By Marc Cox – Miami Dolphins Writer
I had joked on Friday afternoon last week that I had already written the review of Miami’s trip to Dallas, such as the predictability of this Week 3 match-up. The only task that would remain on Sunday evening would be to fill in the final score and file the copy. With a third consecutive blowout defeat, it seems like this life-hack was already paying dividends. The only challenge for the rest of the season would be how to report on 16 identical defeats. This time the score is 31-6 yet there are reasons for Dolfans to be cheerful. Yes, really.
Sure, the Cowboys were able to cover one of the widest spreads in NFL history, the Dolphins were scratching around to fill spots on the offensive line and Rosen spent time in the concussion protocol. So far, so predictable. But this felt different and fans of the Miami Dolphins can be proud of this team. Yes, really.
What is clear from the players is that they have accepted the situation and accepted that they are in it together. Those who didn’t want to be part of this peculiar project have gone for first-round picks (more on that later). Those that remain may not be the most talented in the NFL but they are playing together, fighting together and failing together. And for a while, before the wheels fully came off later in the game, looked like they were actually enjoying themselves. Yes, really.
The clearest indication that the vibe in the locker room may not be all doom and gloom came with the team’s first takeaway of the season. Bobby McCain picked off Dak Prescott and, as McCain was run out of bounds, he was mobbed by his teammates, celebrating one of the few bright points in the season so far. They were there, enjoying the game.
The first half threatened to expose a degree of complacency from the Cowboys. Miami’s secondary was playing with the skill and intensity Brian Flores had promised, restricting Dallas to 10 points. Of course, there were difficult moments. The depth of the offensive-line corps was exposed early with injuries to Jesse Davies and Danny Isidora, which led to rookie guard, Michael Dieter going through the drills on the side-line that would prepare him for his new position of left tackle. Yes, really.
Josh Rosen, given the keys to the Miami offense, such as it is, spent time in the concussion protocol. Another solid prediction given the lack of depth on that o-line? Not quite. Rosen, who had been moving the chains, used his legs to gain crucial yardage and was caught just late and awkwardly enough to qualify for some blue-tent time.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard was followed by the rest of him into the game to provide yet another data point for the Fitzmagic/tragic model of performance. If you choose to play Ryan Fitzpatrick, as the Dolphins had in weeks 1 & 2 then we will see Fitztragic, picked off slinging balls into triple coverage. If you have to play Ryan Fitzpatrick then the old Fitzmagic fairy dust is yours to try and harness. So it proved once more as the back-up Quarterback came into the game, immediately connected on a 25-yard throw to rookie, Preston Williams.
Rosen was cleared, came back in the game towards the end of the half and the Dolphins began to look like a competent NFL team, driving into the Red Zone. Yes, really.
It didn’t quite happen for the team inside the 10. Devante Parker added to his catalog of frustrating plays that has grown steadily in volume over his career. The throw wasn’t a particularly difficult one, but it was executed perfectly, requiring Parker to take it in and fight a couple of yards for a touchdown. Dropped. The very next play saw the ball in Kenyan Drake’s hands, popping a gap to drive towards the goal-line. Drake, who had been rumored to be unhappy with his role so far had the opportunity to prove the coaching staff wrong. Fumbled.
The Cowboys recovered with a few seconds left of the half. Nevertheless, between that drive and a marginal call on Williams in the end zone, the Dolphins could feel a little hard done by to not be leading going into the locker room. Yes, really.
Despite those reasons to cheerful, for the second half, the game decided to reintroduce itself to the script. The self-inflicted pick-six, a brutal looking head injury for wide receiver Allen Hurns and an extremely tough day for one of the few elite players on the roster, Xavier Howard were all that we feared they might be. The fates of a team lacking in quality. Howard was a concern, in particular, shown zero respect by Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, the cornerback was picked on all day, giving up 88 yards and two touchdowns. No doubt this was a factor in Howard’s loss of cool in the fourth quarter that saw him ejected from the game. Jakeem Grant fumbled and muffed his way through the game.
Two Cowboys broke the century in rushing yards. Objectively, this was not even an average afternoon for the team in all-aqua. However, such are the expectations for this team, Dolphins fans could be justified in feeling better than at any point in years 2 and 3 of the reign of Adam Gase. Yes, really.
We know the Dolphins are not going to be good this year. That’s the plan and the point. The interest in football starts on a Saturday night with Tua Tagovailoa for Alabama and cascades down to how are the Steelers doing; at 0-3, potentially another high 1st round pick in 2020, how are the Texans doing, how are the Saints doing? We know that this season is about next April. We know this season is about next season and the ones beyond. We know what the plan is and so far it is being executed perfectly.