What a conflicting position the Dolphins fan finds themselves in this morning. On one hand, Miami is assured to be atop the division the next time they strap it up for a game on November 19 against Las Vegas. On the other, the team was a couple plays away from a big statement win over the defending Super Bowl champions that would have put them in a great position in the AFC halfway through the season.
Alas, those plays didn't go in Miami's favor, as they fall 21-14 in the first-ever regular season game in Frankfurt, Germany. Here are the takeaways from Dolphins-Chiefs.
1. Missed Opportunity
Earlier in the season, these bullet points are designed around big picture elements of the team that can hopefully inform us on how the rest of the season might play out. With the calendar turning to November, the impact these games have on the standings becomes more divulging.
A victory in that spot would've given Miami a statement win over the defending Super Bowl champs in a highly-anticipated international affair in a standalone TV window. The Dolphins would have been able to keep pace with the other division-leaders in the AFC, such as Baltimore and Jacksonville, with eight more games to go.
Now, at 6-3, Miami sets its sights on a back half of the schedule that features five of the remaining eight games at Hard Rock Stadium, a venue where Miami has won 16 of its past 18 contests.
2. Don't look now, the defense is back
Head Coach Mike McDaniel's 27-game tenure in the big chair could be defined many ways. One of those is the attrition and injuries the team has had to overcome. Sunday in Germany, the Dolphins defense started each of its projected opening day starters from training camp. The result was just two offensive touchdowns and less than 300 yards allowed to Patrick Mahomes and the vaunted Chiefs attack.
Miami is now 11th in total defense on the season. They're tied for fourth with 29 sacks and tied for the NFL lead with 65 quarterback hits. They've held four of their last five opponents to 21 points or less and have star talent at all three levels.
Jalen Ramsey makes life easier on the uber talented Xavien Howard and Kader Kohou. Jevon Holland and DeShon Elliott are starting to finish each other's sentences on the back end. David Long Jr. is playing like the star he was in Tennessee behind a pair of dominant defensive tackles in Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler.
Finally, Bradley Chubb has a sack in each of his last four games while Jaelan Phillips has brought down the QB in three straight contests.
With these performances on defense, Miami can make life tough on any quarterback, even a two-time NFL MVP like Mahomes.
It typically takes some time for a new system to take hold and it looks like Vic Fangio has hit a bit of an inflection point on that side of the ball.
3. Cleaner Games on the Road
After opening the season with two road wins in Weeks 1 and 2, the Dolphins have not offered its best showings when leaving the friendly confines of Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins have dropped three straight road games to three of the best teams in the league in Buffalo, Philadelphia and Kansas City.
The bye week comes right after the midway point of the season as Miami is starting to get healthier. The Dolphins will have more chances to prove they can beat tough teams on the road, as they still have away games left against the 4-3 New York Jets on Black Friday and the 7-2 Baltimore Ravens on New Year's Eve. If they can grow and improve, the division is theirs for the taking.
For more analysis, takeaways and breakdowns, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield, available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.