The Miami Dolphins defense once again showed the NFL that the league’s wishes to investigate the team for deliberate tanking are inadequate.
Miami hit the road for the first time this season and headed to Dallas, where just about every position on the field favored the Cowboys.
Breaking it down week-by-week
After giving up 42 points to the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of week one, followed by just 13 points in the first half against New England in week two, the Dolphins defense gave up just 10 points during the first half of week three. This marks the third week in a row that Miami has cut down on its points allowed in the first half and the game overall.
Additionally, the Dolphins surrendered the least amount of points this season for the team in week three, 31, compared to 59 in week one and 43 in week two. Their lowest point-totals on defense came even after they traded former 2018 first round pick safety Minkah Fitzpatrick last week to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We come into every game knowing we can win. We come out and stop them early in the first and into the second quarter,” cornerback Xavien Howard said. “We got three-and-outs defensively. But can we keep doing that? We come out after halftime, I don’t think we got complacent. I don’t feel we were as aggressive as early on.”
Miami forces first turnover of season
Not only did Miami give up its least amount of points on the year, it also forced its first turnover, an interception by Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, as time expired in the first quarter. Safety Bobby McCain picked off Prescott on a pass intended for wide receiver Randall Cobb at the Miami 28 and returned it 21 yards to the Miami 49. Although the drive at midfield ended in a three-and-out punt, the Dolphins forced a punt on the ensuing drive to get the ball back quickly. They converted their second field goal of the game and cut Dallas’ lead to four points.
“We didn’t start fast, but we came along in the first half. The second half, we came out slow. We came out with the touchdown on the defense. You can’t have that,” McCain said. “Offensively, we didn’t get it rolling in the second half. Defensively, we couldn’t get it rolling in the second half. That is how you get the score run up on you.”
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Dolphins doing damage on special teams
Furthermore, for the second straight week, Miami forced its opponents kicker to miss a field goal. Despite two huge runs on the drive by Ezekiel Elliott (18 yards) and Tony Pollard (28 yards) during the Cowboys’ first drive of the fourth quarter, the defense forced two Prescott incompletions before getting enough pressure on kicker Brett Maher to hit the right upright on the 55-yard FG. Last week, Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 48-yard FG in the second quarter went it went wide right. Gostkowski was also forced to shank two extra points last week as well.
Defensive motivation shows
11 of 19 Dolphins defenders recorded more than one tackle in the game and the other eight defenders had at least one solo tackle or an assisted tackle.
“I will go out there and try to do my best, period. Whether I am going against the Cowboys or next week against the Chargers. Whatever it is, I try to make plays and I try to help this team win ball games,” Dolphins’ defensive end Taco Charlton said.
Offense dooms Miami again
Miami’s defense once again had its back up against the wall as the offense struggled to stay on the field and move the chains. Its offense was held without a TD again, most notably thanks to RB Kenyan Drake fumbling on the Dallas five-yard line and WR Preston Williams dropping his second TD in the end zone in two weeks. Without sustaining drives and with the failure to put points on the board, the defense’s grooves worn down again in the game, resulting in the increase of points allowed in the second half of Sunday’s game.
It’s apparent that the Dolphins’ defense is the most successful unit on the field during Miami’s games, and without a sustainable and productive offense, this pattern looks to continue. Both in notable play format and its breakdown pattern throughout each game.
“I think as a staff, we’ve got to do a better job with our second half adjustments. I think we…we didn’t play better in the second half as well. I don’t think it’s a conditioning issue. I don’t think it’s execution. We’re just not making enough plays,” Miami head coach Brian Flores said.