In Miami, victory has been hard to come by in the Brian Flores era thus far, so I’m sure coaches and players alike enjoyed the much-needed win over the course of the weekend. If you couldn’t catch the game or need a refresher of what transpired check out my review here to brush up.
For now, let’s take a look at What Went Right, What Went Wrong and the WTF moments from Thursday Night’s contest, a dominating 31-13 win for the Miami Dolphins over the Jacksonville Jaguars. As always any questions or comments? Find me on Twitter – @Donny_Diablo7.
What Went Right
For once this season, everything went the Dolphins’ way over the course of an entire 60 minutes of football. The Fins played complementary football and outclassed Jacksonville in all three phases of the game on Thursday Night.
The Miami offense had its best outing of the season led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has historically played well against Jacksonville (141-of-221 for 1,643 yards, 13 TDs, 5 INTs all-time prior). Fitzpatrick entered the game with a 5-3 career record against the Jags, while winning his three previous matchups against the Jacksonville, according to Pro Football Reference. The result of most games with Fitz under center depends on what version of the player shows up. Thankfully, there was a heavy dose of “Fitzmagic” in the air from beginning-to-end to propel the team to victory.
Fitz started the game with perfection, completing his first 12 passes of the night to an array of Dolphins pass catchers. The Miami offensive line played well, and was much improved in pass protection, giving up just one sack all night, courtesy of Jaguars 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen. The play of the O-line was huge in giving Fitz time to scan the field and dissect the Jacksonville defense. Fitzpatrick deserves much of the credit for this victory, playing an almost-perfect game, finishing with 18-of-20 for 160 yards and two TDs through the air, alongside 38 rushing yards and a score on the ground.
“This is a group that’s coming together,” Fitzpatrick said during a postgame appearance on the NFL Network. “Today was just a little bit, one little step of where we’re going. But I think we’re on the right path.”
Miami came out hot with three scoring drives to start the game, the first for Miami since 2000. After two weeks of vanilla game plans, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey called a great game, establishing the run on the Dolphins’ opening series, and finding different ways to get the ball in the hands of Miami playmakers not named Mike Gesicki.
For instance, Gailey’s call for a designed run on an end-around to Jakeem Grant (pictured above) resulted in a 29-yard pick-up for the Fins and put Miami in striking distance for their second score of the evening. Grant has elite speed, boasting a 4.38 40-yard dash time; it was great to see Gailey utilize this (albeit, just once), but it’s clear Grant must be respected when he has the ball in his hands.
The Miami rushing attack played up to par as well registering 138 total rushing yards with 66 coming from running back Myles Gaskin. The success on the ground allowed Miami to keep the Jacksonville defense on their toes with their play calls, unlike the last two weeks. Moving forward, it is integral for Gaskin to touch the ball early and alleviate pressure on the passing game.
Turning our attention to the defensive side of the ball, Miami made life difficult for everyone on the Jacksonville offense aside from James Robinson. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II was on fire over the last two weeks, and pundits expected another productive outing from the former 2019 sixth-round pick, but the Fins defense had a thing or two to say about that.
The defense we saw on Thursday Night was night-and-day compared to its last two outings. Minshew and the Jacksonville offense had trouble extending drives, being held to a 3-of-10 conversion rate on third down attempts (0-of-3 on fourth down). Miami defenders played with their hair on fire, particularly the front-seven. Led by veteran OLB Kyle Van Noy (two QB hits, a sack, a forced fumble, and one recovery) the defense tortured Minshew, ending their night with a combined 10 quarterback hits and four sacks. Minshew finished with a pedestrian 275 passing yards and zero touchdowns.
“We had too many mistakes tonight,” Minshew said in a postgame video conference with reporters. “That’s kind of plain and simple. No matter what the score is, we should be able to go out and execute. We just didn’t do a good enough job of that.”
The rush defense also turned in their best outing thus far as well, not allowing the Jaguars to hit the century mark as a team on the ground. This improvement is vital, especially with upcoming games against the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, two of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL.
The performance of the secondary must be applauded as well, especially with the absence of CB Byron Jones (groin). Jones’ absence meant that rookie CB Noah Igbinoghene would once again be tasked with an expanded role in pass coverage.
Igbinoghene has only been playing cornerback for two years, and is still learning the nuances of the position. Following last week’s “Welcome to the NFL” lesson from Bills WR Stefon Diggs (eight catches, 153 yards, one TD), Igbinoghene responded much better this week, not letting the Jaguars receivers beat him for big plays down the field.
Igbinoghene looked completely lost last Sunday, but seemed to be playing with more instinct this week, notably coming up from his corner spot to thwart a third-down conversion early in the contest to keep momentum on Miami’s side. Igbinoghene’s development will be aided by the hopeful return of Jones this week to the lineup, and the improved play of CB Xavien Howard, as he will not be tasked with covering the opposing team’s top receiver most snaps.
What Went Wrong
While Miami played a great game in all three phases, no win is ever perfect, and there are always areas to improve in. Defending running backs in the passing game was surprisingly a minor issue over the last few weeks, but this could just be a byproduct of teams having had so much success passing down the field.
The secondary did a great job of shoring up the back end this week, so it forced Minshew to routinely check the ball to running back James Robinson on pass plays. Robinson seemed like the only Jaguars offensive player that knew he was playing in primetime, and accounted for almost half of Jacksonville’s 318 total yards.
The UDFA had been on a tear through the first two weeks of the year, averaging a robust 5.1 YPC, according to Pro Football Reference. Robinson added to his impressive totals, finishing the night with 11 attempts, 46 yards, and two TDs on the ground, accounting for both of Jacksonville’s trips to the end zone.
As previously mentioned, Robinson also did a bevy of damage in the passing game as well, as he was Minshew’s favorite target out of necessity, not design. Robinson caught all six of his targets for 83 yards, and did most of his damage on an impressive 24-yard catch and run on the games opening play from scrimmage for Jacksonville. If Robinson can keep this up, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up as the Offensive Rookie of the Year when it’s all said and done.
Despite injuries to their starting running backs, Seattle and San Francisco are two teams armed with a stable of versatile running backs, and the Dolphins will see both teams over the next two weeks. Hopefully, Robinson’s production was just a flash in the pan due to game script, and the Fins can limit future success in this area.
|Stats||Miami Dolphins||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|3rd/4th Down Conv.||8/14||3/13|
|Time of Possession||34:22||25:38|
There weren’t too many on the field WTF moments, but both plays went in favor of the Dolphins. The first came on the Jaguars’ first drive of the second half on a 3rd-and-5 attempt near midfield. Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer had already dialed up a number of pressures throughout the game, and was showing an all-out blitz in Cover 0.
As the ball was snapped, Minshew was met with immediate pressure and heaved the ball down the sideline overthrowing Chris Conley who was all alone due to busted coverage. The play served as microcosm for the night for the Jaguars offense.
The second moment came following a James Robinson touchdown, in which Jaguars replacement kicker Brandon Wright (Josh Lambo on IR) missed the extra point, always a laughable moment of course, unless your name is Brandon Wright.
Much of the WTF element to this game was built up by the battle of the Beard vs. the Mustache, and it was easy to see who won tonight. If the play on the field wasn’t clear for your answer as to who is truly superior, look no further then Fitz’s post game attire here — what a legend.
Again, the most absurd statistic to come out of this game is just how bad Jordan Howard has been with limited opportunities. Howard has become the king of one-yard touchdowns, scoring his third in as many games. The startling trend of more attempts than rushing yards continued, as he finished the contest with only one yard on three attempts.
The Miami Dolphins will be back home next week, welcoming Russell Wilson and the undefeated Seattle Seahawks to Hard Rock Stadium, Sunday at 1:00 PM EST. Wilson will be the best quarterback the Fins have seen to this point, and he is playing out of his mind through the first three weeks of the year, boasting an absurd touchdown to interception ratio of 14:1.
Wilson has been nothing short of spectacular, and is making his case for his first-ever MVP campaign. It’s a tall task for Miami, and pundits will surely call for a slaughter but crazier things have happened in the NFL.
(Featured Image Credit: Miami Dolphins)