A catastrophic second quarter was the decisive factor in the Miami Dolphins’ opening regular season game. They gave up 24 points in six minutes, en-route to a 30-10 defeat by the Houston Texans in Joe Philbin’s first NFL game as Head Coach.
An offseason filled with promise and excitement resulted in a winless preseason, and the Dolphins’ disappointing form continued at Reliant Stadium, where the offense turned the ball over four times in their loss.
The opening game loss did, however, come as no surprise to most fans, who expected a superior Texans’ side to beat Miami with relative ease. Nevertheless, there are areas of real concern for the Dolphins.
Here is a recap of the good, bad, and downright distressing on the eyes, from Miami’s defeat.
Let’s start by recognizing the quality of the opposition; the Houston Texans are Super Bowl contenders.
The Miami Dolphins are not.
That may not sound too positive, but the Dolphins lost to a franchise that has an elite defense, outstanding receivers, two top-class running backs, and a top-10 quarterback (at the very least).
Who Was Miami's Top Performer in Houston?
It would have taken a monumental effort to beat Houston in Texas, and Miami just didn’t have the tools. Therefore, it was encouraging to see Miami go play-for-play with Houston in the first quarter.
Oakland next week seems to be a much more winnable game.
Randy Starks was a beast on the defensive line, with two sacks and six tackles. He excelled in the 4-3 set along with Paul Soliai, who was also a disruptive force for the Dolphins. Cameron Wake failed to record a sack, but managed to pressure the quarterback on a number of occasions; unfortunately, Miami needed pressure from the other end.
Jared Odrick or Olivier Vernon must step up.
Koa Misi also contributed 11 tackles, and although he wasn’t great in coverage, he put in a shift in his new position and his stats reflect that. It was a decent showing in a new role.
Marcus Thigpen’s 72-yard punt return touchdown was the only time Miami put up six points, but it was great to see. He also looked solid on kickoff returns, while the rest of the special teams also did their job.
Finally the unit looks solid.
Reggie Bush accumulated over 100 all-purpose yards, and was arguably the sole bright spot on the offense (Davone Bess deserves credit too; as does Brian Hartline for contributing despite not playing all preseason).
Tannehill, despite his statistics, didn’t look awful. He made some good throws, and showed great poise in the pocket. It was a baptism of fire against the Texans’ defense, but at times he played well. However, there must be an improvement for next week’s Raiders’ game. If we see a little more from him each week, fans will be encouraged.
Well, the reasonable fans will be…
Dan Carpenter looks like Kid Rock. I consider this to be a good thing, although I am happy to entertain constructive debate on this issue.
The offense did look horrible for the most part. The wide receivers failed to get open, and when they did, they dropped passes. Somebody needs to step up on the boundary, as Davone Bess can’t be open all the time.
I imagine Mike Sherman received another text from Chad Johnson on Sunday night to inform him that he was still open.
Miami’s third and fourth round picks, Michael Egnew and Lamar Miller, were not even active for the game. They should both be given time, as they need to improve their blocking, particularly with a new rookie quarterback in the pocket. It is a slight concern, however, that neither were even dressed for the game. Let’s not panic yet, but it might be worth watching how this situation develops and hoping for some improvement from them.
The secondary is also a worry. They failed to stop Andre Johnson (again), as he beat Sean Smith, Richard Marshall, and Nolan Carroll on several occasions. Meanwhile, Owen Daniels feasted on the linebackers, gathering over 80 yards on four receptions. The secondary clearly has issues, and Troy Nolan could find himself in the lineup sooner rather than later.
The defense also needs to start forcing turnovers. Picks, fumbles, sacks... Miami needs more of them. These plays are game-changing, and right now the Dolphins are giving them up, and not making enough of them.
Owen Daniels also proved that Miami still cannot cover tight ends. This has been an issue for several seasons and Dolfans would like it addressed.
Tannehill’s first interception was simply the sort of play a rookie quarterback makes. His second two interceptions were more troubling, though, as Houston picked off two passes after they were tipped at the line of scrimmage.
The blame cannot all be played on him, as the offensive line needs to do a better job of keeping defensive linemens' hands down, or putting them on the turf as they jump.
Either way, it is an issue.
In the preseason game with Carolina, Tannehill had a number of balls batted in the air, and these kind of plays will ultimately lead to interceptions.
Again, it was against a top defense, but it is clearly an area of his game that needs adjusting. With the right coaching, it can be changed. No need to panic yet, but it was ugly to see so many balls batted down.
Opponents will be all over this for the rest of the season, so it will be interesting to see how Tannehill adapts. The odd tipped pass is not a problem, but it cannot happen as frequently as we saw this past weekend.
Miami failed to convert any fourth downs (0-3), and struggled on third down as well (2-10). This was a problem under Tony Sparano, and it continues to plague our new offense.
They need to make plays in the clutch, and they failed to do so this week, which was one reason they failed to find the end zone. Tannehill needs to find his inner assassin, and the Dolphins need someone to step up as a playmaker. Again, the Raiders’ game will be a more realistic challenge for Miami.
The second quarter was like watching Piers Morgan dancing around your kitchen in a mankini.
The final seven minutes of the half featured two picks and a fumble in their own territory. Houston turned these opportunities into three touchdowns.
That was the game.
It was, perhaps, so galling as the Phins had showed promise as they held their own through the first quarter. Up until that point in the second they were still looking solid, but their collapse cost them the game.
Houston was, as predicted by most, a mismatch, and the Dolphins remain winless all-time against the Texans. The learning curve for Ryan Tannehill has begun already, and it is now up to the fans to get behind him, and support his growth.
It was a difficult game, but had its bright spots. Marcus Thigpen’s return got most fans off their feet, and for the defensive-minded fans among you, Randy Starks’ dominance was very welcome.
This is a much more winnable game for Miami, and a better test to see how good (or bad) a team the Dolphins really are.