The Dolphins (6-4) saw their five-game win streak come to an end Sunday, as the Denver Broncos (4-6) held on to win 20-13.
After two days of processing the defeat, here are five takeaways from the contest, ranging from Tua Tagovailoa’s silent afternoon to Andrew Van Ginkel’s odd outing.
1.) Tua’s gut check in Denver.
Just a week back, the former Alabama quarterback spoke about his transition to the NFL, saying that he ‘expected it to be a lot harder… not saying that it’s not hard.’
Thank goodness he threw that last little bit in there because it was definitely hard for him in the Rockies Sunday. Tua never looked comfortable in the pocket, as he was constantly under pressure. With six sacks, Denver did what no other defense has been able to do: welcome Tua properly to the much harder than college NFL.
Tagovailoa completed 11 of 20 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Although he recorded no turnovers, it was by far his worst performance of his early professional career.
Denver’s signal-caller Drew Lock, on the other hand, was pressured very little as Miami’s defense failed to record a sack. Lock finished the game with 270 passing yards and one interception.
2.) Miami still lacks offensive line depth
With some shuffling of the offensive line, it’s clear the Dolphins still need a little more quality in reserves. With rookie guard Solomon Kindley leaving the game with a foot injury, protection breakdown just got worse. The Mile “High” Miami fans had been feeling the past month-plus, was rudely interrupted by a Denver defense that on paper, the Dolphins’ offense should have matched up well with.
And with offensive lineman Jesse Davis on the COVID-19 list, it’ll be on Chan Gailey and his group to pick things up against a win-less New York Jets (0-10) team.
3.) Miami couldn’t run if their lives depended on it.
Miami’s weakest area by far is the lack of a run game. It’s really bad. The Dolphins were outgained on the ground 189 yards to 56. I knew coming into the game that the combo of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsey would be a tough outing for the Dolphins’ defense. However, I didn’t know it would be as bad as ever, considering that running the ball was Salvon Ahmed, who emerged last week against the L.A. Chargers.
Miami’s lack of a run game is probably the biggest reason Tua is constantly pressured. No team will respect a run threat that doesn’t exist. It needs to change and change soon. Miami’s running backs are like the teams in the NFC East; it’s there for the taking but no one will step up.
4.) Van Ginkel plays the villain and hero.
Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel has been a bright spot for the Dolphins and has been making plays all over the field, whether it be on defense or special teams. Sunday against Denver, driving late in the fourth quarter, Van Ginkel was guilty of two drive extending penalties that let Denver reach the red zone. That same drive, Broncos running back Melvin Gordon was steamrolling to the end zone for what would have been his third touchdown of the game and the final nail in the coffin for Miami.
Instead, Van Ginkel forced a fumble that Miami was able to recover to still have a chance to tie the game. The Dolphins need all players to recover from Sunday’s villain status and be the hero’s Gotham.
5.) Fitz is still… Fitz
It’s clear even after Sunday, coach Brian Flores made the right decision to move to the young quarterback in Tagovailoa.
Ryan Fitzpatrick came in after Tua proved all game to be ineffective to try to provide a spark. While he had more yards in two drives than Tua had all game, and was effective in moving the ball, classic Fitzpatrick was lurking. Vintage carelessness cost Miami the game when Fitzpatrick threw 20 yards to the end zone to DeVante Parker, who was blanked in coverage. Denver safety Justin Simmons intercepted the pass to put a quick end to Miami’s short-lived come from behind rally.
Gut checks are often needed in the NFL to keep teams from letting small bits of success go to their heads. I do expect the entire Dolphins team as a whole to regroup and get a victory in New York. Tua, I’m guessing, will watch his words this week in front of microphones and cameras as well. A slice or two of humble pie for Thanksgiving, courtesy of the Broncos might prove to be what the Dolphins needed heading into the last month of the season, as they still sit only a game out of first place in the AFC East.