The Dolphins won their 3rd straight game and are now 6-0 when starting QB Tua Tagovailoa starts and finishes the game. Here are my takeaways from Miami’s victory in Chicago.
- Defensive struggles continue.
Miami’s defense has been bad this year, particularly against running QBs, and that showed up again in this one. Justin Fields ended up rushing for 178 yards; this comes after Lamar Jackson already gashed them for 119 & Josh Allen added another 47.
The Dolphins ended up allowing 32 points against a team that’s 21st in points this year, although they did score 29 and 33 the previous two weeks. Despite Miami acquiring pass rusher Bradley Chubb from Denver, they still struggled to create pressure. If Miami wants to beat tougher opponents down the stretch, that needs to improve.
The bright side is Miami won’t face an offense like Chicago again all year, they run the ball more than any other team in the NFL, and it’s not a strategy that can be replicated by others as most teams don’t have a running threat like Justin Fields. The Bears ran the ball 40 times against Miami, something that probably won’t happen again against Miami.
- Tua Tagovailoa remains hot.
For the 2nd consecutive week, Tua threw for over 300 yards and 3TDs. Before the game, Tua spoke about his deep ball as he made a jab to the naysayers; well if we’re being honest, if he wanted to brag about something it should be his intermediate throws over the middle of the field. He’s become absolutely deadly in that area by just manipulating defenders with his eyes and pinpoint accuracy. He’s currently 1st in every metric on throws in the 10-25 yard range, despite missing 2.5 games.
Having the fastest WR duo in the NFL in a QB-friendly scheme is obviously helpful, but what Tua is doing is still very impressive. He’s reading the field better than he ever has in his career and making decisions very quickly. His pre-draft player comparison was Drew Brees, and he’s beginning to resemble that.
There are still some areas to improve, particularly the much-critiqued deep ball. With a chance to seal the game on 3rd down, he underthrew Jaylen Waddle in what could have been a game-changing miss. His mechanics weren’t great on it, his body was going backward instead of stepping up and really letting the ball loose. It should have resulted in an 80-yard Touchdown, but poor mechanics resulted in the ball hanging in the air and an incompletion. He also missed a crucial 4th & 1 play to Durham Smythe, but I’m giving him a pass since it seems they didn’t get on the same page; maybe next time, just run for it when there are no defenders around.
- Special Teams show mixed results.
One of the quiet stories about Miami is how bad their special teams have been this year. Jason Sanders has regressed from his Pro Bowl form 2 years ago, and he’s clearly lacking confidence as he missed a 29-yarder.
Miami has no real punt returner, Cedrick Wilson has recently taken on that role, and he’s been average, but he’s not a player that can flip the field. Raheem Mostert hasn’t been good in kick return duty, and every time he takes it out, it seemingly ends in bad field position.
With that being said they had their best play of the season, as Jaelan Phillips blocked a punt, and Andrew Van Ginkel (who’s got a knack for the football) picked up his 2nd career TD.
- Dolphins’ running game remains unimpressive.
Going into the game I was hoping this would be the week the Dolphins running game would take off. The Bears ranked 31st in run defense, allowing 156 yards per game.
Miami only ran for 77. They didn’t need to run the ball much since the passing offense was unstoppable for 3 quarters, but it would have been nice for them to pick up some yards in the 4th quarter as they were trying to put the game away. In the 4th quarter Miami ran the ball 6 times for 11 yards, less than 2 yards per carry. That needs to improve.
- Tyreek & Waddle remain on a record-setting pace
The Miami Dolphins franchise leader in receiving yards in a single season is Mark Clayton with 1389; the Dolphins currently have two receivers who are on pace to surpass that mark.
Despite only playing nine games so far, Tyreek Hill already has the 12th-best receiving season for a Miami Dolphin. He’s currently at 1104; no other NFL player this season has reached 900.
What Mike McDaniel has done with this pair needs to be applauded. Hill is an unbelievable talent, but he’s performing better than he ever did with Patrick Mahomes & Andy Reid; that’s just absurd. Both Hill & Waddle have been put in a position to succeed, and they’ve taken full advantage of it.
- Clock Management needs work.
As stated previously, Mike McDaniel deserves credit, he’s given Miami their most exciting offense since the WildCat days, but that doesn’t mean he’s above criticism.
His clock management has been poor on several occasions. In this game, he had one of the worst-managed 2-minute drives in recent memory. After a long completion to Tyreek putting Miami in field goal range with two timeouts, they ran the ball and somehow didn’t take a timeout. They then lined up in an illegal formation and were forced to take a timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff. They somehow lost 30 seconds and still lost a timeout. Ultimately they settled for a Field Goal, which they missed, but with proper clock management, they could have gotten a Touchdown.
Fortunately, Miami hasn’t lost a game due to clock management; let’s just hope McDaniel learns from his mistakes and prevents it from happening again.