Dolphins Showcase Promising Roster, Yet Must Overcome Playoff Opponents to Secure Victory

Another game against a formidable opponent, another loss for the Miami Dolphins.

Despite a late rally in Frankfurt, Germany, the Dolphins fell to the Chiefs 21-14 on Sunday after a failed final drive where they just couldn’t generate the offense needed to get into the end zone. All three of their losses have come against highly regarded NFL teams—the Bills before their rash of injuries, then the Eagles, and now the Chiefs. In all three of those games, the offense has fallen short of their standards—especially in their defeats against the Chiefs and the Eagles, where they only scored a total of 31 points. Something must change for the Dolphins to avoid wasting a legitimate playoff-caliber roster.

The Dolphins aspire to be a versatile offense capable of running the ball and passing with great efficiency, and they showed glimpses of that in their loss to the Chiefs. They were successful at running the ball throughout the game, with running back Raheem Mostert accumulating 85 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. The team averaged an impressive 5.6 yards per rush for the entire game. According to Ben Baldwin of, the Dolphins had a 48% success rate on their early-down runs and a 45% success rate for the entire game. These numbers indicate that running the ball was a valuable part of their offensive strategy.

Tua Tagovailoa (1) and the Dolphins' straight dropback pass game has struggled against teams of the Chiefs' caliber this season. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)Tua Tagovailoa (1) and the Dolphins' straight dropback pass game has struggled against teams of the Chiefs' caliber this season. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

On the other hand, they once again struggled to establish a consistent passing game against a top-tier opponent. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had his worst performance in terms of yards per attempt this season, averaging only 5.7. Tagovailoa also failed to surpass 200 passing yards for the first time, throwing for only 193 yards on 34 attempts. The Dolphins’ potent passing attack was rendered ineffective, as even Tyreek Hill was limited to just 62 yards on 10 targets. The Chiefs successfully contained one of the most feared passing offenses in NFL history.

One area in which the Dolphins’ passing game has struggled against top teams is their performance on non-play-action passes, which they heavily rely on when trailing. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins completed 10 of their 13 play-action passing attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown, resulting in a passer rating of 132.2 and 9.7 yards per attempt. In contrast, on their 21 passing attempts without play action, they averaged a paltry 3.2 yards per attempt. Head coach Mike McDaniel acknowledged after their loss to the Eagles that they encountered difficulties as a pure dropback team, suggesting that this remains an ongoing issue.

McDaniel stated that the Dolphins’ record and performances against top teams have been a consistent theme this season following their defeat against the Chiefs.

“This is something that we are all well aware of, and we knew what the narrative would be if we were to lose, and that’s understandable,” McDaniel said. “We shouldn’t expect high praise from the masses without earning it. We have to earn the confidence of others, and we have to earn it in every game. Every NFL game is challenging.”

The Dolphins have secured victories against the Patriots (twice), Chargers, Broncos, Giants, and Panthers. However, apart from the Chargers, none of these teams have a realistic chance at making the playoffs. At some point, the Dolphins will need to demonstrate that they can compete with true title contenders. So far, they are 0-3 in such circumstances, and they have yet to find solutions to the issues that continue to haunt them.

Despite these challenges, it’s not all negative for the Dolphins. They currently sit atop the AFC East with the Bills losing their Week 9 game against the Bengals. While they are capable of defeating weaker teams, that is not their ultimate goal.

They are about to enter a much-needed bye week before facing the Raiders in a crucial showdown. This break will allow them to make adjustments for the final stretch of the season, considering they still have two games against the Jets, a matchup against the Cowboys, and a Week 17 game against the Ravens. The true litmus test games are still on the horizon, and now they must figure out how to elevate their play to match the talent of the elite teams.


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