Despite playing well enough in all three phases, inconsistent quarterback play and an inability to finish drives were the Dolphins’ downfall, as they suffered their third loss of the year, 31-23. The loss was Miami’s second at home in as many games, and cements the team’s third-place spot in the AFC East through four weeks with a 1-3 record.
Hey, it could be worse; we could be rooting for the New York Jets. Let’s count our blessings.
Be on the lookout for a more in-depth analysis of this game in the coming days; but for now, let’s recap the rapid takeaways from the afternoon.
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Miami came into this game with a ton of confidence coming off their first win of the season last Thursday Night, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars. Welcoming one of the hottest teams in the NFL in the Seattle Seahawks was obviously a tall order, but it served as a good measuring stick to gauge how much the Fins have improved in their second year under head coach Brian Flores.
The Fins possessed the ball first, and unlike last week, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick got off to a rocky start, tossing an interception to Seahawks DB Ryan Neal on the team’s opening drive. Fitz would finish the contest 29-of-45 for 315 yards with no TDs and two INTs, while leading Miami in rushing with 47 yards alongside his second rushing touchdown in as many weeks.
Miami played well offensively, but their inability to generate explosive plays against a poor Seattle secondary was a huge factor in this game, especially considering the absence of S Jamal Adams (groin). The box score suggests differently, as WR Devante Parker and RB Matt Breida both had receptions of 20+ yards, but that was largely due to runs-after-the-catch.
Fitzpatrick was often under duress, forced to settle for short pass attempts while relying on his receivers to pick up the slack with YAC. For instance, Parker had a productive day as Fitz’s favorite target, catching 10 balls for 110 yards. It was his first 100-yard receiving game of the year, and a lot of his damage was done after the catch, as Seattle’s game plan was tailored to not give up the deep ball.
”We kept them in front of us all day long and made them earn their way,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
The most detrimental aspect to the offensive performance today was settling for field goals after productive drives. Miami engineered five drives in a row that stalled on third down, two inside the red zone.
Whether it was a Fitzpatrick incomplete pass attempt, or lack of rushing lanes for RB Myles Gaskin (10 attempts, 40 rushing yards), the Dolphins simply couldn’t take advantage of their scoring opportunities. Luckily for Miami, K Jason Sanders was there to pick up the pieces, nailing all five of his field goal attempts (41, 29, 45, 43, 29) and continuing his perfect season through four games.
Fitzpatrick, once again, kept the game close in the waning moments, calling his own number on a 10-yard scoring run and successful two-point conversion to WR Preston Williams to cap the scoring at 31-23.
The defense turned in a satisfactory performance given the challenge Russ and the Seahawks offense presented, entering the contest averaging 37 points per game.
Early on, it looked as if the Seahawks would run away with this one; the secondary was, once again, without CB Byron Jones (groin) and Wilson took advantage early. Following the Fitzpatrick interception to open the game, Wilson wasted no time hitting WR D.K. Metcalf for a 37-yard strike to set up the first of two Chris Carson rushing touchdowns to give Seattle a 7-point lead and early momentum.
Chris Carson, who was hobbled by a sprained knee suffered in Seattle’s Week 3 win against the Dallas Cowboys, made life difficult for the Dolphins rush defense, finishing with 16 attempts, 80 yards, and two TDs.
Early on, it would have been easy for the defense to pack it in and concede to a much more talented team, but defensive coordinator Josh Boyer made adjustments and turned the tide for the Fins. Over the course of the next six drives, Miami gave up just ten points, keeping the game within striking distance until the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
The front-seven saw production from both offseason pick-ups in defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah, each registering one sack. Ogbah was a menace, accruing four solo tackles, and a tackle for a loss, coincidentally followed by Lawson’s sack on the ensuing play.
Seattle had no issue finishing drives once they got into the red zone, though, scoring on four of five attempts. The one instance where they failed came courtesy of an Xavien Howard interception, his second in as many games.
The defense traded blows all afternoon, but things unraveled quickly in the final five minutes of the contest. Following a 17-yard David Moore touchdown to extend the Seattle lead to 24-15, Fitz tossed his second interception of the day on a badly-thrown ball, giving the Seahawks prime field position.
Russ and the Seahawks took advantage quickly, with back-to-back plays eerily similar to their opening drive: a 33-yard catch-and-run from Metcalf, and a one-yard rushing score from Carson.
Wilson continued his MVP candidacy, finishing the game with a 24-of-34 for 360 yards, two TDs, and one INT. Wilson made a living today off the back end of the Dolphins secondary, as three separate Seattle receivers finished the game with at least one catch of 30+ yards.
The Dolphins will take a lot of the negative aspects from this game and learn from them. Defensively, stopping the run, and limiting the deep ball are both still areas of concern, but the good news is, the Dolphins won’t be playing against an elite quarterback for a while.
Fitzpatrick has played well through the first quarter of the season, but this is a results-driven league. Currently, the Fins are 1-3, with a match-up looming against a pissed-off San Francisco 49ers team coming off an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. If Fitz can’t get it done again, you’d have to wonder when it is going to be “Tua Time” in South Beach.
Up next for both teams, Seattle will fly home to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. Miami will travel to San Francisco for the first time since the 2012 season.
(Featured Image Credit: Miami Dolphins)