In The Books: Grades & Analysis from Miami’s 33-17 Loss to the Bills
Collapse. Self-inflicted injuries. Poor run defense. Poor play by cornerbacks. Poor play by offensive linemen. The Miami Dolphins were haunted by the same problems that have plagued them all season against the Bills. The struggles the team has faced throughout 2015 culminated in this loss, which knocks them out of playoff contention for this season. Here are our grades and analysis for what was in all likelihood the final meaningful game of 2015 for the Dolphins.
This is not usually a category in my post-game analysis, but the referees deserve to be recognized for their atrocity today. Two crucial calls were blown: the Karlos Williams “touchdown” that really was a touchback fumble, and the Ndamukong Suh no-call for holding. Not only did the refs miss the holding on Suh, but they also incorrectly let the play continue when Suh had wrapped up Tyrod Taylor, which would have forced the Bills into a fourth and long. Both of these plays were officiated incorrectly and gave Buffalo touchdowns in key situations.
This question comes back to something I find myself asking almost every Sunday: Why can the most popular sports leagues in America not have full-time referees?
I am not blaming Sunday’s game on the referees, but those two calls could have contributed to a potentially changed outcome.
Ryan Tannehill: B-
I do not want to talk about QB play after this game. If you want to discuss Tannehill’s performance, that’s fine, but if you attribute this loss to him then you do not understand the full scope of Miami’s failures.
Tannehill actually kept the team in this game for much of the day and, with the exception of one fumble, did not make any crucial errors. We have learned this about Ryan Tannehill: he is not a quarterback who will overcome a bad team to make his unit good. He cannot overcome mediocrity. But in this case, his shortcomings did not cost Miami the football game.
Running Backs: A-
Jay Ajayi’s debut went as well as it possibly could have for the rookie running back, as he provided a strong contrasting style to Lamar Miller’s speed. Miller played well too, and they both were able to contribute when called upon.
With the exception of a few missed cutbacks, the Dolphins’ running backs were able to succeed today in spite of their offensive line’s failures, forcing ahead for 3-6 yard gains even when no holes were there.
Wide Receivers: B
What else is new? Jarvis Landry showed heart rarely seen by anyone on this team, and Greg Jennings dropped passes. I believe that this unit played well enough today, but the offensive play calling gave them a bad look. There were not many drops, and the nature of this game made them less important, as the matchup had to be won in the trenches.
Nobody in this group made any great plays, and only Greg Jennings made bad ones. Because what else is new?
Offensive Line: D
When we needed them most, they collapsed.
The Dolphins’ offensive line held up well early in the game, but when we needed them to strengthen up, as the game became a shootout, they couldn’t handle the weight. They began to struggle against the run, and Miami abandoned that strategy for an aerial attack. We all know how that ended.
Miami’s offensive line continues to be their main issue this season. The offense cannot establish any rhythm because they don’t know which unit will show up on any given play. Will they get the line against Houston, or will they get today’s group? It doesn’t change based on the week either. The inconsistency of the team’s run blocking and pass protection makes it impossible for any offense to establish rhythm or identity.
Jason Fox starting was a bad omen, but this unit has been playing poorly as a whole. There’s nothing left to say about this unit that hasn’t already been said, other than that they cannot step up when they are needed the most.
Defensive Line: D-
C-O-N-T-A-I-N. Spell it with me people, CONTAIN.
The Dolphins failed to contain Tyrod Taylor and he made our defense pay. Taylor picked up crucial situations on the ground and escaped the pocket to deliver the ball deep on the run.
The defensive line also clearly failed to stop the run, showing a complete inability to slow down the Bills’ offense. The linebackers didn’t help at all, but that was supposed to be a strength of our team. We were supposed to have one of the league’s best defensive lines. Watching our unit fail this miserably was very, very disheartening.
This has been an issue for the entire season, and it finally reached its climax against the Bills.
Jelani Jenkins is the only player in this unit who has any potential. Next offseason we must move on from Koa Misi, and Kelvin Sheppard should actually be deported. I don’t know, maybe Madagascar or Tokyo, but really anywhere that’s far away from Miami. He is not a starting caliber player, and I honestly wouldn’t even want him as a backup.
Unlike the defensive line, we knew linebacker would be an issue. The problem? They have been so mediocre that they can’t even capitalize on the amount of blocking allocated to the defensive line.
Buffalo ran all over Miami today, and it was in no small part thanks to the linebacker play.
Defensive Backs: D+
If Brent Grimes was graded individually for this game, it would be an F. Really, worse than an F. He was atrocious. Grimes has been somewhat of a liability all year, but today was worse. He was a downgrade from Cortland Finnegan and Benny Sapp today. He was sourdough.
Reshad Jones played well, as per usual. What else is new? He outperformed the entire unit. The rest of the Dolphins’ defensive backs actually looked okay today, but Grimes’ performance was one for the record books. Not the good kind either.
This team will need to rebuild their cornerback group next year as well. Grimes’ aging is becoming too dramatic to ignore, and the Jamar Taylor experiment is likely over as well (another blown 2nd round pick).
Special Teams: F
There might have been one return on which Miami did not hold or commit some penalty. The Dolphins’ special teams cost the offense and defense in this game. The starting field position was atrocious, and it was due to penalties. This unit will need to work on their discipline, as Miami will get blown out in every game they play this season if they are forced into starting field position like that constantly.
Matt Darr has a great leg. See, I found a positive.
Defensive coaching could not overcome the atrocity of Brent Grimes and the front-seven today. I get that. However, there really was no effort to increase blitzing or situational play to help aid in their efforts to slow down the Buffalo offense.
This grade is more so thanks to the offensive coaching. The play calling was abysmal. Calling a play from the shotgun on the one-yard line at the end of the half? Disgusting. I am 100% behind the decision to go for it instead of taking the field goal. The problems were that the clock was managed too poorly before that play, and that they decided to call a finesse play when they only needed one yard.
Dan Campbell’s clock management cost Miami dearly in this game, and Bill Lazor’s play calling forced him out of the job. While Campbell’s motivation got the team through a few games, this lack of awareness in key situations could end up being his downfall.
I give him infinite credit for the temporary turnaround he was able to institute, but situational knowledge is required as a head coach, and he simply lacks it.
Is this the part where I say something nice about Bill Lazor? Nope, can’t think of anything.
It wasn’t as bad as last time. This game simply got away from us in the fourth quarter as well as towards the end of the third. Miami fought back early, but their deficiencies showed what most of us already knew; they’re not a very good football team.
The 2015 season is most likely over. It would be nearly impossible for Miami to make a playoff push following an 0-4 start in the division. It’s a sad state of affairs, but one of which we have to accept. Miami will likely need to hit the reset button this offseason and go with new leadership on the coaching staff.
Even though we are only halfway through the 2015 schedule, and we will all still tune in to root for our team for eight more weeks…
There’s always next year.