Earlier this week, I had forecasted the Fins/Raiders game to be an early-round knockout. Alas, it ended up being a 12-round decision as Miami held on to beat the visiting Raiders 27-20. Either Raider Nation travels well, or there are many Raiders fans in South Florida, as almost the entire lower bowl behind the Raider bench was filled with their fans dressed in black. And despite having a rookie Head Coach with a mere two games under his belt and a Quarterback with just about as many starts, this game was never beyond a touchdown lead.
Yes, a win is a win, and it’s tough to win in the NFL and all those other cliches, but the Dolphins cannot beat quality teams with that kind of offensive effort. Who’s to blame? Let’s have a look at this week’s GBU list.
- DEFENSE (3 consecutive weeks). Vic Fangio’s unit once again deserves top billing on this list. Despite the offense giving up three turnovers resulting in very short fields, this unit stood tall and played an outstanding game, with the exception being a long 46-yard TD pass hauled in by Raiders’ talented receiver Davonte Adams, who got behind safeties Javon Holland and DeShon Elliott. They limited the Raiders to only five first downs and 133 total yards in the first half and only 12 first downs for the game. Jalen Ramsey made two acrobatic interceptions, and Jalen Phillips was all over the field with two sacks, 3 QB pressures, two tackles for loss, and a heads-up interception. They are playing playoff-caliber defense. Now, if only the offense would catch up.
- Tyreek Hill. What can you say about The Cheetah that hasn’t already been said? Ten catches for 146 yards and a TD seems to be the norm for Hill. Every time he touches the ball, he’s a threat to go all the way. The Raider secondary gave him so much cushion that he could break his routes 20 yards downfield and still be open. What an amazing talent he is.
- Raheem Mostert. This guy runs hard and never quits. His stats were not necessarily spectacular, but his 86 yards on 22 carries (no fumbles!) kept the offense balanced and the Raider defense something to focus on besides Tua and the passing game.
- Wait, what? He was 28-39 for 325 yards and 2 TDs. How could he possibly be on this list? Well, let’s start with the turnovers (see below). Tua lost a fumble early in the first quarter and began the second half with an ill-advised bomb over the middle to nobody for an easy pick. As I watched plays develop from my Hard Rock Stadium seat, he locked onto his first read, missed several open receivers, and looked out of sorts at times. This was game 10. We can all agree we expect more from him and at minimum, a much cleaner game.
- Mike McDaniel (repeat from last game). Who else is tired of Coach’s east-west passing game? Throw the ball sideways and hope your speedy receivers break a long gain. I get it. But so do the opposing teams. They’ve seen the film, and they’ve caught onto the act. The second down equals a run. How many times did they run on second down? Somebody help me with that stat. Is the offensive genius out of ideas because the offense looks very predictable and VERY conservative? I’ve mentioned this a couple of times already in the lack of aggressiveness in play calling. This is the most talent Miami has had on the offensive side of the ball in 20+ years. Speed to kill. Where’s the ‘attack mode’ been? Where is the ingenuity? Twenty points against the Raiders? Now THAT’s bad.
- Turnovers. In a class by themselves. Three of them. If the Dolphins plan to go deep in the playoffs, this simply HAS to stop. They were lucky to win this game against an inferior opponent. I hope this short week of practice focuses on taking care of the ball.
Why the NFL decided to play the Fins/Jets game this Friday after Thanksgiving is beyond reason. Three early Thursday games are not enough, I guess. If there was ever a trap game, this is it. The Jets are not a good team and have zero QB play. If coach McDaniel does his job, this game should be over at halftime. Something tells me it won’t be.