End of Season Review

The Miami Dolphins had no business being in this game at all. It was supposed to be an absolute bloodbath. The debacle of the decade. The massacre of Miami. Vegas bookies had the Bills favored by at least two touchdowns and I thought they would lose by 30 points minimum. It was supposed to be such a scary scene, a few people suggested moving the game up to Friday the 13th so that the calendar could match the haunting spectacle. Yet, forever the contrarian, it just didn’t play out that way for the Miami Dolphins. Much like most of this season, things just didn’t go according to the script, and this is why they play the games!

The Dolphins fought the AFC East division champs all the way down to the mat. They didn’t want to go home even if they were handicapped with having a seventh-round draft pick rookie third string quarterback starting on the road in his first playoff game. I know we’re not supposed to laud moral victories, but if there is ever a time to do it, this is it. What an amazing performance! What grit! What intestinal fortitude! What fight the defense showed after going down 17 to zero to start the game and watching their offense playing the opposite of complimentary football for long stretches of the game. At times it was as if the Miami offense was on life support and the Dolphins defense came up with the game saving play just when it was needed to keep hope alive.

The Dolphins could have easily folded and said, “well boys we had a good season but today is not our day.” They did not do that, instead they said, “we’re not going home today, not without a fist fight to the death because…THIS. IS. SPARTA!” The valiant defense that gave up 34 points also dared to frustrate “Mr. January” as Tony Romo admiringly called him, by forcing turnovers. They created fumbles, and intercepted the ball twice, and sacked Josh Allen not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven times. They put the Dolphins offense in great positions on the field to score and they even scored themselves on a sack, fumble, scoop, and score that unbelievably gave the Dolphins the lead in the third quarter. The Dolphins defense scored as many points in the second half as the Dolphins offense did. Zack Sieler had as many touchdowns as Skylar Thompson. Let that sink in for a moment.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25), right, intercepts a pass intended for Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (16) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

The Dolphins defensive squad has been a much-maligned unit that has taken much criticism all year for not being the Brian Flores led version of themselves that they were last season and has received no excuses for the qualifying fact that this iteration of them have been decimated by injuries at critical positions just like the offense. The defensive squadron acquitted themselves quite heroically on Sunday afternoon in Western New York. It was cold, there were no lake effect snowballs this time, and the team made us all proud. Fighting a prize fighter with a longer reach and in a higher weight class than us is an impossible task. Yet we took every haymaker they dealt and threw one back at them just as hard. The defense gave us hope that we could shock the world and do the unthinkable on Sunday. We tested the chin of the Bills Mafia, and having survived the pressure of that trial, they might just finally break through this year and ascend to the Super Bowl final round for the first time since Jim Kelly was circling the wagons under center.

The media narrative focused quite heavily on the drops by Dolphins skill position players but if we’re being honest the Dolphins were playing with one arm tied behind their back because of their quarterback. Skylar Thompson did his best; he is a rookie after all in his very first playoff start but 18 completions on 45 passes with two critical interceptions that spotted the Bills 14 points is usually not going to be a winning formula in the NFL. Skylar has much to learn when it comes to reading defenses and getting the ball to his outside receivers on time. He needs to gain confidence with throwing routes over the middle. Yes, Jaylen Waddle had a huge drop on the Dolphin’s first possession and that likely cost them points, but in my opinion that was the only drop of significant consequence. The 7-yard Tyreek Hill drop on 2nd and super long would have led to a 3rd and long that the Dolphins just were not converting much on Sunday. The Jeff Wilson drop was on 3rd and a mile, and he was about to get lit up for no gain. That drop was inconsequential, in fact, the fact that Wilson dropped it may have saved his life because Skylar did him no favors by throwing him the ball in that spot.

The CBS broadcast team made a big deal about another Jaylen Waddle drop that was anything but a drop. Jaylen Waddle was behind everyone on the Bills defense and was wide open for a touchdown. The pass was short, and Waddle had to wait for it which allowed the defender to close the space and make the play and knock the ball away. Waddle had no shot of making that catch. In fact, Waddle got his shoulder a little banged up on that play because of the hit he ended up taking. There was another pass in the 3rd quarter to Waddle that was a good throw, but it was slightly behind him and when Waddle adjusted to make the catch, the defender made a brilliant play to break up the pass. You just must give credit to the defender on that one. The throw to Gesicki when he was open streaking up the seam was a brutal one for us to take. It would have been a great answer to Buffalo who had just retaken the lead after scoring from the terrible interception Skylar threw into the most obvious Tampa 2 shell coverage of the season on 3rd & 19. Unfortunately, Edmonds made a great play in gaining depth and while he was unable to get a fingertip on the ball to knock it away he did break Gesicki’s visual contact with the football which suddenly reappeared right in front of Mike’s face when it was too late and due to Gesicki being human and not having a snake-like reaction time, he couldn’t get his hands closed fast enough and the ball zoomed right through his arms and fell harmlessly to the turf. That one was hard to stomach because a drive and score in that situation would have put immense pressure on Buffalo and it would have been game on. We needed to hit on a couple of those plays and we just seemed to keep missing in those moments while the Bills were hitting on their opportunities.

On 4th and the season, Tyreek Hill was wide open as the primary read and the kid never looked at him. Granted I don’t think the Dolphins should have even been in that position because it looked like Salvon Ahmed may have gotten the first down but then the inexcusable delay of game penalty made it 4th & 6 for the season. You have to look for Tyreek in that spot. If he is not double teamed, get the ball to Cheetah. That happened a bunch of times in the game and in plenty of those cases Tyreek Hill was open behind the defense and the kid either did not see him or just refused to throw it because he is deathly afraid of making a mistake while throwing the ball across the middle.

When Skylar threw that second interception, the Bills had nothing going momentum wise. The Dolphins defense were getting them off the field in three plays or less and then Skylar tried to inexplicably force the throw late to Sherfield when the Bills did not even try to disguise the fact that they were playing prevent defense on 3rd and impossible. Some people say it was a poor play call. I say that if you don’t call the go route there it is impossible to pick up the cheap pass interference call or get a cheap touchdown if the safety slips and falls down. Mike McDaniel made the right call by coaching to win, but he needed his young quarterback to be smarter with the football in that situation. It was clearly not there. Throw it away or check it down to the slant that was wide open underneath. If you’re going to throw an interception for forcing the ball to a receiver, force it to Cheetah, not Sherfield. That is elementary football, everyone in the world knew the boundary corner would drop twenty yards on third down and nineteen yards to go. For some reason, Skylar inexplicably pulled that trigger and it was the turning point of the third quarter.

The Hippocratic Oath states that custodians of health should “do no harm” to their patients, and Skylar as the custodian of his team’s health on Sunday should have never thrown that pass. It was bad enough that the offense had only gained 10 yards of total offense in the third quarter at that point, but to give away the lead that the defense gave the offense by scoring on a fumble recovery was a tough pill to swallow. Then of course we have the phantom first down that the Bills were awarded that clearly looked short of the line to gain and just like that the game and our tumultuous concussion filled quarterback carousel season was over. Alas, it just was not meant to be.

So now the end is here, and so we face the final curtain. My fellow Fins, I’ll say it clear and state our case of which I am certain. We’ve played a season full and almost took down the bull with no triggerman. So we say, we had some good times with our high-flying offense while traveling on each and every highway. Regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. Grier did what he had to do to get the Cheetah and saw it through without exemption. He planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. Yes, there were times, I’m sure we knew when he bit off more than he could Chubb and chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, McDaniel ate it up and spit it out. Tua faced it all, and we stood tall. And much more than that we have to say, we did it our way! Until next season Fin fans.

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