By Abraham Gutierrez
Going up against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that was forced to play without its starting quarterback for a second straight game, everything seemed to be aligned for the Miami Dolphins to snap a three-game skid Sunday afternoon at home.
However, after an atrocious two quarters of football, it was clear the Fins would need to play an impeccable second-half in order to try and reverse their fortune. In the end, though, their efforts would fall just short, with the Bucs coming away with a 30-20 victory.
The win improved Tampa Bay's record to 4-6 on the 2017 NFL season, while Miami falls two games under .500 (4-6) after dropping its fourth straight contest.
"Our defense did a good job," said Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. "We just didn't do a very good job of holding on to the ball. Jay [Cutler] kind of got fooled by the defense on the one interception… drop one, and then we don't execute correctly in the red area. We knew they were going to pursue us and had to be tight on our ball security and we didn't do that at the and of the half."
Things couldn't have possibly gotten any worse for the Dolphins and their offense. The offense appeared out-of-sync from the get-go, and thanks to some poor decisions and ill-advised passes, Miami quickly put itself behind the proverbial eight-ball.
Prior to exiting the game due to a concussion, quarterback Jay Cutler struggled significantly, completing just 6-of-12 pass attempts for 83 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions for a forgettable quarterback-rating of 60.8.
"We'll have to see where he's at," Gase said regarding Cutler's status.
Cutler's early departure meant that back-up Matt Moore would get a chance to redeem himself following a start against the Ravens that concluded with a 40-0 rout. With the defense playing exceptionally well, Moore was able to get Miami back in the game, completing 17-of-28 passes for 282 yards, a long touchdown and an interception to earn a cool 106.5 QBR.
"When Matt [Moore] goes in, he hasn't had a ton of reps on what we were doing on a short week," Gase added. "He was trying to figure a couple of things out on the fly. When you done see it, live in practice, sometimes you just don't get what you want."
As a unit, Miami's offense tallied 18 first downs (15 passes, 1 rushing, 2 penalties) and 448 yards of total offense (365 passing yards, 83 rushing yards). Aside from Moore, other offensive standouts include running back Damien Williams (10 carries, 78 yards) wide receivers Kenny Stills (7 receptions, 180 yards, 61-yard TD) and Jarvis Landry (6 receptions, 95 yards, TD, lost fumble).
After surrendering 20 points in the first half, the Miami defense buckled-down and surrendered only 10 points after the break. Their efforts allowed the Fins to come storming back to tie things up at 20-apiece before the Bucs put things out of reach.
Miami defensive leaders in Week 11 included Kiko Alonso (11 tackles), Lawrence Timmons (6 tackles), Reshad Jones (6 tackles) and Cordrea Tankersley (6 tackles). Meanwhile, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips registered the only sack of the day for the Dolphins, along with a pair of solo tackles.
Special Teams: A+
Once again, Miami's special teams unit took care of business anytime their numbers were called. Rookie kicker Cody Parkey was once again perfect on the afternoon, going 2-for-2 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points for a total of 8 points to his credit.
Returner Jakeem Grant had a solid (return) game with 3 returns for 81 yards and an average of 27 yards per touch. Finally, punter Matt Haack continued to state his case as a Pro Bowler with 2 punts for an average of 53 yards and one inside the Bucs' 20-yard line.
With 17 penalties for 133 negative yards and five turnovers (three interceptions, 1 lost fumbles), it's very difficult to give this coaching staff a passing grade. With Cutler throwing the ball freely backed-up against his own end zone, one has to wonder what type of play-calling is being dialed up.
Is Cutler making these awful decisions on his own, or is Gase putting him in an unnecessary position to take those types of chances?
"We've got to catch the ball and hold on to the ball," Gase said regarding Miami's turnovers and penalties. "Penalties and pre-snap stuff is just ridiculous. That's something we've made a big emphasis on this week, on both sides of the ball. Obviously, we didn't handle it very good on offense."
Up Next: Miami Visits the World Champion Patriots In Week 12
With four consecutive losses, the Dolphins must go into damage control as they try and salvage their season. Obviously, that's much easier said than done when the New England Patriots are next up on the schedule. This AFC East divisional showdown is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET from Foxborough, Massachusetts, and it will be broadcast live on CBS.
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