Can the Dolphins still make the playoffs? The short answer is yes. Absolutely.
I’m never ever one to candy-coat losses, but I somehow feel surprisingly optimistic after this particular loss. No blowout, no cold-weather letdown, no ineffective Tua. Just a hard-fought game vs. a superior opponent on their own frozen turf.
Coming into the game, I was more concerned with how we shook off the California losses. I figured we’d lose to the Bills, but would Tua look like his September-November self? Yes! Would the defense roll over? No. Somehow, some way, the defense stopped Josh Allen much better than they stopped Mr. Irrelevant.
When the Bills jumped ahead with 14 quick points, I was looking ahead to Aaron Rodgers carving us up next week. No Packer defense and no WRs, but still it’s Aaron Rodger playing in perfect weather. I feared that for a few minutes. But now I’m more confident. As long as we bring the same A-game we showed last night, we can win out the next 3. That’s not something I was thinking last night at halftime.
We were close last night. Agonizingly close. Imagine if Trent Sherfield didn’t drop that perfectly placed TD pass that Tua sent his way. Imagine if Tua didn’t trip over his own two feet on his way to an easy first down. Imagine if the refs didn’t flag us 4 times in one series….one two separate series! Imagine if Jevon Holland didn’t get hurt right before the Bills last few plays’ before halftime, when the Dolphins were playing with literally their 5th and 6th string safeties back there and you could see confusion all over the place.
The main thing that needs to improve is Mike McDaniel. His rookie mistakes continue to show his inexperience, and it is costing us dearly.
I’ll start with his incorrect decision to go for 2 points early in the second half. We were down two. Whether we tie it up with a conversion or else kick the XP and be down one point, we still needed to score, with a lot of game left. Kick the one sure point and keep the momentum.
As soon as we failed on that conversion, I wrote in our live chatroom what would happen, because it always happens. We ended up going up by 5 points, and then a long Sanders FG put us up by 8. Still a one score game. But if McD would have kicked the XP, we’d be up 9. That is a gigantic difference. Especially psychologically to the Bills, since Allen tends to press and make mistakes when he’s trying to play from behind. (Remember the strip sack when the Bills were behind)?
No, unless there was 0:01 on the clock in the 4th quarter and we were down by two, you kick your extra points. Might not have mattered in the long run, but I do believe in getting into the opponents’ head, especially a Bills team full of bullies. A 9-point lead disheartens them. An 8-point lead merely encourages them. McDaniel’s fault.
We faced NUMEROUS third-and-short during the game, and McD’s play calls were horrible. He ran the same play twice–once to Waddle and once to Hill, where they ran a quick out pattern while blanketed by defenders. Another was a lob pass to Smythe. The 2-pt attempt was another dud. All of these short-yardage plays were designed to go to one player, and Tua had no other options nor checkdowns. If you want to hit Waddle on the quick out, then at least use play action or a fake handoff.
Better yet, why not a REAL handoff? On a night when Mostert and Ahmed were gliding through the defense with ease, why bench them on these crucial play calls?
Also, on a side note, this is something I’ve said for years and I said it a thousand times in our live chatrooms during the game…The Dolphins MUST improve their effort on 2nd down. Why do we face sooooo many third-and-shorts each week? It’s because on second down, the guys lose focus and effort. Say we rush for 5 on first down, and now it’s 2nd and 5. Invariably, a Dolphin will run a 4-yard route. Their thinking (or perhaps it’s McDaniel) is “Close enough. We can easily pick up another yard on third down.” It doesn’t work that way usually. Not for us.
Or else on that same 2nd and 5 play, we run it up the middle, and our guy gets tackled after 3 or 4 yards. Those are the plays where they must be taught to fight. Pretend your 2nd and 5 plays are really 4th and goals. Fight for that extra yard instead of thinking “Third-and-manageable is good enough.”
McDaniel’s inexperience also shined last night with his lack of leadership and knowledge of the rules. I admit, I don’t know the rule about those Buffalo animals throwing snowballs, but McDaniel should. You don’t politely ask the ref “What are the rules about fans and snowballs?” NO! Instead you pull your team off the field and demand (don’t ask) for 15 yards. Make a statement, McDaniel!
In Miami, they stop games for a single raindrop because the players’ union is afraid of nonexistent lightning. But when our Dolphins are being pelted by actual snowballs, our head coach doesn’t know the rules, and NFL Rules apologist Mike Pereria comes on and smiles makes jokes about the snowballs, while our guys are behind hit with flying ice. McDaniel showed zero leadership last night. Play strategy was adequate, but leadership was sub-par and sub-missive. He is not a lieutenant anymore; he is the supreme general.
He also blew it big time on a play when Josh Allen threw a ball to his offensive lineman. It’s either grounding or illegal touch, take you pick. Five yards and loss of down. Somehow, remarkably, the refs pretended not to see it. That’s fine. The refs clearly wanted Buffalo to win, so they looked the other way. but the cameras don’t lie.
McDaniel needed to challenge that play and back them up. How does he miss that?
Not just Pereria was laughing at the ice balls, but the announcers also, all of them from afar, in their comfy booths. I remember Chuck Foreman the Vikes RB, getting seriously injured in his eye from one of those, long ago, also in Buffalo. It has potential to do major damage to anyone, which is why the NHL correctly and strictly enforces any fans throwing anything down on the ice – to be thrown out immediately. They know the potential threat it is to their players, and they protect them. Meanwhile, the NFL just laughs at all of that. Would love to see Pereria or the announcers get pelted in the eye by an ice ball, and see how funny they think that is then.
Just another example of how the NHL is so much better run then the NFL, from making their schedule way ahead of time, which the NFL never does, and the list goes on and on ….
I don’t think the refs ever purposely favor a team, but I do know they’re human. Someone rubs you the wrong way or argues a call in the 1st quarter, you remember that later in the 4th and maybe you flag them for something ticky tacky.
Consistency is the key. Being inconsistent is worse that being wrong. And this year, the refs are horribly inconsistent. And they aren’t disciplined for bad calls either. Another component of this that hurts.
Admin, you captured my sentiment perfectly. Strangely optimistic, even though we should have won that game. Players played their heart out. Tua looked much better, defense played well. We got our running game going (but strangely did not use it on key short downs).
That two-point attempt was so Stooopid! Bad decision. All for the reasons you outlined. I was screaming at the TV screen. The Chip Kelly virus lives on.
A key play was on our last possession. Play call was way too cute & complicated for snowy conditions. A receiver screen play of some sort, 2nd & 9 at BUF 40, Tagovailoa pass short right to T.Hill to BUF 43 for -3 yards.
Yeah, the play calls on 2nd and third down were head scratchers all night long. I think part of the problem is what occurs in practice. When we practice quick out-routes to Hill and Waddle, our own Dolphin defenders in practice are 30 yards off the ball, which is where they typically line up in games. So when Tua tries those short quick passes in real games, they are always covered. because other defense play close to the WRs like they should. Same thing with short checkdowns to our RBs. They are always swarmed and tackled after a yard or two. But when other teams do that to us, it’s 10-15 yards a pop. A high arching lob to Durham Smythe with the game on the line and we only needed one yard? Horrible call. The play went exactly as it’s drawn up, it’s just that Tua and McDaniel had zero comprehension to figure out that the Bills were right on top of Smythe pre-snap. It had no chance.
the other thing, McDaniel is a kid still, for all intensive purposes. How many snow games has he witnessed or participated in?
I have seen too many snow games to know that as soon as it started snowing heavily, Dolphins needed to put down the fancy complicated playbook and just do simple offense.
All of the above is correct. I always thought the rule was to only go for 2 when it’s in the 4th qtr usually later as you don’t know how the score will shake out that early.
One ref actually was hit in the back too bad it didn’t hit him in the head so they would actually do something about it. Iceballs can hurt badly believe me my arse is still sore from getting strapped in school for hitting a girl a mile away..unlucky shot!
I’m not mad about all of MM’s calls as I get it when there is 8-9 men in the box you have to throw it but when its 3rd and 1 run the damn ball twice or if anything play to your teams strengths which isn’t 2 yard out patterns that the D is sitting on. Throw a slant or fade if it’s that open as you have fast guys who can run under that.
Again tonight blatant PI on the Was receiver in the endzone no call. Fins had at least 2-3 of those last night blatant one on Hill and no call. Everyone is getting frustrated except the league make it challengable so they can get it right. Teams must still use a challenge so you won’t have a 100 of these per game but at least it would be right and we fans can sleep better at night knowing our teams aren’t getting completely screwed. Damn frustrating.
I was wearing a hood one winter in a snowball fight, and a kid chucked one straight at my head, a gorgeous shot! So as I turned away to avoid it, the snowball actually flew between the side of my cheek and the inside of my hood. I felt it graze my ear, and the whole hood flew off. I was millimeters away from a broken face or worse.
Now back to the Dolphins, LOL…
R.I.P. Franco Harris. The other day, I had just set my DVR to record the Franco bio airing this Friday. Dolphins-Steelers didn’t really have a big rivalry back in the 70s, but Franco carried the torch from the Dolphins dominance to the Steelers dominance. A few other teams were in there, but essentially the Dolphins and Steelers owned the 1970s.