Dolphins Officially Defeated by the Raiders

The Miami Dolphins are 4-4 at the midpoint of the season and perhaps it’s expected from a mediocre team with stars that don’t shine at critical moments. Aside from Ndamukong Suh, the rest of Miami’s defensive “playmakers” took the night off, particularly on third down. Exasperation mounted on every third-and-long the Raiders made with inexplicable ease.

The joke in Oakland must have been Kiko Alonso in man coverage. According to the Miami Herald’s Adam H. Beasley, Alonso allowed five catches for 82 yards to Jared Cook and gave up a 12-yard pass to Michael Crabtree. Five of the six catches went for a minimum of 10 yards, including four third-and-long conversions.

It took Matt Burke a full quarter to switch from man coverage, to a holier than Swiss cheese zone. The zone was not helped by Cameron Wake who had only one tackle and no QB pressures. The poor defense also featured Rashad Jones trailing badly on third down and TD receptions.

There simply
was no pressure on third down, no pass rush and with LBs and secondary unable to play man coverage, Burke could not blitz. For the second consecutive home game, the sod at Hard Rock Stadium came out of the ground in divots that would make Tiger Woods proud. These games each followed a Miami Hurricane home game the previous night and the next home game will also follow a Hurricane’s home game.

Stay calm Adam Gase, hopefully this is the worst the NFL can throw at a young coach when the officiating crew piles it on. On the surface, the crew for the Raiders game can point to parity in numbers as a justification of fairness. The Dolphins committed 11 penalties for 107 yards Sunday, including five in the fourth quarter. Oakland had 10 penalties for 105 yards, parity right? It was timing of these penalties that destroyed Miami.

Gase said. “We'd start a series out and Damien [Williams] has a huge play and we've got a holding call and we're on the 20. Who knows, maybe if we don't get the holding call he gets tackled at 10 yards, but we'll take, so it's not first-and-12 or whatever.” On a play with 12:46 left in regulation and the Dolphins down four. Williams caught a short pass, got to the right edge and raced down the sidelines. A big-gainer, wiped out because Jarvis Landry held. The Dolphins’ drive stalled immediately thereafter. Three minutes later, on another possession with good field position, Kenyan Drake ran for four yards on first down.Mike Pouncey held turning a second-and-6 into first-and-20, another Dolphins drive squandered.

The defense had two late secondary penalties on Oakland’s game-winning touchdown.
A Xavien Howard pass interference call gave the Raiders a first-and-goal at the 3. It was perhaps the only legitimate penalty in the game. The Raiders got to that position because of a highly questionable flag thrown on the play before. The Raiders converted third-and-6 when Derek Carr connected with Seth Roberts for 29 yards along the right sideline. But the refs tacked on 15 more by saying Reshad Jones illegally hit a defenseless receiver – a debatable call, to say the least. Jones said after the game that there was nothing he could have done differently on the play.

The Dolphins still had a slight chance to make it a game late, but Jermon Bushrod all but ended that by holding on fourth-and-9, wiping out a 14-yard completion to Julius Thomas.

The Dolphins average of 7.5 accepted penalties per game. Many of these flags can be thrown on any play in an NFL game, yet the officials chose to pull the flag every time Miami made a play that would change the momentum of the game. Fans turn away when it appears officials dictate the outcome of games. Why bother playing or watching a game decided by referees?

Pointing fingers at officials inevitably leads to the standard comments about being poor losers, etc. The Dolphins have to figure it out or they will end up like the Miami Hurricanes with yellow flags littered field and officials dictating the outcome. Plays like Drake fumbling at the 18-yard line do not help overcome a flag filled game.

Miami must generate pressure from its defensive line. The DL features the highly paid Suh, Wake and Branch, plus 1st round draft pick Harris. Wake cannot come up empty and leave it on Alonso to cover receivers for 4 to 5 seconds. The defense will only go as far as the DL takes them. Suh played a great game, his diving strip-sack should have won the game if not for the flag happy referees.

If Miami is going to depend on speed rushing ends to generate pressure the playing surface must be built for speed. This surface is hindering Miami from getting the best performance from their best players. The field must be repaired or replaced.

In a season that has moved from one calamity to the next, add the field and the officials to the list of obstacles this Miami Dolphin team must learn to overcome.