After an embarrassing performance up in Foxborough last week, the Dolphins looked to bounce back against the Bengals in week 5. The Dolphins offense got off to a slow start (what else is new) punting on their first two possessions.
Then, after being pinned back at their 5-yard line, they would embark on an 11 play, 95-yard drive in the second quarter capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Kenyan Drake. Tannehill took advantage of the mismatch when he saw Drake matched up against Bengals linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who runs a 4.78 40-yard dash, Drake ran a corner route and the speedy back had at least 2 steps on the Bengals linebacker in the endzone.
Special teams had a bounce back game this week, not only did Jakeem Grant return a punt 71 yards for a touchdown with less than 30 seconds left in the half, but Vincent Taylor managed to get penetration on the Bengals second quarter field goal attempt and come up with a block. Jason Sanders nailed his only field goal attempt of the day with his 42-yarder in the first half, and Matt Haack landed 4 of his 5 punts inside the 20.
The Dolphins red zone defense maintained the momentum it’s had all season. The Bengals came into the game converting touchdowns on over 87 percent of their red zone trips (11-13). On their first two red zone trips today, the Dolphins came up with an interception and a blocked field goal, the Bengals finished the day converting just one of their four red zone possessions for a touchdown. Reshad Jones was back to his old self leading the team in tackles on the day with 8, and Jerome Backer had a nice day contributing two sacks on the day. They did allow a passing touchdown in the red zone when Joe Mixon beat Kiko Alonso on Dalton’s first pass of the fourth quarter.
Penalties are still an issue. Once again, penalties are directly costing the Dolphins points, I’ve really beaten a dead horse with this one all year. On the Bengals third quarter drive, the Dolphins stopped the Bengals around midfield on an incomplete third down pass, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on TJ McDonald, on a pass that wasn’t even catch-able, allowed the Bengals the 15 yards needed to extend the drive and come away with 7 points, giving Bengals momentum to climb back into the game.
On the following possession, the Bengals came up with a freak interception on a breakdown in protection. Tannehill was swarmed and tried to get rid of the ball, it bounced off an offensive lineman and right into the hands of Michael Johnson, who simply had to turn around and waltz into the endzone to tie the game.
The offense line was bad today, they could not recover from losing Laremy Tunsil to a concussion midway through the game. Going with backups at left tackle, left guard and center, the Bengals were happy to capitalize on the Dolphins battered offensive line, sometimes lining up three defensive linemen over our backup lineman and only one on our healthy side. While the Dolphins did have a decent day running the ball, Tannehill was under pressure essentially the entire half. Tannehill lost a fumble and threw his first “interception” of the day on plays that came from breakdowns in protection and the ball just bouncing into a defensive lineman’s hands, both of which were returned for touchdowns.
This was, again, a tale of two halves. After shutting out the Bengals 17-0 in the first half, the Dolphins came out in the second half and did absolutely nothing. They gave up 27 unanswered points, which includes 2 defensive touchdowns. Yes, it is unfortunate that we are missing three of our five starting linemen, but this is the NFL, injuries happen. I believe this falls on the coach. Adam Gase needs to learn how to make the correct adjustments at halftime, because other teams are doing it and exposing the Dolphins in the second half. If this is the theme for the rest of the season, then Gase will be on the hot seat going into next year. Next week, we play the Bears at home, I can see Khalil Mack already salivating at the idea of going up against a line as banged up as the Dolphins line is right now.
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