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Ten things I took from Monday night’s 38-17 loss to the Saints.
1. It was a disappointing performance. The Dolphins did not play well enough on either side of the ball to beat a team the caliber of the Saints. But, as bad as this loss was, it needs to be put in perspective. The Superdome on a Monday night is about as tough as it gets. I had this game circled months ago as the most difficult one on the schedule. You almost have to play a perfect game to beat this team at this place on this night. Not an excuse, just a fact.
2. I’m hoping that Ryan Tannehill had a chance to watch some of the game when the Saints had the ball, to learn from what Drew Brees did, to see up close how a master at his craft can dissect a solid defense. Brees is the destination and Tannehill still has a ways to get there. As for Tannehill’s performance, he simply has to do a better job protecting the ball. His fumble in the first half against the Saints was his sixth of the season and resulted in a touchdown. I really believe holding the ball properly is a learned skill. Tannehill simply has to get better at it.
3. I’ve said this before and I will say it over and over. The key to this season will come down to the offensive line’s ability to keep Tannehill upright. The line gave up four sacks to the Saints and has now given up 18 for the season. That can’t continue. While left tackle Jonathan Martin had an especially difficult third quarter, the blame should fall on everyone’s shoulders. They are all healthy. These are the five best players the Dolphins have starting or they wouldn’t be starting. The improvement has to come from within and the backs and tight ends need to help as well.
4. The Dolphins, plain and simple, just did not have an answer for Darren Sproles. From the first play of the game when Sproles beat safety Reshad Jones on an out and up pass pattern to a third-and-20 that Sproles converted, the Dolphins just seemed a step slow against this human speed zone. Fortunately for the Dolphins, there aren’t many players like Sproles in this league and, last I checked, they don’t play the Saints again.
5. Paul Soliai makes a huge impact on this Dolphins defense, especially against the run. A week ago, without Soliai in the lineup, the Atlanta Falcons had far too much success on the ground. But on Monday night, with Soliai back in there, the middle was clogged and there was little the Saints’ backs could do. You can argue that Soliai is the second best player on this defense behind only Cameron Wake.
6. Lamar Miller has done a lot in the last two games to solidify his status as the starting running back. He was excellent against the Saints, scoring on a 5-yard run, and has shown the speed and decisiveness that we are all looking for. Once the game got out of hand, the running game became an afterthought. But, as each week goes by, it appears Miller is widening the gap between himself and Daniel Thomas.
7. Rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor had his welcome-to-the-NFL moment in the first half, giving up a touchdown pass to the human tower Jimmy Graham. But it’s the bigger picture — the Dolphins inability to cover tight ends much of the season — that is of greater concern. They took a step up last week against Tony Gonzalez and a step back Monday night against Graham.
8. Even as deep as the Dolphins are on the defensive line, they are not nearly as good when Wake isn’t in the lineup, evidenced on Monday night. His pass rushing skills make everyone around him better and when Brees has the time he had on many of his throws, well, it’s just easy pickings. Having said that, fellow defensive end Olivier Vernon had his best game of the season against the Saints.
9. I was hoping that this game would come down to the fourth quarter. I was hoping the trend of finishing strong would continue against the Saints. But the Dolphins weren’t in position – down 35-10 after three quarters — for the fourth quarter to matter. That’s probably the biggest disappointment of all, that after closing to 14-10 in the first half and looking like they had a real chance, the Dolphins let this one get out of hand.
10. And now the challenge is quickly putting this behind them, learning from all the of mistakes – and there were far too many — becoming better from the experience, and quickly moving on to the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, the last of a brutal five-game season opening stretch.
On Wednesday, AC in the AM evaluates where the Dolphins are one-fourth of the way through the season.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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