Dolphins Fans Fuming After Clock Management Issues in Loss Without Tua Tagovailoa

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 15, 2023

Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel looks at his play sheet during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

A beat-up Miami Dolphins team had a nearly impossible task on Sunday: Go into Buffalo and beat the talented Bills in a wild-card matchup without a number of key players, most notably quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

And yet they almost pulled it off.

In what proved to be a wild game that saw the Dolphins erase a 17-point first-half deficit, the Bills held on to win 34-31 and move on to the AFC Divisional Round.

It was hard not to imagine what might have been with a healthy Tagovailoa:

Joe Schad @schadjoe

It can't be overstated how unfortunate it is that the Dolphins' second playoff game in 14 years is without Tua Tagovailoa or Teddy Bridgewater, Raheem Mostert, Emmanuel Ogbah, Byron Joes, Brandon Jones, etc. Anything short of humiliating blowout is an achievement today.

Marcel Louis-Jacques @Marcel_LJ

If Tua was healthy....

Anthony @OMGItsBirdman

They probably win with Tua thats tough

But that wasn't the only what-if from Sunday.

The key moment of the game came with 2:29 remaining and the Dolphins facing a key 4th-and-1 from their own 48-yard line. The team handled the play clock so poorly that they were hit with a delay-of-game penalty and instead had to attempt a 4th-and-5 conversion, which they failed.

And after the game, head coach Mike McDaniel and the team were hammered for their clock management:


This is not how you want your offense to look with 4 seconds left on the play clock 4th and 1 <a href="https://t.co/KmLCBcwASG">pic.twitter.com/KmLCBcwASG</a>

Jake Liscow @JakeLiscow

idk if there's chicanery around the headsets and they're having technology issues or what but burning 3 timeouts on delay of game avoidance then taking an actual delay of game on 4th-1 is wild af

Steven Ruiz @theStevenRuiz

the offensive play callers are always so bad at managing the game.

Michael Lombardi @mlombardiNFL

So much wrong with that sequence. It's hard to believe a play can't get to the QB in time when you don't have time outs.

Stephen Holder @HolderStephen

I have no dog in the fight and I'm still angry. It's just stunningly bad.

Patrick Daugherty @RotoPat

I watched Matt Patricia all year and that was still easily the worst one-play clock management I have ever seen

Field Yates @FieldYates

What's crazy about that 4th down delay of game is that the original play clock ran down to 14 seconds before the officials bumped it back to 25 seconds. Miami had 51 seconds to the get ball snapped and couldn't get it off on time.

Alessandro Miglio @AlexMiglio

Clock management issues were maddening. Dolphins played a great game when they were supposed to get crushed. Healthy Tua puts them over the top in this one. Too bad.

Mike Tanier @MikeTanier

Cause of death: staggeringly horrendous timeout and clock management.

Cameron Wolfe @CameronWolfe

Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel has mentioned multiple times this year he's been trying to improve his speed getting plays into the QB as a play-caller. He's had a strong year as a playcaller but not in clock operation. It's been an issue all day today &amp; cost them on that 4th &amp; inches.

Rodger Sherman @rodger

truly great football coaches have basically no comprehension of the concept of time, I believe in Mike McDaniel more than ever

No doubt, the Dolphins will rue that moment in particular. But the fact that they had a mere 231 yards of total offense and still put up 31 points was a major testament to a defense that forced three turnovers, sacked Josh Allen seven times and scored a touchdown on its own.

On a day when the Dolphins were down to third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson and facing one of the NFL's most dangerous offenses, the defense needed to make some plays. They certainly did, though they also allowed 34 points and 423 yards of total offense, albeit with two Buffalo touchdowns coming after Thompson interceptions.

All in all, most people expected the Bills to blow the Dolphins out with relative ease in this one. But the Dolphins battled. A few key moments, namely on that fateful 4th-and-1, and we could have had a stunning upset on our hands.