If you were one of the unfortunate souls who didn’t watch the game for whatever reason, you can find my quick recap of the game here. Now, without further ado let’s take a look at What Went Right, What Went Wrong and the WTF moments from the Dolphins’ commanding outing in Week 5.
What Went Right
The Dolphins outplayed the 49ers in all three phases of the game, imposing their will from start-to-finish. After last week’s showing where Miami had trouble finishing drives, you wouldn’t have thought this was the same team.
Miami won this game because of their aggressiveness on both sides of the ball. The Fins played with an energy that San Francisco simply could not match, and it starts with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz has been a spark plug for his teammates; look no further than the sentiment from TE Mike Gesicki:
“The greatest teammate I’ve played with. The thing that makes him special is he makes the guys around him better players. If I could play with him for the next 15 years I would. He’s the man.”Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins TE
Fitz rewarded his loyalty from his teammates with a performance that flirted with perfection. “Fitzmagic” had an incredible first half, leading the team on six scoring drives to accrue 30 first-half points. He started out hot, orchestrating two touchdown drives on the team’s first two possessions, with scoring plays from TE Adam Shaheen and RB Myles Gaskin to jump out to a 14-0 lead.
Fitzpatrick would finish the game completing 22-of-28 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. The 43 points Miami put up was the most they have scored in a road game since Thanksgiving Day in 2003, a win over Dallas.
With rookie T Austin Jackson sent to IR, much of the success that Fitz had must be credited to the retooled Miami offensive line. The offensive line dominated in the trenches, allowing just three quarterback hits and nine pressures on 31 drop backs, noted by Travis Wingfield. Miami’s eight sacks allowed on the year are the 10th-fewest in the league, according to Pro Football Reference.
The offensive line also paved the way for rushing success late in the game to chew up clock and keep possession in the hands of the Fins. Myles Gaskin (16 rush, 57 yards, TD) had trouble navigating rushing lanes throughout the game, but that was to be expected against this SF defense.
Gaskin’s 21-yard rush to ice the game not only shows his improvement as a player, but the trust that the Miami coaching staff has in the former seventh-round pick to be the closer in waning moments of games, moving forward.
The extra time in the pocket allowed offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to utilize his big-bodied targets for passes down the field. Entering the contest, Miami’s longest play of the year traveled just 27 yards and they surpassed this feat multiple times.
Fitzpatrick’s 47-yard strike to WR Preston Williams swung early momentum in favor of Miami, setting up Shaheen’s TD reception. Fitz followed this up with a beautiful arcing throw to Gesicki, who rumbled 70 yards down the field for Miami’s longest play of the day.
Fitzpatrick was 5-for-6 with 199 yards and two touchdowns on passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the game. On an offense that has had issues generating explosive plays, this was the most encouraging aspect of Sunday’s game.
The Miami defense came to play yesterday, allowing just 259 total yards, totaling five sacks and three turnovers.
The front-seven is starting to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with, racking up 14 sacks in five games, good for seventh-most in the NFL. The sack parade was kicked off by DL Zach Sieler taking down QB Jimmy Garappolo (7-of-17, 77 yards, zero TDS, two INTs) on San Francisco’s first possession.
Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer threw a myriad of schemes and blitz packages that confused the 49er offensive line, as well as their quarterbacks. San Fransisco quarterbacks Garappolo and C.J. Beathard combined for a paltry stat line of 17-of-35 for 171 yards, one TD, and two INTs.
Ogbah has established himself as one of the most productive members of the Miami defense over the last few weeks, and this week was no different, as he totaled three tackles, one QB hit, a pass deflection, and a strip-sack in the second half, recovered by DL Christian Wilkins.
The pressure Miami conjured on defense, forced errant throws from Garoppolo, and the Miami secondary made him pay. On back-to-back drives to close the first half, S Bobby McCain and CB Xavien Howard each nabbed an interception to set up Jason Sanders field goal attempts.
Miami also welcomed the return of CB Byron Jones, who had been sidelined with a groin injury. The return of Jones, in addition to Xavien Howard on the other side, made for a lockdown duo as they gave up 20 yards on seven targets combined.
Speaking of Sanders, he was a perfect 5-for-5, as he continued his perfect season, converting all 14 of his attempts. Sanders has become a true weapon for a Miami team that is, more often than not, always in close games.
What Went Wrong
It’s tough to nitpick things that went wrong after such a dominating display, but the one area Miami struggled in was defending the running backs, in particular RB Raheem Mostert and FB Kyle Juszczyk.
Mostert seemed to be the only 49er who came ready to play on Sunday, toting the rock for 90 yards on 11 carries, averaging 8.1 YPC. Miami currently is giving up 5.0 YPC according to NFL.com, which is not a recipe for success in this league.
Mostert routinely found himself in the second level of the defense before being corralled, and his output likely would have been larger had the game script called for more rushing attempts.
Juszczyk didn’t dominate the game by any means; he is a fullback, so this was to be expected. However, Juszcyk has normally served as the H-back in the San Francisco offense and must be respected as a weapon.
Miami’s lack of awareness came full circle on a designed run to Juszczyk for a touchdown that gave SF their first points of the game and a glimmer of hope.
Other than that, the only other issue was the surprising amount of penalties the Miami defense committed, notably on San Francisco’s opening drive of the third quarter.
The 49ers were bailed out not once, but twice on unsuccessful third-down conversion attempts by penalties on the Miami defense; the first coming from a Nik Needham illegal contact call that wiped a Kamu Grugier-Hill sack off the board, as well.
Ironically, on the ensuing third down, it was Grugier-Hill who was penalized for unnecessary roughness to put San Francisco in striking distance for a Kendrick Bourne touchdown.
|Stats||Miami Dolphins||San Francisco 49ers|
|3rd/4th Down Conv.||6/14 (2/2 on 4th down)||2/12 (0/2 on 4th down)|
|Time of Possession||36:53||23:07|
How about the performance from DB Eric Rowe?
Coming into the game, limiting 49ers TE George Kittle would be paramount for the Fins to pull off the upset. Eric Rowe was tasked with stopping the Herculean star, and he was more then ready for the challenge.
Kittle — fresh off a performance where he recorded 15 receptions, 183 yards, and a touchdown last week — entered this game ready to feast on the Miami secondary.
The Dolphins D made Kittle look like a third-string tight end, limiting him to four receptions for 44 yards on eight targets. Rowe, in particular, played outstanding, surrendering just one reception for 11 yards in the first half, and just two for 24 yards through 60 minutes.
I’m sad to say RB Jordan Howard did not deliver another WTF moment, as he was listed as a healthy scratch for the game.
Miami was supposed to face off against the Denver Broncos next week, but the plan has changed after multiple schedule changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Broncos game is now scheduled for Week 11, originally Miami’s bye week. With that, the Fins’ bye week moves to Week 7, and the Dolphins will instead welcome the division rival New York Jets to town in Week 6.
The winless Jets have easily been the worst team in the NFL at this point in the season. Miami will have a golden opportunity to enter their bye week at 3-3, riding a two-game win streak.
San Francisco, on the other hand, will play host to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football next week.
(Featured Image Credit: Miami Dolphins)