1) Quick Start Didn’t Last
The game started exactly the way Miami would have drawn it up. The Dolphins offense took the opening kickoff and moved the ball 78 yards on eight plays and took a 7-0 lead. They had the run and pass complementing each other and mixed in back-to-back explosive plays. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill found wide out Danny Amendola for 20 yards on a third-and-six conversion. Tannehill then found running back Kaylen Ballage on a simple swing pass that the rookie runner took for 31 yards down to the Jaguars 11-yard line. Two plays later, Brandon Bolden snuck behind the line of scrimmage and caught a shovel pass for the easiest four-yard touchdown pass that you will ever see! Unfortunately for Miami, after that drive the Dolphins rested. For the remainder of the game, the Dolphins offense could only account for 105 total yards. For the next 54 minutes, this group lacked any consistency and made numerous mistakes that kept Jacksonville engaged and tied on the scoreboard. The explosive plays disappeared and the penalties and mistakes started to mount for Miami and they proved too much to overcome. The Dolphins, for the second week in a row, played uninspired with their playoff hopes on the line. Jacksonville didn’t do anything special, but they did capitalize off of the Miami mistakes enough to win a game that was up for grabs all afternoon.
2) Sudden Change Disappointment
When Dolphin’s defensive end Andre Branch pounced on a fumble by Jacksonville quarterback Cody Kessler, it felt like it would be a turning point in the game for the home team. It was early in the second quarter and the score was tied at seven. The Miami offense started with excellent field position on the Jaguar 33-yard line. After a catch and run by Kenyan Drake, the offense faced a third-and-five from the 28-yard line. Tannehill threw incomplete on third down, but Miami foresaw that at least place kicker Jason Sanders could tack on three points and take a 10-7 lead. Sanders, who only has missed one attempt all season, shoved the kick 47-yard attempt wide right. The Dolphins were turned away and never threatened the end zone again. It was deflating not getting points in that situation, and it just might have been a turning point in the game.
3) Inconsistent Line Play
The story up front comes with mixed reviews, because of the success and failure on both sides of the line of scrimmage. On defense, the Dolphins sacked quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Blake Bortles a total of six times. That total marks the most in any one game this season, and the most since 2017 against the Titans. The rush defense did a really good job limiting Jags’ running back Leonard Fournette to 43 yards and only 2.4 yards per carry. The problem came late in the third and early in the fourth quarter, when Bortles scrambled twice for a total of 27 yards. Those two runs set up a short field goal by placekicker Kai Forbath. The 26 yarder gave Jacksonville a 10-7 lead and the pick-six a few plays later closed out the scoring at 17-7. On offense, the Dolphins never controlled the line of scrimmage outside of the opening drive. Pre-snap penalties, holding calls and three sacks made the unit look lethargic and powerless. I never felt that the Dolphins could threaten the Jaguars defense downfield or dictate tempo on their terms. The Miami offensive line just couldn’t consistently handle the speed and aggressiveness of the front seven they faced on this Sunday. When you can’t win up front, you’re usually going to end up with more punts than points, and on the short side of the scoreboard.