Head Coach Mike McDaniel has embedded a belief in his Dolphins' team that adversity is an opportunity. The first five weeks of the season have been a steady dose of opportunity as the injury bug hits. Still, the Dolphins put themselves in position to take the lead with a 54-yard field goal that missed just wide in the fourth quarter.
From that point, McDaniel aptly described the events that transpired.
"Without a doubt, to say that the wheels fell off would be fair because it occurred in all three phases," he said. That's something you can't let slip through your fingers and try to figure out the why."
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Here are the three takeaways from the Dolphins 40-17 loss to the Jets.
1. Penalties, missed tackles and turnovers
In any game, a few key stats can typically point a box-score observer in the direction of the victor.
Miami lost the turnover battle by two, committed 11 accepted penalties for 102 yards and missed nine tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. The result of those nine misses were an additional 112 yards after initial contact. In a game full of razor thin margins, look at those three categories as some of the reasons why the game got away late.
2. Offensive efficiency stalls late
During Miami's 3-0 start, the Dolphins converted half of their third downs (14 for 28) and 66 percent of fourth downs (four out of six). This helped to produce 27.6 points per game on offense, but also propelled the defense to keep the opposing score down – just 20.6 points allowed per game in Weeks 1-3 compared to 33.6 points allowed per game in the two losses.
Miami converted on just four of 11 third downs and failed on both fourth down attempts Sunday, bringing their third down conversion rate over the last two games to 28 percent.
The offense possessed the ball two times while trailing 19-17. The first possession started at the minus-45-yard-line – conceivably just a couple of first downs away from field goal range. They did drive from their minus-21-yard-line into scoring range on the next possession, but a procedural penalty, dropped pass and a missed field goal put the defense back on the field.
To compound the issue, after the Jets drove 55 yards for a touchdown that stretched the lead to nine, the offense gave New York short fields with a fumble lost and a turnover on downs. Those ensuing Jets scoring drives started at the plus-five and the plus-30.
Take a look at the photos from Week 5 Miami Dolphins at New York Jets on October 9, 2022, presented by Solis Health Plans.
3. Finding balance on offense
The Miami run game produced its best results under McDaniel as lead back Raheem Mostert passed the century mark (118 yards) at 6.3 yards per rush and scored his first touchdown as a member of the Dolphins.
Mostert's vision and ability to accelerate through the second level play a significant role in that number, but so does the design of the Dolphins multi-faceted rushing attack. Early in the game, Tyreek Hill took an end around for 10 yards. From that point, the Jets honored the edge and the dummy motion of the Miami receivers behind the formation on a few occasions.
Durham Smythe snuck under center on the last play of the first half before sneaking into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Holes are opening, the backs are hitting it and perhaps the preferable balanced attack is coming down the pike, especially with the way the game is trending in 2022.
"It was obvious from very early in the game that they were going to play the pass until we proved otherwise," McDaniel said. I can't remember a first or second down single safety defense until the second half."
Across the league, this is a trend that has seen the NFL at a seven-year low in terms of scoring and total yardage gained. Defenses are taking away big plays and forcing the offense to sludge their way through methodical, mistake-free drives. If Miami can recapture their explosive aerial attack with a new-found ground game, the offense will be in good shape.