Monday, January 18, 2021

Dolphins fast start leads to domination of 49ers

The Miami Dolphins fast start against the San Francisco 49ers propelled one of the most complete games in recent memory. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 350 yards and 3 td’s as the Dolphins rolled over the injury-hit 49ers defence to a commanding 43-17 win.

After a disappointing redone performance against the Seahawks last weekend, Miami had no such trouble this weekend, scoring 4 touchdowns while holding the 49ers to just one first-half score, and two in the second half.

Pre-game talk had focussed a lot on who would fill the absence of rookie LT Austin Jackson. In the end Jesse Davis slid to LT and another rookie, Robert Hunt made his first start of the season at RT. Both had very good games and helped to anchor the line and give Fitzpatrick time to have one of his “Fitzmagic” games.

The game couldn’t have started much better if you’d been dreaming, with a very quick three-and-out for the Niners, followed by a clinical 7 play 79-yard drive that culminated with Adam Shaheen’s first touchdown as a Dolphin.

The Dolphins fast start continued on the next possession Zach Sieler recorded his first solo sack of the season, and San Francisco continued to struggle to establish their offence. With the 49ers facing a fourth and one on their next drive, they went for it on the Dolphins 44 and were stuffed by Christian Wilkins.

Dolphins fast start see's Adam Shaheen score his first Miami TD
Dolphins fast start see’s Adam Shaheen score his first Miami TD

Dolphins fast start carries on rolling

It was a clear plan of the Dolphins to attack the San Francisco defence deep early, as they had pass plays of 47, 15, and 28 yards on their first two possessions. There has been talk of Ryan Fitzpatrick losing his arm strength but he was clearly keen to dispel this from the off. The Dolphins second drive was punched in by Myles Gaskin, and things couldn’t have been going any better at 14-0.

With 116 yards to 65, and a 14-0 lead, the first quarter was easily the Dolphins best so far in the 2020 season. The second quarter wasn’t as perfect, but interceptions by Bobby McCain, and Xavien Howard, a sack strip by Andrew Van Ginkel and 16 more points saw the fins go in at the half with a 30-7 lead. And the best play was a 70-yard passing play to Mike Gesicki.

With 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 6 passes defended (yes SIX!) and 2 interceptions we finally got to see how this expensively assembled defense was designed to play as the Dolphins fast start was on both sides of the ball. It was the best first half we have seen under Brian Flores by a long way. I don’t think we’ve seen this many excited fins fans in years.

The second-half was hardly going to life up to the first, but with Jimmy Garoppolo benched at half-time, CJ Beatherd would pose a different type of challenge. Garoppolo finished the game 7/17 for 77 yards and 2 interceptions.

Dolphins fast start propelled by big plays to Williams and Parker © Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Dolphins fast start propelled by big plays to Williams and Parker © Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A quick 3-and-out was followed by a 9-play 74 yard 49ers touchdown drive. Kept alive by two third-down penalties, one a completely bogus roughing the passer call on Grugier-Hill. With the score at 30-14, the next drive was massively important.

Facing a fourth and one on their own 34 yard-line, Brian Flores called a fake punt, which thankfully went for a yard. It was to prove the catalyst that propelled another scoring drive. A 31-yard catch and run for Matt Breida, followed by a 32-yard strike to Preston Williams to restore the Dolphins 23 point lead.

There was a much greater degree of creativity and a much more aggressive play calling that fuelled the Dolphins fast start. It wasn’t merely the short conservative passing we have mostly seen this season that led many to question whether Ryan Fitzpatrick had lost his arm strength. Fitzpatrick would finish the game 22/28 for 350 yards 3 touchdowns and no turnovers.

It was all thanks to that Dolphins fast start to the game that the second half was a much calmer, more composed affair than we generally get in a Dolphins win. Barring the slight scare when the fins went for the fourth and one, the second half was mostly a procession on the way to a 2-3 record.

Matchup
1st Downs2219
Passing 1st downs128
Rushing 1st downs67
1st downs from penalties44
3rd down efficiency4-122-10
4th down efficiency2-20-2
Total Plays6359
Total Yards436259
Total Drives1211
Yards per Play6.94.4
Passing342128
Comp-Att22-2816-35
Yards per pass11.43.2
Interceptions thrown02
Sacks-Yards Lost2-85-43
Rushing94131
Rushing Attempts3319
Yards per rush2.86.9
Red Zone (Made-Att)3-62-3
Penalties7-697-75
Turnovers03
Fumbles lost01
Interceptions thrown02
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession36:5323:07

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