End of the Line: Breaking Down Miami’s Failed Goal Line Series Against Indianapolis

Four chances. Four plays. Four reasons Miami couldn’t win the game.

In the fourth quarter, with under a minute remaining, the Dolphins were able to put themselves in position to come away with a home victory over the Colts. They had first and goal from the five-yard line. A situation that could have allowed for some late game heroics ended up leaving fans with a sour taste in their mouths.

All four plays failed, but for very distinct reasons. By analyzing each individual play, you can learn plenty about the struggles of this team, and about why they have failed to make any semblance of improvement throughout 2015. 

Here is our full X’s and O’s breakdown of Miami’s final goal line series, in which they failed to score a touchdown that would have spared them a tenth loss on the 2015 season.

1st & Goal:

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This play was a designed rollout to the right. Ryan Tannehill took the snap, and followed his protection, which actually gave him a solid pocket a few seconds into the play.

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The problem is that the route concepts on the play made it very difficult for Ryan Tannehill to do his job. There was a chance for Tannehill to complete the pass to DeVante Parker over the middle of the field. However, given that it was 1st down, there was no need to attempt to thread the needle and risk an intercepted pass

The second option would have been a pass to Jarvis Landry, who really had no chance given his assignment. He ran an out and then cut up into the end zone. The issue is that the defender had solid position because he shifted over from Greg Jennings when he spotted the route.

In the end, this play was on Ryan Tannehill. From the angle below, you can see that Tannehill had Parker open with a step on Vontae Davis across the end zone.

TannehillRead

Greg Jennings drew double coverage, and there was a clear window during which Ryan Tannehill could have thrown the pass across the middle to DeVante Parker. Had he delivered the ball well, it would have been a game-winning touchdown for Miami. Instead, Tannehill attempted to throw a very difficult pass to Landry on the right side of the end zone. This was the first major failing for Miami in this red zone series.

2nd & Goal:

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This play represented another failing for Miami this season: personnel.

Miami went with four players out wide here. The four players they chose? Jordan Cameron, Matt Hazel, Greg Jennings, and DeVante Parker. Jarvis Landry was not on the field for a crucial goal line attempt, even though he is by far the team’s best pass catching option.

While the personnel in this case was questionable, the actual execution of the play worked. The safety misread the play and bit on Greg Jennings’ route down below the end zone, while DeVante Parker made a break to get open. He had a wide-open area as the second safety made a play on Jordan Cameron at the other end of the field. Tannehill attempted the throw, which probably would have been a touchdown had the Indianapolis defender not batted the pass away.

This play could have potentially been better for Miami had the underneath receiver’s route drawn coverage away from the throwing window. Because the receiver sat in the middle of the field, the linebackers for the Colts were in position to bat the pass away.

DeVanteSlipsCoverage

This is a bit nit-picky. The Dolphins had solid play design to get DeVante Parker open, but the linebackers for the Colts made a great play. However, it once again represents the Dolphins’ tendency to overlook the small details and intricacies of route selection that help create opportunities for players based on assignments away from the football.

3rd & Goal: 

3rd&10BC

This was simply a great play by Colts cornerback Darius Butler.

Jarvis Landry attempted to cut up the seam and take advantage of the Colts’ blitz. They sent all of their linebackers in, leaving the middle of the field wide open. Ryan Tannehill immediately recognized this and threw the ball to Landry. However, Butler managed to maintain tight coverage and stop Landry from making what would have been a game-winning touchdown catch.

Butler knew the middle of the field would be open, and was able to know where Jarvis Landry was heading. He followed him, and dove for the ball, knocking it away.

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There was nothing the Dolphins could have done here, but that does not help to ease the sense of frustration felt by fans. Even when Miami does something well, they can’t catch a break. It is very unfortunate, and highly representative of the 2015 season.

There is nobody to blame on this play. It was a good call from Miami, but a great play from Darius Butler.

4th & Goal:

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This play will remain the lasting memory of the 2015 season.

4th & goal. One last shot. The team can win the game here, or suffer their second-consecutive home loss, adding a 10th loss to their record.

This is where Dolphins’ fans have wanted to see players step up. Can Ryan Tannehill create something in a game-winning scenario? Can one player step up and take leadership when we need it the most?

As per usual, we didn’t get to find out due to mental errors and mistakes by the offensive line.

Often, when the snap count is botched by the center, the ball will sail over the quarterback’s head. This mistake by Jamil Douglas was less noticeable, because Tannehill ended up with the football. However, it was clearly a miscommunication between Douglas and everyone else on the offense.

He snaps the ball, and is the only player on the offensive line that gets out of his stance. Albert, Fox, Thomas, and Turner all were waiting for a different count upon which they would block. On this play, not even the receivers started running, which is the ultimate sign that something went awry with the count.

You really can sum up the Dolphins’ season in one image:

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Cluelessness, carelessness, poor execution, and poor preparation. Jamil Douglas’ first true start at center was as disastrous as imaginable, including a mistake in which he singlehandedly cost Miami their last shot to win the game.

Yes, had Brent Grimes’ interception stood, they could have won. Yes, had the refs not made the worst call of the year against Miami on Jarvis Landry’s “offensive pass interference”, they could have won. But, there was a chance to overcome the officiating issues and win the game in spite of the referees, and it was squandered because of Jamil Douglas.

Unfortunately for Miami, the season can be very aptly summed up by the play that could have won them a game, but instead represented the same lack of preparation and inability to execute that have plagued them throughout 2015.

The Skinny:

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If this had been Week 17, and Miami’s season ended on that play, it would have been the perfect conclusion for 2015. The football gods would have provided a fitting ending, and the memory of this play would have been forever stamped into our minds.

Instead, it put a stamp on a poorly executed goal line stand, and provided us an opportunity to really reflect on the shortcomings of this football team. There is no cohesion, no chemistry, and no execution. The Miami Dolphins had one last play on fourth and goal, and the snap count was botched.

If that isn’t poetry in motion, I don’t know what is.

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