One of the qualities I like in Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is he’s not afraid to go for it and be aggressive on 4th down or any situation in a game. Sometimes, he might have to pump the breaks on his aggressiveness based on how the game goes, but Sunday paid off.
First, in the 2nd quarter, the Dolphins had a 4th and seven at the Los Angeles Chargers 43-yard line and trailing 14-10. McDaniel could have punted the ball and tried to pin the Chargers deep, but the game was going back and forth early on the offense, and it looked like it would stay that way. McDaniel was right, so he went for it, and the Dolphins got a first down on a 10-yard pass to Durham Smythe. The Dolphins scored a touchdown on the drive to go up 17-14.
However, the biggest decision was at the end of the first half. The Chargers had a 3rd down, and quarterback Justin Herbert slid short of the first down in field goal range with 14 seconds left in the half. McDaniel immediately called a timeout rather than let the clock run and have the Chargers call a time-out and kick the field goal to go into the half. The Dolphins got the ball back with 9 seconds left at their 25-yard line, and rather than go into the half, McDaniel runs a play, and quarterback Tua Tagoviloa hits Jaylen Waddle for a 22-yd gain to the 47-yard line and 2 seconds left. Then Tagoviloa throws deep to Braxton Barrios, and he gets hit before the ball arrives, and the Chargers get called for pass interference. The Dolphins got an untimed down and kicked the field goal to go up 20-17 at halftime.
That sequence was the deciding factor in the game, as the Dolphins won by 2 points. If McDaniel takes a knee, the Dolphins end up losing the game. In my lifetime as a Dolphins fan, I can’t remember in that situation 9 seconds to go into the half, and the team tries to be aggressive. All previous coaches would have taken a knee and gone into the half-tied at 17, but McDaniel isn’t your typical coach. He will roll the dice when he has to. That aggressiveness is something I’m getting used to as a fan. It’s great when it works, but when it doesn’t, it can bite you. McDaniel will take that chance and leave it all on the field. As a Dolphins fan, I find that quality so refreshing, and I know he did this last year, but it takes a lot of guts. Tagoviloa gets a lot of credit, as he should, for his play on Sunday, but I think everyone should look at McDaniel and his aggressiveness in the 2nd quarter, especially at the end of the half. No one is talking about this, and they should. It’s game 1, but there will be more of this aggressiveness the rest of the year, and it may not work out other times during the season; however, Sunday, it did, and it won the game.