The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

BARELY SURVIVING

On Sunday, the beleaguered Miami Dolphins hosted the San Diego Chargers, a team that had lost 2 straight, and barely survived.  The game was not over until Brent Grimes knocked away Philip Rivers’ potential game-winning touchdown pass on the final play to preserve a 20-16 win.  The Fins not only barely survived the game, but their season is also barely surviving.  They now stand at 5-5 with 6 games remaining. 

In a season in which a decided lack of talent on the offensive line has been compounded by Bullygate, the Fins had one more obstacle up front this Sunday.  Center Mike Pouncey was unable to play due to injury.  As a result, Nate Garner was forced into action at center and Sam Brenner played left guard.  Brenner had just been promoted from the Fins’ practice squad and it was indeed a surprise to see him leapfrog over some of the other lineman on the roster.  It goes to show you what the Fins’ think of some of their back-ups such as this year’s third round draft pick, Dallas Thomas.

All things considered, the offensive line played a creditable game.  The Fins’ rushed for 104 yards (on only 19 attempts) for a nifty 5.5 yard average.  Daniel Thomas ran uncharacteristically hard, with 10 carries for 57 yards.  All in all the running game was better than last week when the backs totaled zero yards.  This week the backs got 83 yards with QB Ryan Tannehill adding another 21 yards.  In pass blocking the line was barely good enough, giving up 4 sacks, although the last was pretty much on Tannehill who had nowhere to throw the ball on a roll-out and opted to run out of bounds when he should have heaved the ball out of bounds to avoid a loss.

Ryan Tannehill’s performance was good enough, but not spectacular.  He was 22 of 35 (62.9%) for 268 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  His QB Rating of 84.0 was, shall we say, good enough for the win.  His counterpart, Philip Rivers, threw for 298 yards, also with 1 TD and 1 INT, but his QB Rating was a more impressive 90.1.

Charles Clay had a big game catching 6 of the 7 balls thrown his way for 90 yards including a touchdown.  The touchdown was a thing of beauty that will likely make ESPN’s Top 10 as he caught a fairly short pass and proceeded to break a number of tackles on his way to a 39-yard score.  Brian Hartline caught only 5 of the 13 balls thrown his way, which is out of character for the usually sure-handed receiver.  Rishard Matthew, coming off a career day last week, had 4 receptions for 52 yards as he continues to grow into the expanded playing time he has gotten since Brandon Gibson went down with a season-ending injury a few weeks ago.

The Fins’ $60 million dollar man, Mike Wallace, continues to be a concern.  He caught 4 passes, but those receptions went for a mere 39 yards.  With his speed, he needs to average more than 9.8 yards per reception.  Unfortunately, he and Ryan Tannehill cannot seem to hook up on the deep ball.  Once again, he was in the clear, but Tannehill severely underthrew the ball to the point that it ended up being an incomplete pass instead of a TD.  Not much good having this deep-ball threat around when Ryan Tannehill has proven he is one of the NFL’s least prolific long-ball throwers.  What is truly odd about his difficulty completing passes of over 20 yards is that he has one of the stronger arms in the league.  For some reason his accuracy suffers when he goes over the top.

The defense did what they had to do against the Chargers.  Philip Rivers was held to 1 TD pass and none in the last 3 quarters of the game.  Tight end Antonio Gates was held to 4 catches for 52 yards, not too bad considering how often the Fins’ defense gets torched by opposing tight ends.   The run defense was decent except for a 51-yarder given up late in the third quarter.  Although the Chargers’ average per carry was 5.9 for the game, they were held to a respectable 4.1 yards aside from the one busted 51-yarder.  But the defense not only held the Chargers to 2 field goals in the second half, but the defense kept Philip Rivers out of the end zone in the final 2 minutes when Brent Grimes came up with his big game-ending play.  Grimes played another very solid game as he also had an interception to stop a Chargers’ drive in the first quarter.

And that is how the Fins barely survived on Sunday.  Realistically, with their record currently at 5-5, the Fins need to win 5 of their last 6 games to have a meaningful chance at the post-season.  Having lost 5 of their last 7, one would not expect that to occur.  But at least for now, the Fins are still barely surviving.

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