As we always say at Dolphins Truth, it’s not rocket science. When something (or someone) is working well, then keep doing it. Over and over again, until it no longer works. And by relation, if something is NOT working, then you must abandon it.
That is an unquestionable tenet of the NFL, but one which Adam Gase refused to accept. Until the Steelers came to town.
Gase FINALLY did a few things right. Simple things that we’ve been calling on him to do:
- He realized that putting Ryan Tannehill in a 7-yard-deep straight dropback every other play was a disaster. So he gave up on it.
- He saw that Jay Ajayi was finding daylight, and he kept calling his number.
- He saw that Cameron Wake was being effective out there, and he kept him out there.
- He saw that our red zone drives were failing and kept settling for 3 points. He avoided the temptation to be frustrated and risk going for it on 4th and goal. By showing such patience, those 3 points added up each drive, and before long, we were ahead 9-8. Steelers were feeling good about stopping us in the red zone 3 or 4 times in a row, but when they looked up at the scoreboard and saw they were still losing, that’s when it started to unravel. We got a touchdown finally on the next drive.
- He saw the rollouts and play actions and even bootlegs were working, so he tried it more than once.
- He saw Byron Maxwell toughen up against the NFL’s premiere receiver, and he left things alone.
- He saw the Steelers puking from our relentless pounding, and he stuck with it. Remember this poor fellow?
Yes, pretty much every single Dolphin played their best game of the year, and that helped.
But make no mistake about it: This victory came from the fact that Adam Gase called a fine game and didn’t overthink anything. He abandoned his insanely incorrect and stubborn assertion that the line must protect Tannehill 100% of the time when he drops back straight and just sits there forever.
It wouldn’t be Dolphins Truth, however, if we didn’t analyze a few items where improvement is needed.
Let’s enjoy the win, but we’ll have to put up with a little rain on the parade:
As much as I like and compliment Gase for sticking with the calls and the personnel that was working, still he didn’t quite do it enough. He needs to establish a clear backup to Jay Ajayi and stick with it. Damien Williams is slowly turning it around. My readers know I’ve been hard on him, but he’s shut me up this year and played tough yesterday, including his first career rushing touchdown. So then why was gimpy Arian Foster out there? There was a play where we needed 4 yards and Foster caught a pass after 3 yards. One yard to go. A simple lunge, right? Instead, Foster tried to juke a guy, who didn’t bite on it and buried Foster. Meanwhile Williams and Ajayi were carrying Steelers on their back for a few extra yards each time. I think Foster can be great and I’m not saying to give up on him. But on a day that belonged to Ajayi and Williams, Foster should have been holding a clipboard. If Ajayi was stinking up the place, THEN you try Foster.
Ryan Tannehill managed the game adequately and came out on top. However, he still makes poor decisions, even when good things occur! With about 8 minutes left, and with a chance to put the game away, Tannehill faced a 3rd and a foot. 24 inches. Gase (finally!) called a naked bootleg, and it worked to perfection, with no one in front of Tannehill. Remember, we only needed one foot to keep the drive alive and the clock ticking.
Instead of just running a few yards and sliding, Tannehill dangerously held the ball, stubbornly waiting for a backup tight end to become clear. He eventually completed the pass and we got the first down. Still, throwing the ball wasn’t the right play. Not when we only needed a foot and he had clear sailing to get it.
Here’s the play in question. Tannehill waited an eternity for Gray to get open and then threw the ball in the middle of FOUR Steelers. I marked them in red, and you can see the lone Dolphin receiver amid a sea of black. If Tannehill just kept running, he would have picked it up. It was a risky pass to get us a few more yards. And certainly not worth the risk. Not with the number of drops we have all the time.
With about 12 minutes left, Gase opted for a 50-yard field goal instead of a punt to pin the Steelers deep. Mind you, we had a 15-point lead at the time. The 3 points would have been great, but it was no gimme. Not with Andrew Franks and his iffy track record. Our defense had been stopping Pitt all day, and no harm in sending them back out there with Pitt pinned deep. OR…. if Gase doesn’t want to punt, then why not go for it? It was 4th and 1, and for once our offense was picking up yardage. Play it safe and punt, or else show some heart and go pick up a yard. Those are the two worthwhile decisions. Instead, Gase took the third choice, which was a long field goal. Franks already has two short, gimme field goals blocked this year, so it’s time to call out that overrated Darren Rizzi.
Most important…and sorry to rain on our parade…As good as we played, there was still a ton of luck and blown calls that helped us. We committed a horse-collar tackle right in plain sight in the middle of the field, but the refs missed it. That NEVER happens against Pittsburgh, and I can’t emphasize how lucky we were there. Instead of Pitt getting a first down at mid-field, they had to punt.
We tried a sneaky onside kick in the first quarter, and it was botched. Terrible execution all the way around, and the Steelers easily grabbed the ball. But Lady Luck smiled upon us, and one of the refs wasn’t ready so they let us try again. This time, we did a normal kickoff.
Both of those plays could have spelled disaster.