Dolphins 14 (6-4)
Rams 10 (4-6)
All 32 teams in the National Football League carry a uniquely told story each season. Some bask in constant triumph while others flounder in weekly heartache. Then there are those that weave uncharted paths highlighted by a defining moment that can be coined a microcosm of that team’s success or failures.
So when Jarvis Landry was stood up five yards short of the goal line at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the prevailing thought on the minds of Dolphins fans everywhere was that of doom and gloom. This is the same old team capable of exciting its fan base with a run of thrilling wins only to see that hope succumb to the ghosts of Dolphins past.
But not this team. Not under this coach.
And when Jermon Bushrod, Kraig Urbik, Ja’Wuan James, Dion Sims, Damien Williams and Ryan Tannehill arrived at the pile created by the electric Landry, the fight in this team became apparent.
As Landry clawed his way to pay dirt, with the help of his friends, the Dolphins cut the lead to just three points despite making their first mark on the scoreboard of the day.
Behind the arm and leadership of the suddenly ultra-reliable comeback artist, Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins scored 14 points on their final two possessions after authoring 10 punts and an interception on the 11 previous.
It isn’t even the best stretch of his career, and it’s certainly not the best season either. But quarterback Ryan Tannehill is warming to even the ficklest fans of this team.
Completing 12 of 13 passes for 115 yards and two scores on those crucial drives, Tannehill engineered his third come from behind victory on the season, the 12th of his career, and has the Dolphins in position to seize control of the sixth and final playoff seed in the AFC with a win over San Francisco next Sunday (Miami would tie the loser of the Denver/Kansas City game and earn tie-breaking rights by way of conference record.)
What an incredible turnaround when just six weeks ago fans booed he and this team off the field at Hard Rock Stadium. This tape is a difficult re-watch. But coming back to pull off the victory made it much more enjoyable.
Early in the year, I talked about Ryan Tannehill’s new found ability to maneuver in the pocket to create open throwing lanes. That skillset had gone by the wayside early in the season but it has returned in recent weeks. He’s sensing pressure during this winning streak and breaking the pocket to create more favorable situations for his receivers.
In general, today clearly wasn’t his best game. The offense was stuck in neutral until the final two possessions and a lot of that could be attributed to the poor offensive game plan.
The blame for the interception he threw should fall on Devante Parker, who continues to woefully mistime his jumps as the ball is still descending.
The strike for the game winning touchdown pass was a perfectly located ball that required zip and a trust in the old cannon that few quarterbacks have (or deserve to have.)
The Rams had an answer for every little nuance Adam Gase tried to throw their way including the screens and the run pass options. As great as they are for some teams, the Dolphins need to scrap any version of any bubble or tunnel screen because they are never anything but a complete train wreck.
Kenny Stills and Devante Parker have no interest in blocking on these screens and the only guy that can block, Landry, is the only one capable of making yardage with the ball in his hands.
Stills had a horrendous day with an egregious, inexcusable block in the back penalty and sloppy routes throughout most of the game.
Parker had his second straight monster game becoming the go-to guy on the final drive. He dug out two passes down around his shoe strings that can’t be over-stated enough in terms of the difficulty of said catches. The route he put on Trumaine Johnson (the Rams best cover guy) and the catch he made to win the game was the stuff all-pros are made of. We may have something here.
Jarvis Landry’s stat line was uninspiring, but he was right in the middle of another key block on a long run by Jay Ajayi and the first touchdown of the day shows you exactly the kind of player this team has in Landry.
In regards to Ajayi and the run game, I thought coaching failed again on this front. It’s sometimes too easy for me to decipher from my couch when the Dolphins will run based on formation or defensive alignments. Some change-ups and more use of the play action would have gone a long way towards getting the offense going earlier in this game.
Ajayi, again, proved to be a difficult man to bring down punishing the Rams defenders for four quarters. He didn’t pop 100 yards, but he was at 4.8 yards per carry and his 5.6 YPC still leads the entire league.
Without the key cogs on the offensive line, this running game still has a chance because in continues to get quality play from inline blocking tight ends. Although neither offered anything as a pass catcher today, Dion Sims and Marqueis Gray made their money in the ground game.
However, getting Branden Albert back was important before this game and might be even more so now. Laremy Tunsil left the game with a shoulder injury and his replacement, Sam Young, is barely an upgrade over Jason Fox.
Kraig Urbik and Anthony Steen struggled throughout most of this game and their biggest impact was felt in the running game.
Jermon Bushrod is going on three consecutive games of horrendous tape. If there was a better option at right guard, I’d look to replace him.
Quietly, Ja’Wuan James had another ho hum day. He handled his business in pass protection and found himself leading some nicely blocked run plays.
I recognize that this was a difficult task being on the west coast for 12 days and going up against a defense that, frankly, has been as stingy as any in football this year. But Adam Gase has been feast or famine at times this year and he was badly outcoached in this ball game. I’m not sure what happened to the play action passing game or simply running from tradition two tight end sets with the quarterback under center, but I think he outsmarted himself today.
On NBC’s Football Night in America, Vance Joseph’s name appeared on a list of potential head coaching candidates and I hope his interviews don’t go well this coming January. His defensive scheme has completely turned this group around and maximized all the potential we thought this group had the last two seasons.
Ndamukong Suh continues to be an immovable force that can collapse an entire running lane by himself. The other defensive tackles, Jordan Phillips and Earl Mitchell, look like quintessential compliments to the all-pro as they alternated their way into the offensive backfield frequently in this game.
Cam Wake and Andre Branch were mostly quiet and I found Jason Jones’ performance in the absence of Mario Williams to be the most noteworthy. The Rams front had a tough time dealing with Jones in both run and pass situations.
The linebackers have had better games and they’ve had worse games. Kiko Alonso would be such a good player if he didn’t play the guessing game so much. On a big run by Todd Gurley from the shadow of LA’s own end-zone, Alonso prematurely shot the wrong gap and left a huge hole for Gurley to find.
Despite his short comings in the run game, the strip sack and recovery he made was a fantastic induvial effort and his second game changing play in as many weeks.
Neville Hewitt and Donald Butler had their share of missed assignments but Spencer Paysinger was a sure tackler that often found himself in the right spot in this game.
Byron Maxwell was tremendous today despite getting beat on an early Kenny Britt reception and getting flagged for pass interference when, in reality, he defended it perfectly. He played closer to the line of scrimmage and challenged Jared Goff after the Rams made it apparent they wanted to throw everything close to the line of scrimmage.
Tony Lippett was solid again but I felt he should’ve secured the interception on a ball that found its way into his lap in the third quarter.
Bobby McCain erased any production from the slot the Rams hoped to have – a nice bounce back from last week’s game.
Isa Abdul-Quddus continues to spearhead a quality free agent class. I’m not sure this team would’ve survived the loss of Reshad Jones without Abdul-Quddus – he’s been that good.
Special teams are faltering each week, the offensive game plan left a lot to be desired but the team just pulled off a cross-country sweep of two games it needed.
This team has character. This team is developing a culture of winners and alpha-personalities that will give everything they’ve got for a head coach they love.
That’s five straight victories, Dol-fans. Let’s keep it rolling against those hopeless 49ers.
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