Blitzing Book in the Bayou

This was not the matchup Ian Book wanted or envisioned all of those years ago when he dreamt of making his first NFL start, but it’s the matchup that he got. When Book took the field on Monday night, he wasn’t seeing ghosts like Sam Darnold once famously said. Instead, Book was seeing flashbacks of the last time he got temporarily inserted into the QB1 role against a blitz crazy defense of a team from Miami. On November 11, 2017 one of Ian Book’s first pass attempts was a throw outside to a receiver on his right. It was intercepted by Trajan Bandy and taken to the house. Hard Rock Stadium went crazy. In an almost exact reenactment of that play, Book threw a similar pass, to the same side, to a receiver running the same route. Different stadium, same result: pick 6! The Superdome fell silent, but South Florida and Dolphins fans worldwide were going crazy. Nick Needham pounced on a slightly deflected pass and made a beeline to the endzone to put the Dolphins up 7-0. Was it a ghost for Book? Nope. It was déjà vu.

Brian’s blitzing of Book in the bayou would not let up. The Dolphins blitzed on 70% of their defensive plays in the first half, which was the highest and most disproportionate amount in the NFL this season. The Dolphins didn’t intend to allow the rook a moment to breathe. They sacked the kid 8 times and hurried, harassed, and pressured him a whole lot more. There was a point in the game where I started to feel sorry for the former Fighting Irishman, just a little bit. This Dolphins defense came to play. They never let Alvin Kamara get loose, holding him to just 52 yards on 13 carries and to only 2 catches for 7 yards. The brightest part of Kamara’s night was the expensive chain and blinged out grill he was wearing during the game that we saw on full display after Chris Wilkins baited him into a silly post play penalty. The dominant Dolphins defense had the Saints under duress all night. Only allowing 164 total yards and not a single 3rd down conversion in 12 tries by New Orleans.

With the defense clicking on all cylinders, all Tua and the offense had to do was protect the lead and not screw it up. They did a pretty decent job of that all night by controlling the ball, running plays, and eating clock. However, in an inexact moment of monotony, Tua decided to try to force the ball deep to Mack Hollins when the Saints were rolling coverage deep instead of taking the wide open route to Waddle that the defense was giving him. The pass was woefully overthrown upfield and intercepted.

One thing I have noticed about Tua is that, while he shows emotion after mistakes, when he gets back on the field, he demonstrates great perseverance, mental toughness, and almost always leads a touchdown scoring drive right after his previous drive ended with an interception. On the subsequent drive, in a high pressure 3rd & 9, Tua threw a dime from the Dolphins 12 yard line to the Saints 45 that dropped in over the head of Saints defender Paulson Adebo and right into the arms of Mack Hollins. Yet still, we have some clowns on ESPN claiming that Tua hasn’t thrown a pass over 15 yards all season because he’s incapable of doing so. The drive ended with a short pass from Tua to Waddle for the touchdown and that pretty much felt like the dagger that virtually ended the game.

The Dolphins offensive line still needs a lot of work. There were plays where Liam Eichenberg, Austin Jackson, and Jesse Davis almost got Tua killed. Tua took some big hits that we don’t want him taking. Jesse Davis needs to work on his feet and leverage usage. It is very frustrating watching him get put on his back over and over by guys like Pete Werner who are smaller than him. Liam Eichenberg got called for a phantom holding call where his poor technique and footwork actually did him a favor in making it impossible for him to hold because he could barely get a hand on the guy. Unfortunately, the poor officiating call cost the Dolphins a timely 3rd down conversion on a critical drive while the game result was still in the balance. It also stopped Waddle from being able to break Jerry Rice’s rookie Monday Night Football receptions record and cost Waddle another 100 yard game.

When playing ball control offense like the Dolphins were, a running game is essential. The Dolphins running game wasn’t great on Monday night, but it was serviceable. It got us 86 much needed yards and into a bunch of 3rd and mediums to keep drives going. Duke Johnson had the run of the night when he ripped off 10 yards on a 1st down run and absolutely put Zack Baun on his backside with the truck stick. Then after running Baun over he lowered his shoulder into the chest of Marcus Wlliams and took him for another 4 yard ride past the first down marker. It was a beautiful play to watch and hopefully we can see more of that next week against the Titans of Tennessee.

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