.
It was no surprise the defense was a strength as Head Coach Brian Flores was a former Patriots linebackers coach. After beating the Ravens until facing the New Orleans Saints, Miami defeated struggling teams: two wins against the New York Jets, a 33-10 win at home versus the Carolina Panthers, and beating the New York Giants 20-9.
The win against the Saints was similar too the other six: run the ball enough to take pressure off of Tua, and force a young or inexperienced quarterback into making mistakes. New Orleans quarterback Ian Book was making his first start. He would finish 12-20 with 135 yards passing. The Dolphins sacked him eight times and picked him off twice. Miami had climbed out of a 1-7 hole to get back over .500. That happened never happened before in NFL history.
Miami has had plenty of seasons of being on the brink of making the playoffs, only to fall short. The game against the Tennessee would be the whiplash moment for the Dolphins. Coming around the curve of the rollercoaster they would be jerked back to reality.
The biggest issues for the team would rear their head at the same time: bad run defense and offense, not enough weapons for Tua, poor offensive line play. In the 34-3 blowout Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill had to do very little. He only threw 18 times. Miami gave up nearly 200 yards rushing. Tua struggled to hold on to the football, fumbling three times, losing one. His number one option, Jaylen Waddle, only had two receptions. Trailing the entire game the team only rushed 16 times for 74 yards.
The End of the Ride
The end of the season came with a 33-24 win at home against the Patriots. Jumping out to a 17-0 lead proved to be the difference. New England was forced to abandon its running game, for the most part. That played into the Dolphins hands as the defense was able to force two crucial turnovers by Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. One was a pick six by Xavien Howard and the other was a fumble inside Miami’s 25.
Despite the win, the 4-2 record against New England, and back to back winning seasons for the first time in eighteen years, Brian Flores was fired. Sweeping the Patriots for the first time in twenty-one years was not enough and neither was defeating them for the third straight time. The Dolphins missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
The end of Brian Flores’ time was due to a power struggle and poor communication. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross chose to keep GM Chris Grier, despite Grier’s mixed record acquiring free agents and drafting. It emerged that assistants found Flores difficult to work with, which would explain two defensive and four offensive coordinators in three years. Flores also wanted to make changes in his staff this offseason.
As a result of his losing the power struggle Miami will be looking for its seventh coach, including interims, in Ross’ time as owner. Everyone involved in the organization must hope the team isn’t on the same ride next year.
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