Turnover Tua puts Playoffs in Jeopardy

This was supposed to be a get back game for Miami.  They just returned from three weeks of losing on the road.  Now they were home for Christmas, and it was time to set the record straight.  Instead, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay defense reminded us all why you should never underestimate the Packers.

The Packers also had something to play for.  With a six and eight record, they are still in the playoff hunt for a wild card spot.  When Washington, Detroit, Seattle and the Giants lost, Green Bay’s hopes amplified.  The Packers needed this win as badly as the Dolphins did.

The story of today’s game centers around lost opportunities and costly turnovers.  Miami’s first drive stalled at Green Bay’s 28-yard line, and they had to settle for a field goal.  After Green Bay matched Miami’s score, the Dolphins only needed one play to go ahead by a touchdown.  Tua Tagovailoa delivered a short fluttery pass to Jaylen Waddle who turned the ball up field for 84 yards and a touchdown.  Green Bay answered with a tying touchdown on their next possession.

The Dolphins next drive stalled due to a holding penalty on Connor Williams.  On third and 21 the Packers defense started assert itself as Rasul Douglas broke up a wide receiver screen.  Despite that, it appeared the momentum was swinging Miami’s way when the Dolphin defense stoned the Packers on their 37-yard line.  The Dolphins capitalized on winning the 4th down by scoring.  A 52-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill put the Phins on the 1-yard line and Jeff Wilson Jr. ran in the go-ahead score.  Tua’s throw to Hill was his best throw of the game.

The Dolphin defense pitched a three and out.  Mysteriously, Green Bay opted for an unsuccessful trick play on 4th down on their own 20 yard-line.  The Dolphin offense was in prime position to put up another easy seven points.  Instead on the first play of this possession a holding penalty was committed.  Then after grabbing 12 of the 20 yards needed, Jarran Reed sacked Tua for a six yar loss.  Still, they were able to convert with a dart from Tua to Trent Sherfield.  Starting on the 9-yard line, Tua was sacked on 2nd down for ten-yard loss.    Miami had to settle for a field goal.  It was their last points of the game.

The Dolphin defense came to play.  They pitched another three and out.  Yet, they were not the only defense in the stadium starting to feel themselves.  The Packers came out and managed to force their first turnover in the game by forcing Raheem Mostert to fumble on second down.  The Packers capitalized as Mason Crosby kicked a 46-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the first half.

How you start the third quarter often dictates how the rest of the game will go.  The Packers came out swinging.  They executed a 78-yard drive touchdown drive eating seven minutes of clock.  The gauntlet was thrown on the grid iron.  The Dolphins answered with a missed 48-yard field goal. Miami’s defense sensed that their offense was sputtering and knew they had to make a play.  Sure enough, as Aaron Rodgers was leading one of his epic drives, Kader Kohou picked him off in the endzone giving Tua another chance.

Tua’s first throw was forced.  He threw into triple coverage and Jaire Alexander made him pay.  Still, the Dolphin defense held the Packers to a mere field goal.  Miami’s offense started methodically moving down the field eating up valuable time.  On a second and thirteen, with just over six minutes to go in the game, Tua throws a seemingly open seam route.  However, De’Vondre Campbell read the play, stepped into the window and picked Tua off.  Though Green Bay ate four more minutes off the clock, the Dolphin defense prevented them from making it a two-score game.  I thought sure Matt LeFleur made a tactical error not going for it on 4th and three on the Miami 8-yard line.

Three plays into the next drive and Tua threw his third and final interception of the game.  This time Rasul Douglas made him pay for another ill-advised throw.

This game was Miami’s to lose, and they lost it.  They lost it in part because protection around Tua broke down.  They lost it mostly because Tua failed to execute Mike McDaniels offense effectively.  There are some that want to blame Coach McDaniels. The blame can be placed partially at his fleet because he only called 17 run plays and his passing attack has become predictable.  Tua is a complement to the run game.  He can’t win the game by himself as this Christmas day dud has shown.

Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill managed to each get over 100 yards receiving.  However, super star receiving statistics don’t win ball games.  Great complimentary football does.  The defense did their part, yet the offense continued to put the whole team in harm’s way.  Tua leads that offense.

Coach McDaniels has not figured out Miami’s tight end problem either.  He brought the 49ers tight end coach with him to Miami, yet they can’t seem to get meaningful production out of the talented Mike Gesicki.  He is too good to ignore. Last year Gesicki made 73 receptions for 780 yards.  This year he has only caught the ball 25 times for a meager 274 yards.  The Dolphins are squandering a valuable resource.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are excited for the win.  Yet, they did not take this game.  They only exploited the Dolphin’s ineptness at quarterback.  Add a lack of creativity in offense and the Packers took advantage.  The Packers are a tough out, but I still don’t see them making the playoffs.  The Dolphins have two divisional games left to close out the season.  Their play-off hopes are in jeopardy.  Next week they hope to end this four game skid in New England.

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