MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – Mike McDaniel, the Miami Dolphins’ first-year coach, is fond of saying that adversity brings opportunity. However, the Dolphins’ best chance to make the playoffs may be slipping away.
Tua Tagovailoa threw three interceptions on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter as the Miami Dolphins were defeated 26-20 at home by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, ruining Christmas for some in Miami.
“It’s just unfortunate. “Everything ended so tragically,” Tagovailoa said. “As I told the guys, that’s my fault. That will undoubtedly benefit me.”
The Dolphins may need to do some soul searching after this one, but many players insist they are optimistic about their final two games.
They’ve now lost four straight games (to the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, and Packers) and have been humiliated for the third time in a big game. After an 0-4 December, they’re hanging on to the No. 7 and final AFC playoff seed by a thread.
Consider how Tagovailoa squandered Miami’s late-game opportunity against Green Bay:
After Aaron Rodgers intercepted Dolphins rookie Kader Kohou early in the fourth quarter of a 20-20 game, Tagovailoa overthrew Tyreek Hill on the next drive.
“I tried to throw it over a defender on the first one, but I ended up throwing it over the defender and Tyreek, so that one got away,” Tagovailoa explained.
The second instalment was even worse. The Dolphins took a 23-20 lead after holding the Packers to a field goal. On the ensuing drive, Tagovailoa was surgical.
He fired a 16-yard bullet that Jaylen Waddle was able to secure. On third and 7, he completed a 10-yard pass down the middle to Trent Sherfield. And he found Hill streaking through the middle of the field for another first down to keep the chains moving.
However, Tagovailoa failed to notice Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell waiting over the middle as he attempted to hit Mostert with a pass down the seam.
“I may have said the wrong play on the second one. “I’m not sure,” Tagovailoa admitted. “However, there were some communication errors on that.”
And, with the Packers leading 26-20 with 2:02 left, Tagovailoa saw Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas leap in front of tight end Mike Gesicki for the final blow on Christmas.
“Then the third one was just not a good ball for my receivers to make a play on,” Tagovailoa explained.
“You know, it’s difficult. You get an opportunity to play against a really good team on Christmas Day, and I go out there and really — not being able to put my best foot forward for our team.”
It was a depressing end to the Dolphins’ second-coldest game in franchise history, with the game-time temperature of 46 degrees. In 1989, the coldest temperature was 40 degrees against Kansas City.
Miami has seen big plays worthy of playoff contention from all three phases of the game, as well as plays that will end their postseason hopes before they even get there.
“No. “I don’t believe we’ve done any soul searching like that,” Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard said. “It was an enjoyable game. The game’s ebbs and flows. It was a roller coaster.”
The Dolphins’ boom-or-bust day on Sunday was a prime example.
The highlight play of the day for Miami was Waddle’s 84-yard touchdown in the first quarter, where he reached 21.68 yards, according to ESPN’s Next Gen Stats, which gave the Dolphins a 10-3 lead early.
Hill’s 52-yard reception down to the 1-yard line set up Jeff Wilson’s touchdown, giving the Dolphins a 20-13 lead at the half.
The defence also showed up. After allowing a 93-yard kickoff return on their first possession, the Dolphins forced a field goal with a sack of Rodgers by linebacker Elandon Roberts.
Mostert’s fumble near the two-minute warning in the first half kept Miami from cruising to victory. The Packers closed the gap to seven points with a field goal and led 20-13 at halftime.
In the second half, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins simply outplayed themselves.
“We’re very optimistic. “I think we all know we’re a better team than we’ve been demonstrating,” Waddle said. “Obviously, not showing up on Sundays is not what we want, but we have to keep going, keep working, and just keep playing.”
Yes, losing to the Packers was disappointing. However, it is not entirely detrimental to Miami’s playoff chances.
Take a look at the teams that are trailing them:
The New England Patriots, who they’ll face next week and are 7-8, are due for a win after losing two straight games in the final seconds.
The New York Jets are 7-8 as well, with former No. 2 pick Zach Wilson struggling while backup Mike White recovers from a rib injury.
The Tennessee Titans are also 7-8 and just lost their fifth straight game, this time to the lowly Houston Texans, handing the AFC South to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And the 7-8 Pittsburgh Steelers won a chilly comeback win over the 6-9 Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday to re-enter the race.
The Dolphins don’t want to lose to the Patriots or Jets in their final two games, but if they lose one more, they could still be in playoff contention. But definitely not two.
The Dolphins still have their entire season ahead of them. However, this Christmas performance was a shambles.
“Our young team is having to learn the hard way,” McDaniel explained. “So, nothing has really changed moving forward, except that we were really expecting to cleanse ourselves of this feeling, and we’ll have to wait another week to try to get right.”