The Oakland Raiders emerged victorious with a 27-24 victory in their visit to Miami for a Sunday Night Football matchup between two 2016 AFC playoff teams. This matchup had a lot of intrigue, as the Dolphins were going through yet another fiasco for the season due to the fact that they traded away their 2016 Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi, stunningly. Meanwhile the Raiders were reeling and trying to find themselves and keep their playoff hopes alive after an underwhelming start to the season.
This game saw the return of one key offensive player per team, as Marshawn Lynch had completed his one-game suspension for shoving a referee, and Jay Cutler had recovered well enough to suit up despite having broken ribs. The Dolphins had come fresh off an absolutely humiliating 40-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football. Meanwhile, the Raiders had just lost by twenty to the Buffalo Bills. Both teams were especially hungry for a win, and needed one badly in order to keep morale from crumbling.
With that said, all eyes were on head coach Adam Gase and Miami’s struggling offense heading into this game as Gase was under heavy fire for giving away a Pro Bowl running back after a huge loss for just a 2018 fourth-round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles. However, Dolphins fans surely must have been pleasantly surprised to see that the offense moved at a much better pace throughout the night, as they seemed to have more rhythm.
Reserve tailbacks Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams split carries throughout the night and came up with 165 yards of total offense and eight points (one touchdown and one two-point conversion) as they each offered a healthy combination of production through the ground and the air.
Drake and Williams did a fine job of stepping up to the plate (minus one huge fumble by Drake). They allowed for Gase to be able to diversify his offensive playcalling, as both backs are superior pass-catchers to Ajayi. It will be interesting to see the amount of production that they can come up with going forward, as the offense flowed much better on Sunday night.
Speaking of offense, Cutler had himself one hell of a game. He went 34 of 42 (80.95%) for 311 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. This resulted in a QBR of 121.3. Cutler looked excellent out there, despite having broken ribs. He was able to stay mobile and buy time for his receivers to make plays. He also did a tremendous job of spreading the wealth around, as Drake, Williams, Landry and Thomas all hauled in six receptions apiece.
The norm for Miami’s 2017 season has been for the offense to struggle and for the defense to keep them in games. However, Sunday night’s matchup was quite the opposite. The Dolphins had a defensive blunder in which star safety Reshad Jones allowed a 44-yard touchdown reception to Johnny Holton.
That wasn’t the only time the Dolphins blew it on defense. Oakland tight end Jared Cook had a monster game with eight receptions for 126 yards. The Dolphins had no answer for him or for Marshawn Lynch who scored twice and ran for 57 yards. Also, the Dolphins practically escorted the Raiders down the field right before the half to allow for Oakland to blast a 53-yard field goal to put the Raiders up 13-9 going into halftime.
These teams each made their fair share of mistakes, as the Raiders were penalized ten times for a total of 105 yards. Meanwhile the Dolphins were penalized 11 times for 107 yards. However, during the game it just felt as though Miami was getting penalized at the most inopportune times. The Raiders did a better job of overcoming penalties and were able to pick up chunk yardage when backed up by infractions.
These two teams were fairly evenly matched in other ways. The Dolphins had only one more first down than the Raiders (not accounting for first downs as a result of penalties). Each team had 11 drives and each team averaged 6.5 yards per play. They were within two yards of each other when it came to rushing and within 14 in passing.
The difference was that the Dolphins could not get off of the field on third-down. The Raiders went 8-for-15 on third-down. They were also able to finish drives. Whereas the Dolphins missed opportunities to score with costly penalties and a fumble in the redzone.
After the dust settled, the Dolphins fell to 4-4 on the season while the Raiders rose to 4-5. The bad news for Miami is that the tougher half of the schedule lies ahead. The Dolphins will face the Patriots (twice), the Panthers, the Chiefs, the Bills (twice) as their notable opponents. The good news is that the Dolphins were able to hang with a quality team in the Raiders and had many opportunities to win. Miami’s fanbase can also look forward to T.J. McDonald’s suspension being over, as Miami surely could use help in the secondary.
Miami (4-4) will take on Carolina (6-3) on the upcoming edition of Monday Night Football.