The Miami Dolphins have missed out on the playoffs, after a 56-26 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Miami needed to win or hope that either the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts or Tennessee Titans lost.
Tennessee wrapped up their playoff appearance with the Dolphins’ loss and the Ravens eased to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Jacksonville Jaguars managed to take Indianapolis to the fourth quarter, making the scoreline 20-14 to the Colts, before Indy running back Jonathan Taylor scored a rushing touchdown to seal the game.
The best chance of any team doing Miami a favour fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were down by a big deficit before touchdowns from Chase Claypool and Juju Smith-Schuster made the game 24-22 to Cleveland.
After Smith-Schuster’s touchdown, the Steelers went for the 2 point conversion as they attempted to level the score. Backup quarterback Mason Rudolph failed to find a teammate.
The Browns managed to get the first down needed to ice the game as they earned their first playoff berth since the 2002 season.
Ultimately, the Dolphins simply were not good enough. Despite anything being possible in the playoffs, it is more than likely that the Dolphins would not have won in the wildcard round. This is especially so as the Fins would have had to play Buffalo once again.
So what went wrong for the Dolphins in the loss?
Defense Fails To Show Up
The defense has been the best unit for Miami this season. Before the game, they had allowed for the fewest points in the league.
Buffalo are the most in-form team in the AFC and they certainly didn’t hold back on Sunday.
The Dolphins were 3-0 up at the end of the first quarter. Both Buffalo and Miami scored seven points each in the third quarter and the Bills only scored seven more points than Miami in the fourth quarter.
It was the second quarter that killed Miami. The Dolphins allowed 28 points in the second quarter, which gave Buffalo a lead that was pretty much unattainable.
The Dolphins’ defense was the worst they have been all season. It was an off day at the worst possible time. Miami never looked like winning, even with Xavien Howard’s first-quarter interception.
The Miami did manage to force the Bills to punt away with the game at 28-13. This gave the Fins a chance to drive down the field and turn it into an eight-point game.
Miami’s Struggles On Offense
Unfortunately, Bills cornerback Josh Norman caught a pick six, putting Miami out of sight.
Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled once again but this time didn’t have the security blanket of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who missed the game through testing positive for COVID-19.
Tua threw for 361 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, albeit two of the interceptions was when he had to make the risky passes due to the heavy deficit.
What was clear from this game, and throughout the season is that Tua needs weapons.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker caught for 116 yards from 7 carries on Sunday. However, the next two biggest receiving yards in the loss came from running back Myles Gaskin (57) and tight end Mike Gesicki (47). The next best yards from a wide receiver came from Lynn Bowden (44).
By virtue of the Houston Texans’ loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Dolphins will occupy the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It is a question of who they will take. Offensive tackle Penei Sewell is seen as the most likely option but a wide receiver should be brought in, whether that be the draft or free agency.
Alabama wideout DeVonta Smith should be the Dolphins’ choice from the wide receiver class, due to his connection with Tua for Alabama.
LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase is seen as one of the top wide receivers in this year’s draft.
Overall, the Dolphins should be happy with the overall progress of the team.
In just the second year under head coach Brian Flores, Miami has gone from losing their first seven games of the season in 2019 to going 10-6 this season.
There is real progress that can get fans excited in year 3. With more offensive help, and perhaps a pass rusher and another offensive lineman, fans should get excited about the 2021 season.