The Miami Dolphins improved to 2-2 on Sunday as they defeated the visiting Titans in a matchup that was certainly not an offensive shootout. The Titans were without their starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota, as he tweaked a hamstring in the week prior to Sunday’s matchup.
Many saw this game as an opportunity for Miami to bounce back at get back to .500. Especially since it would be the Dolphins’ first chance to play at home. The Dolphins were certainly happy to finally be in front of their fans again. However, things turned sour midway through the game, as the fans openly booed Miami when the team continued to struggle offensively.
More specifically, the fans booed the Dolphins offense and were heard chanting for backup quarterback, Matt Moore to make an appearance on multiple occasions. Head coach Adam Gase would have none of it though, as he stuck to Jay Cutler throughout the day. That was easier said than done, as Cutler had his worst day statistically as a Dolphin. He completed 12 of 26 passes (46.1%) for 92 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The interception was classic Cutler, as there was no real excuse or explanation as to what he was thinking or doing on that particular play. However, aside from that one error, Cutler did not play as poorly as the statistics might indicate. There are two important factors to consider when judging Cutler’s performance on Sunday.
The first thing that must be taken into account would be the fact that Cutler often found himself running for his life immediately after the snap. Often times he was not even able to get through his three or five step drops before having to abandon the pocket as it came crashing down around him. The offensive line did not play well once again, and it disrupted the flow of the offense as usual.
The second thing that is important to take into account would be the amount of drops that occurred. Jakeem Grant, Jarvis Landry, Julius Thomas and Marqueis Gray all dropped the ball at one point or another in the game. Luckily, both Thomas and Landry made up for it with excellent catches down the stretch in the game-winning drive. It is also important to note that Cutler’s favorite target, DeVante Parker, missed the majority of the game with an ankle injury. The Miami Dolphins organization has not indicated that the injury is serious as of right now.
In Parker’s absence, another player stepped up. Especially down the stretch when Miami needed it the most. That player was tailback Jay Ajayi. Ajayi was slow to get going but he came through towards the end and made a difference in the game. Ajayi ran with his signature angry style and provided a much-needed burst to Miami’s stagnant offense. Ajayi fought for every yard and fell forward while carrying defenders with him on multiple occasions to give Miami crucial first-downs.
As far as the defense went, nearly every player stepped up in his own significant way. While Miami’s fans were not pleased with the offense, they were more than enthusiastic for the defense as the Dolphins were flying all over the field and making their presence felt.
Reshad Jones, Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons and Cameron Wake led the charge at all levels of the defense. Jones had the heads-up-play of the day as he recovered a fumble that seemed like it was a dead ball and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. The fumble was caused by Kiko Alonso, who was seemingly everywhere on Sunday in a good way.
There was a noticeable difference between when Timmons was absent and when he was present in terms of intermediate pass defense. The Dolphins were shredded in this regard during Timmons’ time away. However, all has been forgiven as he made a big difference in that department and made some plays of his own.
Miami’s defense was stellar all around. They were able to contain Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry effortlessly. It’s scary to think about what this unit can do in the future once TJ McDonald, Raekwon McMillan and Tony Lippett return to the field, although two of those won’t be until next season. However, Miami’s defensive unit is holding up just fine for now, as they are the only defense in the NFL that has refused to surrender 20+ points through Week 5. Rookie defensive coordinator Matt Burke has done a great job so far and will only get better.
Miami’s next challenge will be the Atlanta Falcons on the road. It will be interesting to see one of the NFL’s high-powered offenses go head-to-head with a defense that is playing with a world of confidence right now. Miami will have to bring its offense too, or else the Dolphins won’t be able to keep up no matter how well the defense plays. If given enough chances, the Falcons won’t stay off of the scoreboard for long.