The questions lasted all week. Would Tua start? Would Fitzpatrick play instead? Coach Brian Flores kept his cards close to his vest. However, in the end, it was Tua, complete with a taped left thumb, who took the field for your Miami Dolphins. The opponent? The Cincinnati Bengals without Joe Burrow. The Dolphins got another easy opponent after having the winless Jets last week. The Dolphins should have cruised to an easy victory, right? Not so much. Let’s go ahead and hit The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from this Week 13 contest.
2nd Half Tua
Tua Tagovailoa came out in the second half of the game like John Wick making his way through bad guys. The Dolphins employed a no-huddle offense and Tua mowed down the Bengal’s defense. In the third quarter alone, Tua completed 13-of-16 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Tua ended the game with 26 of 39 for 296 yards and a TD. Tua completed 66% of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 97.8. That will work.
Tua showed off his impressive pocket presence, his shiftiness to avoid the pass rush and his calm cool demeanor under pressure. Second half Tua reminded fans why the Dolphins drafted the talented southpaw.
With 12:35 remaining in the third quarter the Dolphins had 2nd and 7 on the Cincinnati 40. Tua deftly avoided the pass rush and launched a gorgeous pass to Myles Gaskins for 35 yards.
3rd quarter with 2:13 left Tua makes great moves to avoid the blitz right up the middle and in his face. Tua slides away from the blitzer and threads the needle to Parker who is double covered.
Tua shows such great pocket awareness and movement by avoiding the rush up the middle and threading the needle. pic.twitter.com/C6F3sISpzr— MiamiPhins (@RealMiamiPhins) December 7, 2020
This is exactly what Tua needed after a dismal performance against the Denver Broncos and then missing the Jets game with an injury. Flores showed confidence in his rookie by keeping him in the game. Tua paid his coach back with an excellent second half. This will do nothing but increase Tua’s confidence as the season progresses.
Mike Giseke was a nightmare for the Bengals all day. The Bengals had no answer at all for #88. Giseke was targeted 11 times and had 9 catches for 88 yards and 1 TD. But, the statistics do not tell the entire story. It was not the numbers that Giseke posted, but how he did it. Because Giseke showed off elite talent with some stylish catches.
The Miami Dolphins’ sole touchdown came in the third quarter. Tua lofted a pass to Giseke in the end zone. Giseke went up for the jump ball and caught it over the Bengal’s defender. Hopefully, this catch teaches Tua that he can throw 50/50 balls to his 6’6” tight end and trust that Giseke will come down with the catch.
As great as the touchdown catch was it was definitely not Giseke’s best catch. That would be the one hand catch that Giseke had in the third quarter. Words cannot describe how Giseke extended out with one hand while running at full stride to bring the pass in for a catch. Just watch the video and enjoy.
Second Half Defense
The Miami Dolphins defense played okay in the first half. The Dolphins allowed 162 yards and 1 TD. The Dolphins had 1 sack and 1 interception. The Dolphins allowed a small two hard pass to turn into a 72-yard touchdown. In addition, the Dolphins defense was sloppy and racked up multiple penalties.
However, it was the second half where the Dolphins defense brought a world of pain on the Bengals. In the third quarter, the Miami Dolphins held the Bengals to -4 yards. That is a dominant defense. Period.
In the second half, the Miami defense allowed just 34 yards and zero points. The Dolphins also registered 5 sacks and 1 interception. I know it was the Bengals, but that is excellent defense regardless of the quality of the opponent.
For the game, the Bengals only gained 193 passing yards and a measly 40 yards rushing. The Bengals only gained 2.3 yards per carry. The Dolphins tacked on 6 sacks for -37 yards. Add on top of that the two interceptions. This defense has become a force to be reckoned with. It is on the back of the defense that the Dolphins will make a playoff push.
I have been as hard as anyone on this offensive line. However, the offensive line deserves some praise. The Dolphins rushed for 110 yards and averaged 4 yards per carry. Tua dropped back to pass 39 times and was sacked 0 times. That’s right. The Dolphins offensive line allowed zero sacks in this game. Sure, it was the Bengals. But, the fact is that the Dolphins played three rookies on the offensive line and they allowed zero sacks. They deserve praise for that.
All Xavien Howard does is get interceptions. Howard leads the NFL in interceptions and added another one in the game with the Bengals. Why do opposing quarterbacks keep testing Howard?
Nik Needham also got another interception. I am a big fan of Needham. I love his hustle and hard work. Needham continues to show his value as the Dolphins’ nickel corner.
Once again, Sanders is THE Miami Dolphins offense. Sanders bailed out the Dolphins’ offense and their red zone woes by booting four field goals. Only one field goal came from long range: a 48-yard field goal at the end of the half. The remaining three field goals were all close range from 25, 23, and 19 yards out.
1st Half Offense
The Dolphins got off to another slow start in the first half. Now, Tua and the offense did not look hideous. But, they certainly looked pedestrian at best. The Miami offense gained just 146 yards and scored a mere 6 points. Keep in mind, that this meager offensive production was coming against the hapless Bengals.
This is certainly not the type of offensive production that anyone expected to see against a team as bad as the Bengals. There is no way that Dolphins can afford to come out slow in the first half against the better teams remaining on their schedule like the Chiefs and Bills.
Third Down Offense
The Miami Dolphins third-down offense sucked. And that is being charitable. The Dolphins converted just one of 10 third downs in the entire game. That is hideous. The Dolphins certainly cannot execute like this against the Chiefs and Bills and expect to win.
Red Zone Offense
The Miami Dolphins red zone offense was a hot mess. Everyone deserves blame. Chan Gailey deserves blame for running the most predictable and bland red zone offense possible. Tua deserves some blame for missing a run-pass option for a TD and not getting some air under his jump ball passes. The offensive line deserves blame for utterly failing to generate any movement in the rushing attacks near the goal line. Myles Gaskins deserves blame for failing to gain tough yards.
With 13:54 remaining in the 2nd quarter, the Dolphins had a 1st and goal at the Cincinnati 7. What brilliant plays did Gailey call? Gaskins off left guard for 4 yards. Gaskins off right guard for no gain. Gaskins off right guard for 1 yard. This is about as uninspired play-calling as you will see.
Of course, to be fair, the offensive line and Gaskins deserve their share of the blame for not being able to gain seven yards on three runs. Tua also deserves blame on the run-pass option on 3rd and Goal from the Cincinnati 3. Tua should have kept the ball and tossed it to a wide-open Shaheen for an easy TD.
Tua had a great second half, but he still had some rookie mistakes. Like this bad read on a run-pass option. pic.twitter.com/WTtW3fBsRR— MiamiPhins (@RealMiamiPhins) December 8, 2020
And, Hunt and Jackson deserve blame for what happened next. The Dolphins were then fourth and goal on the Cincinnati 2. Surprisingly, the Dolphins rolled out a formation reminiscent of the Mountaineer Shot formation against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. The Bengals were surprised and gave up a 2-yard touchdown run by Matt Haack. Unfortunately, boneheaded penalties on Jackson and Hunt nullified the touchdown. Neither rookie checked in with the refs. As a result, the Dolphins had to settle on a field goal.
With 7:06 remaining in the 3rd quarter the Dolphins found themselves 1st and goal from the Cincinnati 9. What masterful play calling did Gailey dial up? The same run play he ran twice the last time they failed in the red zone! Gailey called Gaskins off right guard for no gain. Then Gaskins up the middle for 4 yards. Then a 5050 jump ball to Parker for an incompletion. Out came Sanders to kick the field goal.
Again, there is plenty of blame for everyone. Gailey was uninspired with his play calling. The offensive line and Gaskins did not do great gaining just four yards on two rushes. Lastly, Tua could have gotten more air under the jump ball to Parker.
14:16 remaining in the 4th quarter the Dolphins had a 1st and goal from the Cincinnati 2. Surely, there was no way the Dolphins could not gain a paltry two yards for a touchdown, right? Ha! What did Gailey do? Called a 50/50 jump ball to Shaheen. Then Gaskins off right guard for 1 yard. Then another 50/50 jump ball to Parker that fell incomplete.
Evidently, Gailey has three red zone offensive plays. Gaskins off right guard. Gaskins up the middle. And a 50/50 jump ball in the end zone. Fantastic.
The Dolphins got lucky they were playing the toothless Bengals. Against better teams, the Dolphins are going to have to score touchdowns instead of field goals. The score from this Bengals game should have been 31-7.
With 7:00 left in the second quarter, the Bengals were up 7-3 and they got the ball on the Cincinnati 12 yard line. The Miami defense proceeded to commit penalties in three plays in a row. Calvin Munson had an unnecessary roughness penalty for 15 yards. Howard had a defensive holding penalty for 5 yards. Then Raekwon Davis had a defensive offside penalty for 5 yards. In just three plays the Dolphins defense gave the Bengals 20 free yards. Luckily, the defense stiffened and the Bengals missed a 53-yard field goal.
We have to loop back to the 4th and Goal play from the Cincinnati 2 involving the Mountaineer shot formation. Miami pulled off this cool truck play and tied the game 7-7. But, wait, the touchdown got taken off the scoreboard because of incredibly stupid penalties were negated by illegal formation penalties on Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt. This kind of thing just cannot happen. Not even from rookies.
The Dolphins racked up six penalties for 44 yards in just the first half. The Dolphins ended the game with 8 penalties for 54 yards. This is extremely unlike the Dolphins this year. Flores has his guys playing clean and efficient football up until the Bengals game. Hopefully, this was an aberration and the Dolphins quickly resume their normal well-disciplined play going forward.
Jakeem Grant’s Drop
Tua dropped a dime to Grant for what could have been a huge touchdown. Yet, Grant dropped the ball. With the red zone woes that plague this offense, the Dolphins cannot afford mental lapses on explosive plays.
Myles Gaskins Fumble
With 4:11 left in the 4th quarter, the Dolphins had lost Parker to an ejection and were just trying to run the clock out and go home with a victory. It was third and three from the Miami 47 and Gaskins ripped off his best run of the day as Gaskins went off right guard for 26 yards. And then…Gaskins fumbled the ball and the Bengals recovered it.
The Dolphins running game seems snake bit. Even when the Dolphins were finally getting some production from the running game there is still a costly turnover. This is after last week’s Jets game where both Breida and Laird fumbled. These Miami running backs and got to practice better ball security.
Tyler Boyd’s TD
With 3:31 remaining in the first quarter, Brandon Allen tossed a small 2-yard swing pass to Tyler Boyd looking to just get the first down. Unfortunately, Byron Jones took a bad angle and Boyd turned it upfield and ran down the sideline 72 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, the Bengals were up 7-0 and the Dolphins looked like they were sleepwalking through the first quarter.
Xavier Howard Ejection
With 1:03 left in the second quarter, Howard and Boyd mixed it up after an incomplete pass. Both Boyd and Howard got ejected from the game. Personally, I did not see anything at all that even remotely warranted either player getting ejected from the game. Regardless, Howard is the Dolphins’ best player. He cannot afford to let his temper get the better of him like this. The Dolphins are going to need Howard on the field as they make this late push to the playoffs.
Bengals’ Dirty Hits
It did not get as much attention as the hits on Grant, but you had a Bengal spiking Solomon Kindley’s leg with his cleats. It is little things like that which have earned the Bengals the mark of a dirty team. Of course, the prime offender was Mike Thomas. Thomas is as dirty as he is stupid. With 3:52 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Bengals punted and Thomas blasted Grant before the ball arrived. This drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
Then with 12:00 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Bengals punted the ball again and Thomas did the exact same damn thing as he did on the Bengals’ prior punt. Thomas blasted Grant way before the ball arrived. This time Grant was hurt. And the Dolphins responded.
First, you had Brian Flores rampaging onto the field like he was Stone Cold Steve Austin looking to open up a can of whoop-ass on the Bengals. This was fantastic. This is exactly what I wanted to see from the Dolphins’ coach after dirty plays by Thomas on back-to-back Bengals punts. Flores sets the tone for this team. The players understand that Flores will fight for them. IN return, these players are going to be loyal to Flores and be willing to run through a brick wall for him.
Brian Flores is HEATED— PFF (@PFF) December 6, 2020
I love how the Dolphins players responded. The Dolphins bench stood up and rushed across the field to defend their fallen teammate. DeVonte Parker was upfront throwing haymakers. The Dolphins are a tough and hard-nosed team that is going to play with an edge. But, the Dolphins are going to play clean. However, the Dolphins are a team that is not going to take any crap from anyone. And the Dolphins are a team that will stand up for each other. I love this fire and loyalty between teammates.
It was great to see Grant showing love to Parker and Mack Hollins for standing up for him. This is the kind of teammate that a guy wants to have as he goes into battle on Sundays. I love seeing a team that fights for each other. Loyalty and an “us against the world” mentality are necessary ingredients for a team.
The Miami Dolphins now have back-to-back wins. Sure, the two wins were against two of the worst teams in the NFL. But, what is important is that the Dolphins got their win streak going again. It was also important that Tua gain more confidence and experience. All in all, the Dolphins look like they have steadied themselves since the surprising loss to the Denver Broncos.
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