Dolphins vs. Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned from Miami's 24-21 Loss

Mario Cuadros@@mario_cuadrosContributor IISeptember 30, 2012

Dolphins vs. Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned from Miami's 24-21 Loss

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    For the second week in a row, the Miami Dolphins lose a game on a field goal in overtime. 

    The Dolphins were in control for most of the game and looked poised to pull the upset against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals.

    Miami had 480 total yards against the Cardinals' 297. It also held the ball for 3:30 more and recorded eight sacks. Yet it still couldn't win.

    It shot itself in the foot when it looked like it was running the clock down in the fourth quarter, but the Arizona linebacker got into the backfield before Tannehill could even turn around and forced the fumble that would lead to the game-tying touchdown.

    The Cardinals faced two fourth downs in their final drive of regulation, and the Dolphins failed to capitalize. 

    It was another learning experience, but it's one that might hurt even more than the one last week against the Jets.

    Here's a few of the things we learned from Miami's loss.

Ryan Tannehill Keeps Improving, but Still Has a Ways to Go

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    Ryan Tannehill easily played his best game of the season.

    He had a franchise record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie with 431, including an 80-yard touchdown. 

    Tannehill looked poised throughout the game against a very good Cardinals defense. He changed multiple protections at the line of scrimmage and audibled to plays that yielded positive yardage.

    He was forced to throw the ball constantly, as the Cardinals completely nullified the Dolphins running game. Tannehill threw short, medium and long passes with accuracy. He wasn't rattled when he had pressure in his face and bounced back after making mistakes.

    Tannehill threw two interceptions, which weren't really his fault. On one, Brian Hartline slipped while running his route, which allowed for the defender to step in front and pick off the pass. On the other pick, Tannehill was hit by an unblocked defender who forced the pass to leave Tannehill's hand without any strength. 

    Despite the loss, Tannehill keeps showing improvement with his passing as well as his overall understanding of the game. 

Miami Only Has 2 Wide Receivers

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    What a game it was for Brian Hartline.

    It appears that he caught every pass that was thrown his way. Hartline finished the game with 12 receptions, a touchdown and a franchise record of 253 receiving yards. 

    On the other side, Davone Bess also had himself a good game. He caught seven passes for 123 yards.

    While these stats are great for both players, they are not too great for the Dolphins as a team. The only other wide receiver to catch a pass was Legedu Naanee, and he ended up fumbling. 

    This is not a good sign for the Dolphins, as other teams will realize that Miami doesn't have anyone else it can throw it to. It must have someone other than these two players step up if it wants to continue having success in the passing game.

    Naanee has recorded only one catch in four games. Anthony Armstrong, who was recently signed to upgrade the position, was on the field for just a couple plays and has only caught three passes for 12 yards this season.

Cameron Wake Has Come to Life

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    Cameron Wake hadn't been able to record a sack in his first three games, but that doesn't mean he wasn't playing at a high level.

    Wake was applying constant pressure on quarterbacks and getting his hands on them. He just hadn't been able to bring them down. Until this game.

    Wake was an absolute wrecking ball against the Cardinals' rookie right tackle. From the start, he was putting pressure on Kevin Kolb, forcing him to get rid of the ball early.

    Not only was he applying pressure this game, but he finally began getting his sacks. Wake finished the game with a career high 4.5 sacks. What is even more impressive is that out of the eight sacks the Dolphins had, Wake was partially involved in all of them. 

    When Kolb felt Wake getting close to him, he rolled to the other side, where he met another defender.

    This was the type of breakout game many expected from Wake, and it could spark something special from him.

Miami Lacks a Killer Instinct

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    Like I said on the introduction slide, Miami had control of this game from the beginning. 

    It was moving the ball consistently on offense, while the defense didn't allow the Cardinals offense to get anything going. Miami led 13-0 at halftime, but the score could have been worse.

    It had plenty of opportunities to blow the game wide open in the first half, but it couldn't take advantage. As it went into the fourth quarter, Miami still held a slim 13-7 lead. However, the defense bended and allowed the Cardinals to take the lead.

    The Dolphins did a good job staying composed and were able to take the lead on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Hartline and were then able to convert the two-point play.

    On the Cardinals' next offensive possession, the Dolphins defense forced a punt, and it appeared that their offense would finish the job.

    Instead, the Cardinals forced a fumble and were able to score with less than 30 seconds remaining after converting on two fourth-down plays.

    Miami had chances to put this game out of reach, but it is still lacking the mentality that great teams have. For the second game in a row, the defense allowed a touchdown late in the game.

    Miami could have easily been 3-1 at this point, but mental mistakes and not putting opponents away has it at 1-3.

The Secondary Doesn't Look Pretty

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    As bad as the wide receiver talent for the Dolphins is, the secondary may be a step below that.

    Sean Smith played a good game, as he was matched up against Larry Fitzgerald for most of the time. Smith recorded the Dolphins' two interceptions. However, he gave up the game-tying touchdown while he had help in the middle. 

    Richard Marshall continues to be absolutely atrocious giving up big plays and appearing lost at times. He hasn't been the impact player the Dolphins expected him to be when they signed him, and it has cost them.

    Nolan Carrol should not be seeing the field unless it's on special teams, as he is a liability in coverage. 

    They gave up 324 passing yards to Kevin Kolb, making that three straight games in which the secondary has allowed over 300 passing yards. These games haven't been against great quarterbacks, either. Carson Palmer threw for 373 yards, Mark Sanchez threw for 306 and Kevin Kolb had his share. 

    The Dolphins secondary started the game well, but they gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. When it mattered the most, they showed their true colors.