The disappointment factor is definitely there. Brian Flores’ 1-3 start to the season has been a shocking one for himself, to say the least.
Now possessing a 6-14 record as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, while there’s no urgent expectations of a winning campaign, many, including himself, are not proud of the early-season positioning they’ve been placed in.
Still, there’s hope for a successful road ahead.
“We take this one game at a time,” Flores said one day after the Dolphins’ 31-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. “… If we start thinking down the road it’s probably not gonna help us all that much.”
Miami failed to score a touchdown until 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, failing to respond at a Russell Wilson led offense which scored 14 unanswered points in the final period. Instead, the Dolphins put their trust in the hands of kicker Jason Sanders, who nailed all 5 of his field-goal attempts.
One of those drives came back to bite the Dolphins, however. Placed at the Seattle 9-yard-line on 3rd and 3, Flores and his staff choose to hand it to Myles Gaskin, who lost 2-yards and would result in a 4th and 5.
Instead of going for it, considering that the score was 17-12 Seahawks with under eight minutes to play, Miami settled with three points instead of a big-time play with a significant opportunity cost.
Wilson and Seattle ultimately put the nail in the coffin, as they moved to 4-0 on the season.
“We felt like we stopped them a couple times prior to that, so we felt like that was the best move right there,” Flores said. “In hindsight, you can look at it given the score, given the way the rest of the game went. You can sit there and say hey, you probably should’ve done this, that or the other thing.”
Now entering Week 5 of the season versus the reigning NFC East champion San Francisco 49ers, there a lot at stake in terms of how the remainder of the season could pan out for the Dolphins.
That being said, here’s where Miami stands with a quarter of the season gone by.
1.) Fourth quarters struggles remain critical to lossing woes.
Finishing games have been a remaining issue for the club early on. Whether it be on the offensive or defensive side, Miami has dealt with constant tendencies that keep them from outmatching opponents.
Against the New England Patriots, it was a mix of Cam Newton’s ground game that helped extend the duration of possessions and an unnecessary roughness foul by Jerome Baker. Such sequences prevented the Dolphins from having Ryan Fitzpatrick and his group attempt to score with an opportunity to take the lead.
Then versus the Buffalo Bills, a cross-route on a crucial 3rd and 9 resulted in a 46-yard passing touchdown from Josh Allen to wide receiver John Brown. The score gave the Bills a 31-20 lead with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter, as Miami’s defense blew their 20-17 lead and the offense failed to put more points on the board.
Once again in Sunday’s contest, a combination of poor red-zone execution and a costly secondary mistakes allowed Seattle to make a once 17-15 lead to 31-15 in a span of 4 minutes and 15 seconds.
“It starts with me,” Flores said. “I gotta coach it better and we gotta play better, try to put an emphasis on playing our best in the fourth quarter. We didn’t do that. Every game it’s been close in the fourth quarter. We have to finish better.”
2.) There’s no pressure to implement Tagovailoa.
Despite the inconsistent play from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s already racked up five interceptions, tied for 29th in the NFL, there seems to be no immediate rush to get Alabama rookie Tua Tagovailoa on the field.
As worded by coach Flores, while he’s ready and healthy to go, he won’t let pressure to get his highly-touted quarterback to cover ground for Miami’s offense.
“He’s checked all the boxes from a medical standpoint. He has,” Flores said. “Look, the honest thing for me is if it was my kid, and he had a serious injury like that, I wouldn’t want his coach to throw him in there because of media pressure or anything like that. That’s kind of how I approach this situation and really all situations. The players, essentially, they are my kids. So no one is going to pressure me into doing anything. When we feel like he’s ready to go, we’ll put him in.”
While Flores wouldn’t clarify Miami’s starter for Week 5’s game against the 49ers, he did “presume it’s going to be Fitzpatrick.”
The veteran quarterback seemingly looks to remain part of the Dolphins’ starting group, although that patience could be dwindling on a game-by-game basis. Ultimately, it seems as if Miami will hand Tagovailoa the keys to their offense once they could assure him a permanent spot as the starting signal-caller.
For now, he’ll have to remain No. 2 on the depth chart.
3.) The Igbinoghene show must go on.
Hate all you want, Noah Igbinoghene deserves more praise than people expect. At 20-years-old, the first-round pick out of Auburn is the youngest player in the NFL, and is starting at cornerback for a Dolphins secondary that hasn’t lived to its expectations.
Igbinoghene has been forced to replace Byron Jones, who’s sidelined with a groin injury he sustained in the first quarter of Miami’s Week 2 loss versus the Bills. Since then, he’s been tasked with defending some of the top receivers in the league, including Stefon Diggs — 153 yards, 1 touchdown — and David Moore — 95 yards, 1 touchdown.
Moore was a vital piece in Seattle’s success Sunday, as Igbinoghene bit on Wilson and gave the receiver enough space for a 57-yard gain. That play set the tone for a 4 play, 75-yard possession for a touchdown in just 21 seconds.
Then with under six minutes to play, the rookie failed to stick with Moore, resulting in a leaping catch for a touchdown, extending Seattle’s lead to two possessions. After the game, coach Flores addressed Igbinoghene’s errors, understanding that it’s part of the game.
“He’s a rookie, he’s going to have his ups and downs,” he said. “Last week he played well. This week he didn’t play well. Two weeks ago he didn’t play … He’s a resilient kid. He’s a talented kid. He’s got to learn from this. We’ll help him. We’ll coach him, and I think he’ll get better.”
4.) It’s about time Miami notches an upset victory.
Just imagine what a road victory against a 49ers team could do to Miami’s morale as they continue playing non-divisional teams for weeks on end. The opportunity could spark a fire for the Dolphins, allowing for them to keep their postseason hopes alive.
At the end of the day, while it’s still early on in the season, Miami has already exceeded their room for error, as there positioning projects them to have a top-five draft pick for the second consecutive season.
That could change this upcoming Sunday. Even though San Francisco is banged up, the ability to compete with a highly-touted club is nothing short of a confidence booster for the Dolphins.