The Miami Dolphins jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and had the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line guessing on every play during the NFL’s week eight Monday Night Football. However, a disastrous third-and-20 blitz call to end the half resulted in a Steelers touchdown and momentum swing, allowing Pittsburgh to score 27 unanswered points and ultimately the game.
“We had a couple of nice drives early, good momentum. Guys were out there having fun. Now, there’s just – this whole thing, it’s just a progression, and that’s a spot we need to get better in. It’s two weeks in a row now with the opportunities we had in Buffalo and now here today,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said.
The momentum-changing play
In an attempt to run out the clock and take a 14-3 to the half, Miami (0-7) opted to make the wrong choice in calling pass play to tight end Nick O’Leary. At second-and-six from Miami’s own 44-yard line, Fitzpatrick had his ball tipped and snatched out of the air in a bizarre pattern by former Dolphin Minkah Fitzpatrick.
With Pittsburgh (3-4) taking over in opponent territory the Dolphins looked to be continuing their strides from the entire game and confusing the offense. The Steelers lined up for a third-and-20 and Miami decided to rush eight and play three-cover-man.
The Dolphins got obliterated.
Pittsburgh wide receiver Diontae Johnson sprinted diagonally across the field using Miami’s Nik Needham to cut off his own cornerback, Xavien Howard, and catch the ball wide open with just one man to beat. Johnson gallopped into the end zone for the TD and the momentum shifter. The Steelers then outscored the Dolphins 17-0 in the second half to secure the victory.
“We wanted to be aggressive. We can second-guess a lot of calls and I’m not going to second guess that one. I think we’d had success with the call and they made a play; but at the same time, it’s 14-10 at halftime. We had opportunities in the second half. We didn’t take advantage of them,” head coach Brian Flores said. “I’m not going to sit here and say that was the play that was the detriment of the game. We turned the ball over four times so as a total team, we didn’t do enough to win the game. It’s easy to look at one play and say, ‘that’s the one,’ but there were 150 other plays in the game.”
James Conner leads the way for Pittsburgh
Conner lead the way for the Steelers on Monday, as projected, as he erupted for 145 yards on 23 carries and one TD. QB Mason Rudolph eventually turned his disastrous start around and turned his final stat line into 251 yards on a 20-for-36 passing day. He also accumulated two scores, the one to Johnson, and another to leading-WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Rudolph’s lone interception came on the Steelers’ first drive that set up the short-field TD to Albert Wilson putting Miami up 7-0.
Top play-makers for Miami
The Dolphins would eventually make it 14-0 with a little less than two minutes remaining in the opening quarter when Miami drove the ball 68 yards on a 11 plays, capping it off with an Allen Hurns 12-yard TD reception. The play was Allen’s lone target and lone reception in the game.
Miami was lead by WR DeVante Parker again, who had six catches (eight targets) for 59 yards. He failed to reach the end zone however, ending his three-game scoring streak. The Dolphins backfield was also lead by now-starter RB Mark Walton who was a bit of a disappointment. After 75 and 66 yards respectively in the last two weeks, Walton had just 35 yards on 11 carries.
The Dolphins will return home in week nine to face the one-win, rival New York Jets on Sunday at 1 p.m.