Dolphins Dichotomy: Film Review of the Best & Worst Plays from Dolphins vs. Seahawks
The Miami Dolphins made Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks a much closer affair than many would have expected. The team was able to keep the contest tight until Seattle went ahead with a late touchdown that would end up being the game-winner.
The Dolphins will be kicking themselves for some of their key mistakes in this game, but the team did show promise. While areas will surely need close attention leading up to Week 2, there were moments in which we saw glimpses of a team that could be a serious threat much sooner than most expected.
Here is our breakdown of the best and worst plays from the Dolphins’ Week 1 showdown in Seattle.
Vintage Arian Foster Owns Earl Thomas:
At times, the Dolphins saw a vintage Arian Foster suited up in aqua and orange.
This is Foster’s bread and butter. He sees an opportunity and has the quickness and recognition ability to make the defense pay. Earl Thomas doesn’t see the cut coming, and pays the price.
The following play was even more exciting for Dolphins fans, as Foster made Earl Thomas his victim once again.
Let’s take another look at that stiff arm, just because we can.
Beautiful. Foster is able to make a defender miss and has the speed to gain extra yards in the open field.
Foster wore down throughout the game, but hopefully Jay Ajayi is back in the fold soon to help shoulder some of the load.
Isa Abdul-Quddus Shines:
The Dolphins had to be unsure of what they were getting with Isa Abdul-Quddus after a mixed preseason performance. However, he was actually one of the team’s bright spots in Week 1.
In the second quarter, Isa Abdul-Quddus was able to capitalize on a pass Russell Wilson simply heaved up to the right side of the field.
You can see IAQ breaking from the inside of the field when he sees the ball thrown, and he is able to jump into the pass and come away with the interception.
While the interception might show up in the stat sheet, Abdul-Quddus’ best play was actually a key fourth down stop.
On 4th & inches, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks want to go to the easy outlet in the flat for the quick pickup to move the chains. However, IAQ recognizes exactly what is going on. He makes a b-line for the receiver in the flat and has the speed to get there in time to break up the pass.
This was one of those “stand up and shout” plays from Sunday’s game. The Dolphins rarely did the right thing in key situations defensively against the Seahawks, but this was an example of a player taking matters into his own hands and making a huge play.
Ndamukong Suh Gets Push All Day:
Ndamukong Suh is a grown man. He has been a grown man for his entire career. He will be a grown man again in 2016.
Here, Suh shoves a lineman back into the ball carrier, leading to a loss on 2nd & 4.
Suh also makes an impact in the passing game. He deflected several passes in 2015 and is getting an early start in that category in 2016.
On the play above, Suh simply throws aside the blocker and has the foot speed to track down Russell Wilson in the backfield.
When you see that man running at you that fast, you hit the deck.
Ndamukong Suh was a force all day. Like I said…grown man.
Mario Williams Neutralizes Russell Wilson:
Mario Williams looked slow and sluggish in 2015. In his Dolphins debut, he looked like he could return to his typical form.
This is how you defend Russell Wilson. He is not worried about the receiver, and makes his way to Wilson in the backfield. Instead of trying to make an open field tackle on one of the league’s slipperiest players, Williams just makes sure that the play stays in front of him. He doesn’t dive or lunge for Wilson; he makes the smart play.
Tannehill Hits Carroo On 3rd Down:
I have preached about the need for intuitive route design in Miami for a long time. I have also praised Adam Gase for how he has used this strategy in the past. On Sunday, we saw it on display in the red zone.
Here, Tannehill finds Leonte Carro for the first down to keep a key drive alive. What looks like a simple curl route has much more under the hood.
This play doesn’t happen without a receiver designed to clear out the area between the quarterback and his receiver. Jarvis Landry comes across the inside of the field on a drag route. This takes the defender away, leaving an open lane between Carroo and Tannehill.
The defender plays deep off of Carroo, and Tannehill is able to make them pay.
This is the type of play that helps a team win games. On a crucial third down in a tight game, the coach’s play design makes life easy for the quarterback. Ryan Tannehill knows that there will be an opening. He is then able to exploit it due to lax coverage by the defense.
Dolphins (Finally) Go No-Huddle:
Adam Gase’s offense is predicated on being able to use tempo to take advantage of defenses through drives comprised of short passes. Early on in Seattle, Adam Gase did not want to use a no-huddle approach. To be fair, it was Tannehill’s first game in the offense, playing in front of the NFL’s loudest opposing crowd.
However, according to Gase’s statements on Monday, Tannehill eventually was able to convince him to incorporate specific elements of the offense into the final drive. One can assume, based on the plays that were run, that this meant going no-huddle.
The Dolphins’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive was a textbook example of how no-huddle attacks can pay dividends for a team.
On the first play, Tannehill hit Kenny Stills for a 16-yard gain.
On the next play, the offense went to the ground but did not huddle in between.
The play only goes for two yards, but they are tiring out the defense. Every play in the no-huddle attack slowly wears down a pass rush.
On the drive’s third play, you see exactly what the no-huddle does to a defense. Going into the play, you see Ryan Tannehill at the line making the call and adjusting based on where the defense lined up.
Ryan Tannehill has identified a weak spot in this defense based on the first play of the drive. He goes right back to that soft spot for another big gain.
Suddenly, a drive that started inside of the 20 is now heading towards midfield in just three plays. The team would use the no-huddle in more sequences during the drive, which obviously ended in the Dolphins’ only touchdown of the afternoon.
The Dolphins will take note of the success they had in this set. You cannot run it all of the time because it wears your team down as much as it does the defense. However, it should be incorporated more as a way to take advantage of Ryan Tannehill’s abilities and the freedoms he is afforded in this offense.
Did you know he played wide receiver?
Problems with Alternate Formations and Stunts:
Whenever the Seahawks would line up in an alternate formation, or shift formation on a play, it would throw the Dolphins off of their game.
Here’s an example from the Dolphins’ defense.
Baldwin is unaccounted for. He comes across the formation, and nobody is covering him on the play. These lapses are momentum killers for a defense and give offenses the easiest yards they’ll get in the NFL.
The Dolphins also struggled with shifts on offense, falling victim to several stunts on blitzes.
Here, the defender sees a gap in the middle of the defense. With the running back out in the flat, the defender knows he can attack the middle of the offensive line for an easy sack.
These plays killed the Dolphins in Week 1 and are easy ways for the opposing team to halt momentum and force a drive to end prematurely.
Next week, the Dolphins face the Patriots in Foxborough. No team uses alternate formations and shifts on offense or defense more than New England. Miami will need to clean up these issues ahead of Sunday if they want to avoid being victimized for the afternoon on exotic blitzes and offensive formations.
Tannehill Misses Reads On the Goal Line:
Adam Gase’s offense is designed well for red zone play. That also means that it is more nuanced in the red zone play. The Dolphins showed their only major cracks in the new offensive installation during a fourth quarter goal line possession.
First, Ryan Tannehill makes a throw late.
If Tannehill is going to Foster on this play, he needs to do so almost instantly. The only way that it results in a touchdown is if Foster makes a defender miss, and he cannot do that if the ball comes this late in the play. Adam Gase’s offense requires quick decisions. If you’re going to throw it, just do it. Here, Tannehill failed in that regard.
Later, Tannehill missed a read that could have resulted in a touchdown.
If Tannehill sees Leonte Carroo to his left on this play, it could have been six points. However, he shows that he is still not entirely comfortable going through his progressions in the new offense. Unfortunately, he locks onto his right side and entirely misses the opportunity.
While I do believe Ryan Tannehill had a strong day overall, and he did show good command of the offense, these were his two worst plays of the afternoon. He will need to improve on his decisiveness and ability to work through new progressions if he wants to be able to use this offensive to its greatest capabilities.
Blown Blocking Kills the Dolphins:
The Dolphins’ offensive line outperformed the 2015 unit on Sunday. However, they still have a huge issue with missed blocks. The team failed on several blocking assignments across the entire offensive line.
Branden Albert, who has been showing his age, missed a block early in the third that allows Michael Bennett to level Ryan Tannehill.
Here, Tannehill is once again hit because the offensive line fails on an assignment.
They send an extra blitzer here but Arian Foster misread where he needed to be on the play, and it ended up as another cringe-worthy shot on the team’s quarterback.
This was Laremy Tunsil’s first ever start at guard. While he held his own at times, it was far from a perfect day for the 13th overall pick.
On this play, Tunsil misses his assignment and allows the defender to flush Tannehill from the pocket.
Yes, the play ends in a throw away. However it could have been much worse, and no offensive lineman can allow free runs at the quarterback, rookie or not.
These are the same drive-killers that Dallas Thomas would cause during his time as a starter. After a full offseason in the team’s system, Tunsil should be able to avoid fully whiffing on assignments in a close regular season game.
The Seahawks’ field goal block that prevented a Dolphins’ tie would have even been avoided had blocking assignments been executed more consistently.
On the left side of the formation (right side of your screen), you can see Laremy Tunsil trying to take on two rushers while Ja’Wuan James just stands there. The play nets the Dolphins zero points because a blocking assignment allowed Seattle’s Cassius Marsh to bull rush in and swat back the kick.
The Dolphins will go nowhere if they allow mistakes to plague them up front. The NFL’s talent level is actually not as widely ranging among teams as one would think. One of the biggest differentiators is how many mistakes a team makes.
On Sunday, the Dolphins made too many up front to come away with a win against a quality team.
Frustrating Third & Fourth Down Situations:
While the Dolphins’ offensive line was problematic, the defense also struggled in huge third and fourth down situations.
These are simple failures in coverage, which we knew the Dolphins would face.
This play is a huge red flag. First, Kiko Alonso fails to make it to C.J. Prosise for the stop. Then, there is nobody else in the running back’s zip code to help. All he has to do is make one player miss, and a 3rd & 12 becomes 1st & 10.
Dolphins fans covered their eyes for most of the key downs in this game because they knew what was going to happen defensively. If the team wants to win against quality opponents, third down becomes a massive factor. You can give away opportunities against bad teams. Against the Seahawks you cannot throw away a chance to force the opposition off of the field offensively.
Wilson Hits Miami Where it Hurts…Cornerback:
All offseason, we knew it would come down to the corners. Of course, during Sunday’s game, the Dolphins gave up a game-winning touchdown because they lost a battle one-on-one.
This is one of those awful moments where you know what’s going to happen and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. In the horror movies, you tell the girl not to go into the abandoned house. As a Dolphins fan, you scream at your TV not to let Doug Baldwin get one-on-one coverage on the goal line.
But just like the girl and the abandoned house, it happened.
(Granted there was a bit of a pick set by the Seahawks. However, it was a legal play.)
This is a simple matter of masking weaknesses. However, the Dolphins’ defensive personnel issues will make things very difficult on the goal line. Unfortunately we learned this in the game’s most important moments, as the Dolphins gave up a game-winner to Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin.
Darren Rizzi Gets a Bit Too Excited:
See, here’s the thing. If I’m Jakeem Grant, I’m going to play badly on purpose. Seriously, why would I return a kick for 40-yards if I know some middle-aged dude is just going to mercilessly assault me afterwards?
Missed opportunities and mistakes. These two issues will haunt Dolphins fans all season, as they cost the team a chance at what would have been the NFL’s most shocking Week 1 upset in recent memory.
While it’s easy to be cynical about Sunday’s game, the Dolphins did show some promise. The front-seven actually played a good game against the Seahawks, and they did exploit the opponent’s biggest weakness (offensive line play). For the Dolphins’ offense, things went very well at times.
In the final moments of the game, fans saw Ryan Tannehill put the team on his back and take them down the field for a huge score to put them in the lead. This was the type of “take over the game” moment that fans have wanted to see from Tannehill for years.
However, the Kenny Stills play represents a missed opportunity. Questionable play calling in the second and third quarters represents missed opportunities. Missed reads by Ryan Tannehill also represent missed opportunities. Mistakes were clearly made up front on offense and on key downs defensively.
The Dolphins will now have a chance to show whether or not things really will be different with this new coaching staff.
In Week 2, we will learn whether Adam Gase and his team learn from their mistakes and clean up those areas, or if they fall victim to the same failings in a second consecutive week.