The Miami Dolphins put together their worst performance of the season in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football as they traveled to New Orleans and were beaten by the Saints 38-17.
Here we will grade every position on the team for its performance against the Saints, focusing on details of individual performances.
Thematically, there will be a lot of references to the eight critical plays that cost the Dolphins the game. While most fans and observers will focus on the four turnovers by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, in reality only two of those turnovers really mattered. Additionally, there were six plays given up by the Dolphins defense that were just as costly as a turnover.
Only two of the turnovers matter because within approximately the first 36.5 minutes of the game the Dolphins had essentially already lost the contest. At that point, the Saints were up 35-10 with about a quarter-and-a-half of football remaining, and it would have required a miracle comeback for Miami to win the game.
While what happened in the final 23.5 minutes of the game matters from an self-evaluation standpoint, the Dolphins will want to pay more attention to what happened during the first 36.5 minutes of the game.
The eight critical plays that lost Miami the game were thus:
- A 48-yard catch off a wheel route by Saints tailback Darren Sproles in the first quarter.
- A failure by the offense to convert a first down off 3rd-and-inches in the first quarter.
- A fumble lost by quarterback Ryan Tannehill at midfield in the second quarter.
- A loss of containment by the Dolphins defense resulting in the Saints converting on 3rd-and-20.
- A 27-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham in the second quarter.
- An interception thrown by Ryan Tannehill during the final two minutes of the second quarter.
- A 13-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Darren Sproles off 3rd-and-11 in the second quarter.
- A 43-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham in the third quarter.
The two turnovers, while critical, were just two of the eight plays that resulted in an insurmountable Saints lead midway through the third quarter.
These eight miscues were big plays, many of which were down-and-distance situations that favored the Dolphins. All of them resulted in a swing in points in favor of the Saints.
These plays will be referred to often during the grading because they were important to the game's outcome.