It wasn’t the loss that was so disheartening. It was the blowout.
Tennessee 34, Dolphins 3.
The question about whether they are a playoff team after seven straight wins against easier competition was answered. They still have a long way to go.
Here are 10 thoughts on Sunday’s loss:
1. Tua Tagovailoa didn’t give the Dolphins enough of a chance this game. He had an especially bad first half. He made a big whiff, losing the ball as he went to throw and watching Tennessee recover the fumble at the Dolphins 14. The defense held, but Tennessee got a field goal to go up, 10-0. There were the career questions about his arm, as he was two or three yards short on passes when he rolled to the left — one early in the game to Mack Hollins, another in the third quarter. Tua also had a couple interceptions dropped by Tennessee late in the half (his interception late in the game came off a Mike Gesicki drop). There was an 8-yard sack in the third quarter that led to Jason Sanders’ 52-yard field goal doinking off the goalpost. Tagovailoa ended the day completing 18-of-38 passes for 205 yards. Throw in the three points this offense scored, and it just wasn’t good enough. A young quarterback’s bad day? An offense that demands more than he can give? Some questions that say Tua will never be an elite quarterback? It’s all on the table after a day like this.
2. The Ryan Tannehill on Sunday was the Ryan Tannehill of his good days for most of seven Dolphins years. He wasn’t great. He showed his career limitations. He was veteran good, though. Smart. The first thing a quarterback is asked to do is to not lose the game. Did Tannehill make any bad plays? No interceptions. OK, he underthrew a sure touchdown to A.J. Brown and followed that with a sack, his only one of the game. But he avoided the big mistake on a weather-challenged day and made enough plays to win. On Tennessee’s first scoring drive, he had second-and-15 and completed a 25-yard pass to Brown. On fourth-and-1, his quarterback sneak got 2 yards to the Miami 15. He then threw a simple 1-yard touchdown to Randy Bullock to make it, 7-0. He completed 13-of-18 passes for 120 yards. That’s all he was asked to do.
3. Where was the Dolphins defense that gave up 11.7 points during the seven-game win streak? Well, they started well. But Tennessee didn’t need injured running back Derrick Henry to pound that defense into submission. D’onta Foreman did just fine behind this offensive line with 26 carries for 132 yards. He’s essentially the Duke Johnson of the Titans, a former third-round pick who’s been waived by four teams (including the Titans last year) and signed with Tennessee’s practice squad on Nov. 2. He played the Henry role against the Dolphins just fine as the Titans ran for 198 yards on a day that asked for that kind of output from the winner. And the defense that led the league in sacks? It had one on Sunday against that strong rushing attack.
4. A day that began with the Dolphins riding a seven-game win streak and talking about the playoffs ended with them losing badly and being eliminated from the playoffs. With them losing, three other outcomes pushed them out of the playoffs: Las Vegas rallying to win at Indianapolis; New England crushing Jacksonville; and the late game where the Los Angeles Chargers beat Denver. That sealed it. No playoffs this year.
5. Sunday started out as a field-possession game, and the lost yards on the punt game set a tone. The teams traded four series of three-and-out punts, but Tennessee seemed to march down the field when you look at them:
Miami: Punts from own 42;
Tenn: Punts from own 30;
Miami: Punts from own 34;
Tenn: Punts from own 44;
Miami. Punts from own 15;
Tennessee starts drive at Miami 46.
Miami punter Michael Palardy averaged 38.3 yards in the three punts that sequence. Tennessee averaged 45 yards those two. Miami also got 15 total return yards in their two returns. Tennessee got 28 yards in their three. So in a field-position start …
6. Tennessee started its third drive of the game at the Miami 46 without having got a first down. Handed a short field, it was eight plays and 46 yards for the first score of the game. That swung the game, 7-0, and that was effectively all the offense the Titans needed. So it wasn’t just the offense and defense that struggled. The special teams did in ways that weren’t always showing up in the stat sheet.
7. Stat of the day: The Dolphins were 3 of 12 on third-down conversions. That tells the story of first and second down, really. Here’s the lengths the Dolphins had on third down: 10, 9, 10, 1, 10, 9, 10, 10, 4, 11, 9 and 10 yards. The two converted were third-and-9 when Tua completed a 14-yarder to Gesicki and third-and-4 when he completed a 6-yard pass to DeVante Parker. On third down, he was sacked three times, fumbled once (on third-and-1, a fumble on the center exchange), ran for 1 yard on third-and-10 and completed 2-of-7 passes for 18 yards. The moral of the story: Third-and-long isn’t any way to win.
8. The Dolphins lost their seventh straight game under 40 degrees as a franchise. For anyone thinking the weather was an issue Sunday, playing in the rain/freezing rain is always an issue. But the Dolphins have to build a team with that in mind. They will have to play important games in Buffalo, New England and the Meadowlands at some point and they could be in December or January.
9. On Tennessee’s second possession, running back Dontrell Hilliard ran 5 yards and his upfield momentum was negated on a hit by safety Jevon Holland just short of the first down. Plays like that tell why Holland has become such a presence this season. Hillard hit a wall, turning a sure first down just on momentum into a stop short of the first down. In a possession game, that mattered. Of course, as the game went on, the defense got taken to the woodshed, Holland included. When a team rushes for 198 yards, that’s telling of the day you had on defense. Still, a first-year player like Holland has shown enough to know the talent he can be.
10. Patriots at Dolphins. The 17th game of the year comes with some playoff implications — for New England (10-6). The Dolphins beat New England in the opener when Xavien Howard stripped Patriots running back Damien Harris of the ball and then recovered the fumble at the Dolphins 9-yard line in the final minutes. For a while this year, the Dolphins were 1-7 and the Patriots held the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But after winning seven straight New England had successive losses to Buffalo and Indianapolis before beating Jacksonville on Sunday.
Source: Berkshire mont