Green Bay Packers vs. Miami Dolphins: Full Report-Card Grades for Miami
It was a thrilling roller coaster of a game, one in which it looked like all was lost with the Miami Dolphins, then looked like the game was won, before the final two minutes of the game, when the Dolphins finally dropped the game to the Green Bay Packers by the final score of 27-24.
Miami's performance was good enough to hang with an elite quarterback, but not good enough to beat him. The story of the game is how much time they left on the clock at the end due to coaches who made maddening play-calls, then got conservative at the wrong time.
This was followed by an exhausted defense doing what they could to stop a locomotive of a Packers offense, only to find themselves out-executed down the stretch. This wasn't a failure by the Dolphins defense, a unit that held their own throughout the game, but a triumph of a Packers offense that had way too much time and was given field position that was just too good.
From the players, this isn't a game to get down on, but for the coaches, a good, hard look in the mirror might be in order.
Now you could say the game was lost in the first half, specifically the first two offensive drives of the first quarter that saw the Dolphins start from the 50 and from the Packers' 16-yard line, only to see the Dolphins come up with a combined three points. That will sting just as much, if not more, than the poor decisions in the second-to-last Dolphins offensive drive, which is the current hot take on social media as it pertains to the Miami Dolphins.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace does point to himself and the rest of the offense for some of the blame of that last drive, per this tweet by Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post:
Mike Wallace: "We don’t need to put our defense in that position... If we want to be a championship team we’ve got to be able to kill games"— Andrew Abramson (@AbramsonPBP) October 12, 2014
Wallace's statement is a correct one, but he shouldn't have to hold his head low after this game, either, one that save for the final score was a fairly positive game for the Dolphins.
Here are the grades for Miami's crushing loss to the Green Bay Packers.
If we were to split this up into halves, Ryan Tannehill would get a solid F for the first half.
Tannehill's first half was a disaster, thanks to two interceptions, sacks he took that he had no reason to take and questionable throws.
I put it on the quarterback when the team can't score when given the ball inside the opposing team's 20, and his throw to Brian Hartline in the red zone was a pretty bad one, especially when Charles Clay was open on the play at the 1-yard line, ready to catch it and get into the end zone.
There was one throw to Hartline that was worse, and that was when he went deep to Hartline, but overthrew him by a good two yards. Hartline still had a chance at the ball, but instead, Sam Shields came up with the interception.
I can't put that all on Hartline, though. That's not the type of route for Hartline to run. He's a possession receiver that you hit underneath, not someone you go deep to. While having him run that route was a coaching decision, Tannehill should've done a better job reading the field to find a receiver who was more open.
That's why Tannehill's first half gets an F, here's why his second half gets an A.
This was a different Ryan Tannehill, one who seemed to put it all together. It's performances like Tannehill's second-half gem that continue to tantalize and tease the Dolphins and their fanbase. At one point in the half, he was 10-of-11 with two touchdowns and 132 yards, and his receivers could catch anything but a cold from him.
If he performs like that in the first half, the Dolphins don't just win, they blow Green Bay out of the water with the way the defense performed throughout the game. Instead, we got one A half from Tannehill after an F half.
Average it out, and I'm sure you can figure out the grade, with an extra point for his resiliency.
With the Dolphins offense, you will see a theme here, one of a tale of two halves.
Much like how Tannehill had an F half and an A half, the Dolphins running backs had an F half and an A half.
In the first half, Miami kept rotating running backs, and neither Lamar Miller nor Knowshon Moreno could get any rhythm. With Moreno, you could tell he was a bit hesitant on his runs due to his elbow injury, and he didn't seem to run with much power.
It might have been a better idea to sit him out for another game, as he ended the afternoon with 10 yards on six carries, with only one carry coming in the second half (a controversial carry, too).
In the second half, Miami went with Lamar Miller and stuck with him, and the result was Miller ending the afternoon with 14 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown to go along with three catches for 43 yards.
Once again, the Lamar Miller we have been waiting for for the last three seasons was here; it's a shame that it took him a whole half to show up, including an ugly 10-yard loss in the first half.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
This was the touchdown that Jarvis Landry caught, the first of what will hopefully be many in his NFL career.
Landry had a tremendous day for the Dolphins, catching six passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. This is why he was drafted in the second round, and why fans and analysts have been high on him since then.
As for the other wide receivers, Mike Wallace had a good day, bringing down five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, while Charles Clay had three catches of his own for 35 yards, and should've had a touchdown of his own.
Hartline was shut out and has had better days, but the unit as a whole played well.
Like with Ryan Tannehill and the running backs, the offensive line was a tale of two halves.
You could tell in the first half they were getting used to the newness of having Mike Pouncey back (and at guard, which he had yet to play as a Dolphin prior to Sunday), as the team allowed the Packers defensive line to collapse on the run game, then get to the quarterback unmolested.
This in turn meant the Dolphins couldn't run the ball, couldn't pass the ball, couldn't really get anything done.
Then came the second half, and things clicked. The Dolphins offensive line was now winning in the trenches, especially in the interior. Pouncey returned to his Pro Bowl form (still as a guard), and the rest of the team followed suit. They looked like the offensive line we've seen in the first four games and made Green Bay look like the defensive line we saw in their first four games.
With a performance this uneven, you know what the grade will be, but there's a lot of hope for this unit going forward, as the first half could've simply been the jitters of a new unit.
All the credit in the world goes to Aaron Rodgers for his performance today.
The reason for that is the Dolphins defensive line did not make him very comfortable. In fact, they nearly won the game for Miami, it's just a shame that there weren't any white jerseys around the football when Olivier Vernon forced the fumble late in the fourth quarter.
Miami recorded only three sacks but was pressuring Rodgers all day.
As for the run game, yes, on paper it doesn't look good, as the Packers ran for 121 yards as a team, but look closer.
Eddie Lacy ran for just 40 yards on 14 attempts. James Starks had 31 yards on eight attempts. The Packers rusher with the best average was Aaron Rodgers, with seven runs for 34 yards, a 4.9-yards-per-carry average.
None of those runs were designed runs, but desperation attempts at extending the play. As a team, despite the 121 yards on the ground, the Packers ran for an average of 3.6 yards per carry, with only eight first downs gained on the ground.
That's good for the defense, especially against a run game like Green Bay's that can sting you. In this game, it was all Rodgers.
How great was it having Koa Misi back?
He made an impact in the game, recording eight tackles and being at the right place at the right time.
The same could be said for Jelani Jenkins, who had six tackles.
Then there's Philip Wheeler, who for 59 minutes 57 seconds played well, but then allowed the game-winning touchdown.
Then, when discussing that touchdown, he said this to the media (per James Walker of ESPN):
It was 50 percent bad play call and 50 percent bad coverage. I feel like [Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers] figured us out towards the end. He knew we were in man-to-man and that I would have single coverage on the tight end.
Wheeler was telling the truth 100 percent on the statement, so much so that even though he kind of halfheartedly took the blame (as opposed to the offensive line, who in the same article took 100 percent of the blame), I won't knock him for it.
The execution on that last play could've been better, and also that could've happened at any point in the game, I won't let it overshadow the first 59 minutes and 57 seconds of a good performance on his end, or the rest of the good performances from the Dolphins linebackers.
Last week on my Dolphins Central Radio Podcast, I had on Orlando Alzugaray of Miami sports talk radio station 560 WQAM. We discussed Brent Grimes, and I had opined that Grimes wasn't playing as well as he did last year, while Alzugaray replied:
I think Brent Grimes is doing a decent job out there, I think he's doing alright. Grimes is fine right now, Grimes isn't a problem, I don't see him as a weakness or anything with this football team, he's made some plays too back there himself.
Today, Brent Grimes was a weakness, as he was on Jordy Nelson all afternoon. Nelson was Green Bay's best player not named Aaron Rodgers, catching nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Everyone does have their bad days, though, and for Grimes this was his first really bad day since joining the Dolphins. For Cortland Finnegan, the day was atrocious, as he was beaten often by rookie Davante Adams, who had six catches for 77 yards.
Jimmy Wilson was plenty abused as well, as his assignment was mainly Randall Cobb. Cobb had five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
The safeties played well, with the newly returned Reshad Jones leading the way with nine tackles. Other than that, it was a rather pedestrian effort from a unit that has been stronger this season.
I only have one gripe with a special teams unit that was very special against Green Bay.
The unit finished with a 50-yard kick return, a blocked punt, a made field goal from 48 yards and a very good day in coverage—until the end.
No one is going to talk about this play, but it should be discussed. After the decision to run on 3rd-and-9, Brandon Fields came on to punt from Miami's 37-yard line. Fields' punt traveled 40 yards to the Packers 23. The thinking, of course, is it's a higher punt with more hang time but would travel shorter.
I didn't like that. I would've had no problem with Fields punting it toward the end zone there, and that was before the return, which went for 17 yards to the Packers 40-yard line.
Think about that: With two minutes left, Miami wound up backing the Packers up only 23 yards from the original line of scrimmage.
The extra hang time obviously didn't help if there was a 17-yard return, meaning Aaron Rodgers had only 60 yards to go.
I'd rather have had the extra 20 yards with the punt going into the end zone, but I can't blame all of that on Fields (who averaged only 22 yards per kick in his three punts), as the punt coverage team should've been a lot better.
That one play won't be talked about, but it should, because it helped to hasten Miami's demise. Other than that, Miami's special teams turned in a good day, one worthy of the grade they have.
I'm still dumbfounded by the decisions made by the coaching staff in the last two minutes of the game.
Before we get to that, let's take a look at how unprepared the offense looked in the first half, despite the fact that they had two weeks to prepare for the Packers, a team on which you would think this coaching staff would've had a leg up in the first place due to Philbin's history with the team.
It's also worth noting in the second-to-last Dolphins offensive drive of the game that Green Bay blitzed on every play. This is something that Joe Philbin should've known and accounted for, since he worked alongside Capers in Green Bay, and I'm sure saw his offense match up with Capers' defense in training camp.
(Worth noting but not really having an effect on this due to how much change has happened in Miami since then, but Dom Capers was Miami's defensive coordinator from 2006-2007).
Despite that, the Dolphins didn't seem ready for the blitz, and instead saw their offensive line overpowered in that final drive, which, as we mentioned in the earlier slide about the linebackers, they acknowledged.
The coaches should acknowledge that they didn't have the offensive line prepared for that, nor did they do anything to account for it.
The timeout that was called: also maddening. Really, the coaching staff played a big part in Miami losing the game, but I'll give them credit for some of their better successes.
Up until that second-to-last drive, Bill Lazor was on point in his play-calling, even in the disastrous first half. I wasn't crazy about Kevin Coyle's strategy with the secondary, but I won't penalize him for it, as it appeared that Green Bay's receivers would've beaten whatever corners covered them.
It's not a full F, but I'm still not impressed or happy.
|Wide Receivers/Tight Ends||A|
This was one heck of a game, one in which the Dolphins' players showed plenty of resilience throughout and almost came through with the win.
What ultimately lost the game was bad decisions from the coaches at the end of the game, mainly the decision to give the ball back to Aaron Rodgers.
Ethan J. Skolnick may be known more as Bleacher Report's NBA writer, but he has covered the Dolphins in his time, and he still watches the team and provides analysis through Twitter.
His take on the game:
The Dolphins' players did enough to win that game. Coaches failed them with game management down stretch. Can't let Rodgers regroup.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) October 12, 2014
That's exactly how I felt about this game, and it's why this team got a B-.
It's just a shame that the D on the coaches has to push the grade lower than it should be and resulted in a Green Bay victory.
Stats courtesy of NFL.com.