After almost upsetting the Seahawks in week four, the Miami Dolphins look to steal a win on the road against a depleted San Francisco 49ers team that looks to bounce back from their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football. Both teams are dealing with different circumstances, but they both look to get back on track after their week four matchups.
All Four of Miami’s Games This Season Have Been Close
The Dolphins (1-3) have been on the losing end of three rather close games. Each loss in fact has been decided by less than 10 points. The Dolphin defense has done a good job of giving the offense chances to prevail in games by limiting the effectiveness of the opposing team’s quarterbacks. The only quarterback that had a strong offensive day was Josh Allen in week two when he threw four touchdown passes and threw for more than 400 yards. Even though he had a career day, Allen and the Buffalo Bills won by only three points, 31-28.
“We all have to be on the same page and execute. That’s what it comes down to. There has been some lack of communication out there,” cornerback Nik Needham said. “We’ve been working hard at that week in and week out. I think if we come out, communicate well and execute, we’ll be fine.”
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Named Starter
The 49ers (2-2) are expecting to have back quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the lineup after he missed the past two games dealing with a sprained ankle. Head coach Kyle Shanahan named him the starter on Friday, but whether he’s 100-percent is unknown. His presence on the field can spark San Francisco to take the win on Sunday, but at the same time the question will be if Garoppolo is healthy and how much he can use an inexperienced receiving corps that needs a big game with a banged up backfield.
“I expect him to play, but we’re preparing for all three quarterbacks. Jimmy, he’s tough. He’s competitive. He’s got a quick release. He’s got some mobility, athletic ability to step up, slide in the pocket, pick up yardage with his feet if he needs to,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said. “He’s accurate throwing the football and he’s got good leadership. I think those are the qualities you’re looking for in really any position, but especially the quarterback position.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Up and Down Start to 2020
Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to totally find his groove with throwing the football. Fitzpatrick has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes in 2020 (4-5), but does have more scores on the year thanks to two rushing TDs.
Fitzpatrick will have to perform better on Sunday if the Dolphins want to make the cross-country upset. Flores could have an offensive scheme that may prevail against the 49ers defense, but it’s currently ranked third in the league for a reason. Having a young offense that has been looking to find its groove is not favorable when it comes to taking on one the league’s best defenses.
Dolphins Must Watch Out for TE George Kittle
The name of the game for this week is learning to adapt. The Dolphins should be prepared defensively to take on both Garoppolo and backup QB Nick Mullens in the event Garoppolo tweaks his injury. Understanding the tendencies of both quarterbacks could help them prevent either from making any big gain on the field. The biggest 49er Miami needs to watch out for is tight end George Kittle.
After missing two games, Kittle returned in week four and made up for lost time. He was targeted 15 times and caught each ball for 183 yards and a TD. No. 1 wide receiver Deebo Samuel returned in limited fashion last week and was on track to get a larger work load on Sunday but an illness (not COVID-19 related) has him officially questionable for the matchup.
“They’ve got a lot of talented players offensively from Deebo Samuel to obviously George Kittle,” Flores said. “The same thing defensively. They’ve got really good players over there as well, so it’ll be a tough test.”
San Francisco Has Weak Receiving Corps
If Samuel misses the game or is limited again, WRs Kendrick Bourne and rookie Brandon Aiyuk will be the top-two WRs and will likely mean San Francisco’s game plan would be to get the ball to Kittle again. Thankfully for the Dolphins, cornerback Byron Jones is expected to play for the first time in two weeks and he and CB Xavien Howard should get the starting nods.
Running Back Consistency Still a Question for Miami
On the offensive side of the ball, what the Dolphins have ran in the first four weeks has not been good enough to give them a winning record.
They have improved in the run game a lot more compared to last year where they were ranked at the bottom of the leaderboard in terms of producing both rushing yards and rushing TDs. Thankfully, RB Myles Gaskin is in line to start again and be accompanied by pass-catching back Matt Breida and goal-line back Jordan Howard. Breida is also playing his former team and it may spark a little extra oomph on Sunday.
“It’s cool going back playing against my former team. I’m not going to treat the week any different, though. It’s still like any other week,” Breida said. “I talk to those guys almost every week, on a weekly basis, because we’re still close.”
Fitzpatrick: Jeckyll and Hyde Not Good Enough
Passing the football on the other hand, has produced mixed results. In the Dolphins’ only win against Jacksonville, Fitzpatrick had a near-perfect game in throwing the football. He completed 18-of-20 passes and threw two TDs. In the Dolphins’ most recent loss, Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions. When he struggles, the rest of the team struggles. Miami needs Fitzpatrick to be more Jeckyll on Sunday, and not Hyde.
San Francisco is Heavy Favorites at Home
ESPN has said the 49ers have a 78.7-percent chance of winning the game on Sunday and are current heavy nine-point favorites. As noted before, if the Dolphins can adapt and perhaps find a way to trade scores with Garoppolo and the 49ers and eventually outsmart and jump ahead, this game should be close throughout. The nine-point favorite should insult Miami as a banged up San Francisco team is not much different then a rebuilding team a chunk into the season.
Kickoff between the two teams will take place at 4:05 p.m. eastern on Sunday in San Francisco.
Kayla Morton contributed to this article.