49ers 24 (1-10)
Dolphins 31 (7-4)
Many will cite the Dolphins narrow victory over a one win 49ers team as evidence for the team being a fraud in terms of legitimately contending for the post-season.
What they will ignore is the nature of the National Football League. The term any given Sunday isn’t just lip service. It’s a term coined when the Patriots narrowly clip the wings of the Jets, the Buccaneers limited Russell Wilson to a dreadful passing day and the Dolphins annihilating Colin Kaepernick two yards short of a game tying touchdown.
Lost in the hysteria is the fact that Ryan Tannehill threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns despite being down his top three offensive lineman. Isn’t this Dolphins team a power running team with a simple game manager under center? That’s what mainstream media will tell you.
But you’re smart. You watched the game. You saw Ryan Tannehill work from inside and outside the pocket. You saw him make throws down the field all game. You saw him thread the seam on a touchdown pass to Dion Sims.
The Dolphins continue to do things “for the first time since’ nearly every week and Sunday’s win over San Francisco was no different.
For the first time since 2005, the Dolphins are victorious in six consecutive games.
For the first time since 2003, the Dolphins have seven wins through 11 games.
How did they accomplish these feats for the first time in a decade? Let’s discuss it.
Over the six game winning streak, Ryan Tannehill has nine touchdown passes to one interception. His passer rating is 110 and he has raised his season passer rating to 94.7, which ranks 13th in the NFL.
This was another one of those Jekyll and Hyde games for Adam Gase as I thought his plan to get away from the running game and open up some down field concepts was the winning formula. But his inability to close this game with the offense, and the general lack of faith in this backup line was playing not to lose – directly contradicting the words of our entrusted coach.
Tannehill had yet another fantastic game working within the confines of that play action game. He was deadly accurate on the run and from the pocket, he made quick decisions, looked extremely comfortable on those three step drops and had two impressive first down runs.
He could’ve had an even gaudier stat line if his perfect pass to the corner pylon on Devante Parker’s over turned touchdown had stood. His throw on the Kenny Stills touchdown was a perfect recognition of cover-2 and dropping it on the back shoulder perfectly.
I have one complaint with Tannehill’s game today and it was his unwillingness to slide. We cannot afford to lose him and I know he’s tough, but it’s not fun watching your quarterback get hammered by a linebacker
His pass protection was pretty solid up until that fourth quarter. A lot is made about the fab five offensive line but I would be remised if I claimed it logical to put Jermon Bushrod in that group.
When everyone is healthy, Bushrod should become the sixth man and make way for Kraig Urbik or possibly Anthony Steen. Bushrod is on the ground a lot. He allowed two sacks today and was a complete liability in the running game for the fourth straight game.
The Dolphins tried to run off the right side early and quickly abandoned it. They try to help Bushrod and Ja’Wuan James with Dion Sims and, while it set up some opportunities in the passing game, it was a dumpster fire on the ground.
James had another good day in pass protection but the only time he has success in the ground game is on combo blocks where he chips and searches for the second level.
Anthony Steen had another up and down day. He held his own in pass pro, had a couple of nice dig outs but was beat badly on a number of running downs.
It’s the same story for Kraig Urbik. He had a better day in the running game and held up well in pass protection, but he gets beat from time to time to blow up a running play.
And then there’s Sam Young. It’s not necessarily about who you lose, but who is replacing the guy lost. Sam Young channeled his inner-Jason Fox today. He constantly allowed rushers to push Tannehill off his spot, he was lost in the running game and is just a complete liability.
We need Branden Albert or Laremy Tunsil back very, very badly.
Dion Sims didn’t have his best game as an inline blocker often allowing the edge to collapse, but he was a force catching passes. He saw a free release on the touchdown pass and showed good body control to bring it down and fall into the end-zone. He also had two punishing runs after the catch that were tone setters.
Jay Ajayi is the ultimate tone-setter for this Dolphins team and he had a difficult time finding running room. He’s normally a patient runner, but he begins to press when big plays aren’t available. The Niners completely sold out to stop the run, but he missed one big lane where he, instead, cutback and tried to bounce it and was dumped for a loss.
The negative runs are happening too frequently, but the touchdown run was an impressive display of speed and forcing defenders to take the longest angle possible.
Dominque Jones’ block on that Ajayi touchdown run was worthy of giving the big tight end more snaps. It’s little things like that, that change a close game.
I think Kenyan Drake will factor into this playoff run as a ball carrier. He showed burst on a nine yard run and you can see that change of pace style that can benefit Ajayi.
Damien Williams makes a big play every game and his third and short conversion where he bulled forward for five yards was pure determination. I love that kid.
Devante Parker could’ve had another monster stat line if not for replay challenges but he continues to show excellent high point ability and concentration to catch deep balls in stride. That diving catch he made when the Dolphins were backed up was sensational.
I thought Kenny Stills was the best receiver today. He messed up a comeback route not working back to the football, but his balance on the touchdown catch to twirl up field was a highlight reel play. He bent some nice seam routes inside for two first down catches earlier in the game as well.
Jarvis Landry didn’t have a big impact on the stat sheet, but he leads the league in third down receptions and he had two more big ones today.
We saw a glimpse of what Leonte Carroo can do turning a simple out pattern into a physical touchdown run after the catch.
All things told, the offense put 31 points on the board with three backup linemen, sustained back to back drives for 91 and 84 yards resulting in touchdowns, and dominated in the down field passing game.
The play calling late to close the game out was atrocious, the running game was a pathetic effort by the front five and replay cost the Dolphins two big plays.
He was serenaded by raucous boos upon coming onto the field, but Colin Kaepernick didn’t let that stop him from having his best game since his years running Jim Harbaugh’s offense. The passing stats were great with three touchdowns and a near 100 rating, but his 113 rushing yards on 10 carries was the Achilles heel for the Dolphins defense.
The early zone read stuff threw off the linebackers run keys and had the defensive line confused as well.
Ndamukong Suh had another tremendous game but it took him a series to get going. He got rolling by blowing up running plays frequently but, on the first drive, he was getting forced out of his gap responsibility. The way he broke Kaepernick on the game’s final play is so indicative of the kind of player he is.
Andre Branch had a bad day with no pass rush and some big runs off his edge.
Cameron Wake had another sensational sack but his pass rush was held in check for most of the day and he really struggles with setting the edge and recognizing the zone read mesh point.
Jordan Phillips spent a lot of the day on ice skates. He needs to improve his lower body strength, work on his ability to anchor and to stand his ground on a double team. He needs a more selfless mindset in situations where he finds himself going up against two blockers.
The linebackers were bad for most of the game. Jelani Jenkins continues to struggle in coverage and Kiko Alonso had a dreadful game.
Alonso was constantly misdiagnosing plays, he was late to find his man in zone which opened huge lanes for Kaepernick and he was tentative in the open field. The fumble recovery and interception were a case of being in the right place at the right time and his stop on the last play of the game was more of a compliment to Suh dragging Kaepernick down.
Neville Hewitt and Donald Butler continue to have a few running snaps every game where it looks perfect, but they are both mostly useless in coverage.
The corners all had good days for the most part. Where they got beat was in the red zone with more Chip Kelly misdirection.
Byron Maxwell and Bobby McCain both had nice pass break-ups, Tony Lippett’s pass defensed led to an interception and McCain was a tremendous tackler all day. On one play, he avoided Joe Staley’s pulling block and got to the ball carrier. He did, however, miss badly on a big catch and run by Rod Streater.
Bacarri Rambo has a bit of Reshad Jones to him. He’s nowhere near the play maker, but he plays aggressively and very well in the box. His pass breakup in the end-zone on the 49ers first drive was premier safety play.
I didn’t get a great look at Isa Abdul-Quddus as he was mostly playing a deep center field. The Niners never challenged him deep and he came down in man coverage against twin wide outs a couple of time and held his own.
When Lippett got forced inside on that twin formation, he looked lost. He has no business playing in the slot.
The defense needs to figure something out for a quarterback with that kind of scramble ability. I firmly believe that beating the Bills in Buffalo is going to be the difference in going to the play-offs or watching from home and Tyron Taylor will cause issues if they don’t get it corrected.
How many ugly wins can a team achieve before you stop calling them ugly? Once again, when the game was on the line and a play had to be made, it was the guys in the aqua uniforms that persevered.
The condition of the playing field was the truly ugly aspect of the game. I’m thrilled that the Miami Hurricanes season is over and the Dolphins can have their field back. Playing two games in less than 24 hours is poor scheduling.
With the Chiefs winning a whacky affair in Denver, the Dolphins are officially secured in the 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC for the time being. Beating the Ravens will go a long way towards sustaining that positioning.
Until then, Phins up! Enjoy being part of the top 12 teams in the league for at least one week.
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