Coming Up Short: Grades From the Dolphins’ 12-10 Loss to the Seahawks
What a weird start to the 2016 NFL season. There were crazy finishes throughout the league, and it was no different at CenturyLink Field. Miami put a scare into “The 12s” in Seattle, coming closer to an upset than anyone could have imagined possible prior to the start of the game. In my preview of this matchup, I said it should be taken as a win if the Dolphins keep this game within ten points, but with the way the game progressed, this one may hurt a little bit for Miami fans.
In the end, Russell Wilson did just enough to lead his team to victory. Miami managed to contain him through three quarters, but by the time the fourth arrived, Wilson was a different player. Wilson completed a perfect two-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin with 31 seconds left, and the Seahawks won 12-10.
Ryan Tannehill: A-
Ryan Tannehill did all he could to put his team in a position to win. Considering the opponent, the fact that Miami came within two points of the upset despite a terrible performance from the offensive line (and every receiver not named Jarvis Landry) is quite amazing.
Tannehill showed admirable toughness and grittiness throughout the game, despite being under consistent pressure. Tannehill played at a particularly high level in the fourth quarter. First, he converted multiple third downs to put his team in field goal range while down by three. Unfortunately, that field goal was blocked. With his next possession, however, he picked apart Seattle’s defense with two straight plays of 28+ yards. He later capped off the seven play, 86 yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper.
Overall, Tannehill’s leadership stood out above all else. Tannehill threw an absolute beauty of a ball to Kenny Stills only to see him drop what would have been an easy touchdown, and he was given a clean pocket on only a small percentage of his drop backs. Despite this adversity, he bounced back to score the vital touchdown in the fourth. While Miami didn’t win, Tannehill looked great against one of the league’s best defenses.
Running Backs: C+
With Jay Ajayi inactive for the game, Adam Gase rode Arian Foster hard from the start. He only tallied 13 carries but was on the field for an overwhelming majority of Miami’s plays. He had Miami’s biggest gain of the game with a 50-yard catch and run on a swing pass and averaged 4.0 yards per carry through the second quarter.
Williams also got off to a quick start, although in limited work, as he picked up 9 yards in his two rushes in place of Foster in the first half.
The second half was a totally different story. Foster failed to find any room between the tackles and wasn’t a big factor as a check down option either. William didn’t even receive a carry after the start of the third. Not much could have been expected of the Dolphins’ backfield with the weak performance of the offensive line. They seemed to miss Jay Ajayi and Isaiah Pead as well, as they didn’t have a true option to relieve Arian Foster.
Williams was the recipient of one of the aforementioned 28+ yard pass plays on the touchdown scoring drive, which helps the group’s grade despite a rough game on the ground. Overall, both Gase and Tannehill seem to trust their running backs coming out of the backfield and looked their way early and often, especially when under pressure. Now, they just need to find the same big play ability on the ground.
Jarvis Landry: A
Tannehill’s top target, Jarvis Landry, got off to an incredibly slow start to begin this game. He simply could not find any separation from Seattle’s defensive backs and was therefore limited to short dink-and-dunks for nearly the first three quarters.
Despite the rough start, Landry turned it on when it absolutely mattered most. He converted a huge third down to sustain the drive that eventually resulted in the missed field goal and two more first downs on the touchdown drive. In all, Landry totaled three catches for 51 yards in the fourth quarter. DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills garnered plenty of attention as breakout candidates throughout the offseason, but it is as obvious as ever that Landry is still the man in this offense.
Kenny Stills/Jordan Cameron: F
Speaking of Stills, he was terrible in this game. In the second quarter, he got behind the last level of the defense and was delivered an absolutely perfect pass by Tannehill but simply lost concentration and saw the ball bounce off his hands. It isn’t often that you have the opportunity to score an easy 70-yard touchdown versus the Seahawks, but this was one of those times and Stills botched it.
At this point, it seems like we should be ready to copy and paste “Jordan Cameron: F” into each of our post-game analyses. He drops passes consistently and rarely gains upwards of ten yards. Miami’s top tight end is a shell of his former self, failing to display any of the explosiveness that made him such a dangerous big-play threat in his breakout season in Cleveland.
Offensive Line: D+
Tannehill was under constant pressure and there were no holes created in the run game. The group as a whole surrendered four sacks, eight quarterback hits and countless quarterback pressures throughout the game.
The offensive line was absolutely manhandled after the break, allowing three sacks in the second half. In fact, there isn’t one player along the line of scrimmage who seemed to have a particularly good performance. They were undeniably inconsistent and had trouble communicating on various occasions. On one particular instance in the second quarter, Brandon Albert was left completely clueless: his assignment cut inside, past Jermon Bushrod who was already engaged with a defender, and took down Tannehill for an eight-yard loss.
The crowd noise made the offensive line look silly at times as well. At one point, rookie center Anthony Steen remained motionless as Tannehill frantically called for the snap behind him. With the play clock about to hit zero, an annoyed Tannehill was forced to call a timeout. Although the wasted timeout did not come out to bite them in any specific way, it is clear the offense suffers without Mike Pouncey.
Defensive Line: A-
If it weren’t for a weak performance against the run in the fourth quarter, this grade would be higher. Jones also hurt the groups performance with a couple of late hits on the quarterback. Nonetheless, the defensive line tallied three sacks and nine QB hits on the game, forcing Wilson to look uncharacteristically uncomfortable in the pocket.
Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell and Cameron Wake all had strong performances, and Jordan Phillips forced a fumble by pushing a lineman into the legs of Wilson, leading to an errant pitch.
I’ve consistently said that this is Miami’s best position group, and they played like it in this game. With defensive coordinator Vance Joseph looking to employ an attacking defense, strong defensive line play is going to continue to be vital.
Miami’s linebackers didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy, and that might be a good thing considering their performance last season. Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi all played tough defense against the run in the first half, taking advantage of the defensive linemen occupying blockers.
They failed to clog the holes in the line of scrimmage nearly as well in the second half, however, and remained shaky in assisting in pass coverage. Right before halftime, Luke Wilson was left completely alone for a 19-yard catch and run to put Seattle firmly in field goal range:
Evidently, this grade was consistently worse throughout 2015, and the linebackers were reliable enough in this one that they can’t be considered the reason for the loss.
Defensive Backs: C-
While the secondary was good for much of the game, they fell apart on the Seahawks’ final drive. Sure, they gave up chunks of yardage here and there, but they mostly limited the damage. The bend-don’t-break strategy isn’t always successful, but it was for most of this one.
Reshad Jones and Isa Abdull-Quddus were superb, acting as forces against the run in addition to the pass. Abdull-Quddus even notched an interception. The defensive back’s tackling was generally sound as well, especially by rookie Xavien Howard.
However, the touchdown drive can’t be ignored. The zone defense was picked apart, and Byron Maxwell gave up this fourth down catch just before the two minute break:
Soon thereafter, Bobby McCain was beat badly to surrender the game-winning touchdown. Tannehill put the team in a position to win this one, but the defensive backs couldn’t secure it.
Special Teams: D
The Dolphins avoided major blunders in both punt/kick returns and coverage, which is a positive, and Jason Jones blocked a PAT but Andrew Franks’ blocked field goal was a disaster. He kicked it way too low, and rookie linemen Laremy Tunsil got pushed right back into the kick. There is simply no excuse for this mistake.
Gase’s head coaching debut wasn’t perfect. He had some questionable play calls here and there, and he decided to go for it on fourth down when he could have taken three points instead. Yet, I liked the aggressiveness of that call against a team as talented as Seattle.
When it comes down to it, Gase and Joseph put their team in a prime position for an upset. They had a solid game plan set up and managed to prevent major mistakes on both sides of the ball until the very end of the game. Miami may have lost, but Gase and his staff had their troops prepared for a battle against one of the league’s best.
Boy does it hurt to see a C+ in this section. Had they pulled out the win, it obviously would have been higher. Seattle gave Miami plenty of opportunities to take control of this game, and they simply failed to do it. Tannehill and the defensive line did all they could but the rest of the team was shaky. When playing a team with a quarterback and defense of Seattle’s caliber, you simply have to be better. While last year’s Miami games were plagued by mental errors and poor coaching, this one just came down to subpar poor execution.