The Dolphins fell to 1-3 after a 27-17 loss at Hard Rock Stadium to the visiting Indianapolis Colts. Not good enough across the board, that was Head Coach Brian Flores' message in a transparent postgame availability with the South Florida media.
Execution and putting players in a better position to execute -- those are the two obstacles facing the Dolphins entering a Week 5 contest against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These are the three takeaways that fall under the umbrella of adversity.
As always, for further analysis, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.
1. Uncharacteristic Miscues
Through Flores' first two seasons with Miami, the Dolphins won many games that pundits didn't think they could win. Among many things, one reason the Dolphins were able to defy external expectations was the ability to win in the fine margins -- penalties, limiting mistakes and capitalizing on the mistakes of the opponent. The last three weeks have produced the opposite outcome.
Though Miami returned to a more disciplined game in the penalty department (five for 32 yards in the loss to the Colts), a string of errors continuously placed Miami behind the proverbial eight ball. While the Dolphins have shown heart and fight to claw back into the last two games, those blunders proved too much to overcome.
"We're out there taking turns making mistakes in all three phases, and it's not enough," Flores said. "It's not good enough."
Blake Ferguson's recovery of a muffed punt put Miami at the plus-27-yard-line four minutes into the game. The ensuing possession covered seven yards, five coming via penalty, and concluded with a 38-yard Jason Sanders field goal.
The next possession saw Miami penetrate Colts' territory down the 31-yard-line. Jacoby Brissett was sacked on third-and-7, knocking Miami out of field goal range.
On a second-quarter punt, Brennan Scarlett jumped offsides and the Colts seized their second chance just four plays later with a Jonathan Taylor touchdown scamper.
Trailing 14-3, Miami got a much-needed stop but gave the ball right back on a Jakeem Grant muffed punt, which resulted in three more Indianapolis points.
Finally, trailing by 10 with seven minutes to play, Emmanuel Ogbah's second third-down sack of the game was erased by a Jaelan Phillips facemask penalty, turning a field goal attempt into an eventual touchdown and an insurmountable 17-point lead.
Five instances where a little better discipline and execution could've generated a considerable swing on the results of the game.
For now, these are uncharacteristic events, but the Dolphins must prove – with smart, penalty-free football – that they are the disciplined team they've been in the past.
2. Balancing Conservatism vs. Aggressiveness
The offense's only scoring drive through three quarters came four plays after Las Vegas failed to convert a fourth down attempt from their own 34-yard-line. Following that touchdown and consequent 14-point lead, the Miami offense managed 107 yards on the ensuing five possessions with no points to show for.
Then, after falling behind by 11 points, Miami's next four possessions totaled 199 yards and produced 14 points. Those drives featured incompletions to DeVante Parker, Will Fuller and Mack Hollins totaling over 100 air yards among the three throws. The game situation dictated that Miami dial up an aggressive attack, but Flores said there were more opportunities to get vertical throughout the game.
"We needed chunk yardage and he pushed it," he said. "I thought we had some opportunities in other parts of the game. We didn't execute. Then later in the game, there were some instances where we did. But it wasn't enough, and we've got to do a better job."
3. Tip Your Hat to Carr, Raiders Offense
The Dolphins defense came out of the gates like a team with something prove. Las Vegas' first four possessions, a team who entered with the No. 1 offense in the league, resulted in a three-and-out, a pick six, a four-and-out and an additional punt. Then, when Miami's offense started to mount a comeback, the defense forced consecutive three-and-outs. In between those stretches, Derek Carr and the Las Vegas attack did their thing.
Miami minimized tight end Darren Waller to his lowest yardage output since Week 11 of 2020, and largely because of Byron Jones. The Miami cornerback followed Waller for most of the game and held Waller to 39 receiving yards on three receptions and five targets. The hat tip goes to Carr, who was pressured 18 times and hit on seven occasions (Pro Football Focus). Still, the eight-year vet threw for just under 400 yards with an aDOT (average depth of target) of 9.8 yards.