The Dolphins nearly came through a treacherous September schedule unfazed, but couldn't hold a fourth quarter lead over the defending AFC champion Bengals. The team now hits a mini bye week at 3-1 with a trip to the Jets on deck.
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Here are the three takeaways from Miami's first defeat of the season, a 27-15 loss in Cincinnati.
1. Multiple Miami defense
Defensive versatility has been the calling card of this Dolphins team that has won 22 of 34 games dating back to early 2020, and we're seeing that continued evolution in 2022.
Jevon Holland played another sensational game coming off a valiant 90-snap effort just four days earlier against Buffalo. He and Brandon Jones play an instinctive brand of football that allows Miami to mix coverage and take advantage of their ability to play press on the perimeter.
Then, up front, the defensive line and linebackers group is loaded with versatile players. The entire line is capable of playing multiple spots up front, including Jaelan Phillips. His lightning-quick get-off from a 3-techique for his first sack of the season showcased his ability to win both inside and outside.
Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer has a catalog of blitzes, coverages and disguises. After limiting two of the NFL's top offenses from a year ago for significant stretches of play (5.7 yards per play allowed), it appears that the defense is on a swift upward trajectory heading into the long weekend.
2. Room for improvement
Every game presents a level of adversity. But as Head Coach Mike McDaniel says, adversity is opportunity. The Dolphins had their opportunities to scrape out a fourth-straight win despite facing a mountain of adversity throughout the game, including injuries to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and cornerback Xavien Howard. Still, the effort came up just short.
"You feel like you missed an opportunity to play toe-to-toe with a very good team and potentially beat them, but that's the point," McDaniel said. "It's not supposed to be easy, and if you're wanting to play teams like this on stages like this, you can't do some of those things. Otherwise, you're going to end up on the short side of the stick.
Those things McDaniel is referring to include a blocked field goal, missed extra point, third down drop in the end zone and a drive that stalled out after three attempts to score from inside the 5-yard-line – those critical errors were the difference in the game.
That's what this league is in 2022. The talent discrepancies are thin and games are almost always decided in the balance of a few plays. Miami made those plays in the first three games but could not make it four in a row Thursday in Cincinnati. ender.
Take a look at the photos from Week 4 Dolphins at Bengals on September 29, 2022, presented by Miami Dolphins Fan Cruise.
3. Always explosive on offense
One of the most explosive offenses in the NFL added another handful of chunk gains – also known as explosive plays – with four plays of 20-plus yards through the air and two plays of at least 10 yards in the ground game.
Tyreek Hill continues to prove that his speed is unmatched. He pulled in another contested catch with a defender on his back, who also batted the pass, before Hill secured the football. That play went for 64 yards giving Hill 160 on the night. There's a full slate of games to be played in Week 4, but at the moment, Hill's 477 yards are not only tops in the NFL, it's the best four-game start to his career. Hill is nearly 100 yards clear of the league's second-leading receiver, Jaylen Waddle (381).
For more analysis, takeaways and breakdowns, check out the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield, available on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.