MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Thank goodness the Miami Dolphins didn’t start Tua Tagovailoa Sunday. Restraint was absolutely warranted, as we saw over the course of three ugly hours of football here on Sunday.
The Dolphins lost to the Minnesota Vikings 24-16, and while it’s never fair to pin any L on any one player or group, the list of reasons the Dolphins lost is relatively short.
They couldn’t block, and they made a series of inexcusable mistakes. So even if Tua is back against the Steelers next Sunday, as expected, it won’t make much of a difference if those issues aren’t rectified.
Miami Dolphins Regress in Loss to Minnesota Vikings
The offensive line, which was without starting tackles Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson, allowed 6 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and committed five penalties in Sunday’s loss. And most damaging, the Dolphins lost their starting quarterback for the third straight week.
This time it was Skylar Thompson who was knocked from the game — and perhaps beyond. The Dolphins had no great conviction, at least publicly, that his thumb injury is a minor one.
“He wouldn’t have been physically capable to come back in so it was not any indication or decision based upon his play,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I would have definitely stayed with him had he been able to proceed, but he was not.”
“… He didn’t have any strength holding the ball, which is an issue when you’re trying to throw it,” McDaniel continued. “I’ll have to get a lot more information tomorrow.”
Thankfully for the Dolphins, Thompson won’t be needed in Week 7 — assuming Tua and Teddy are healthy enough to go against the Steelers.
But given the Dolphins’ pass protection issues, more injuries to their quarterbacks aren’t just a possibility, but a likelihood. The good news? Both Armstead (toe) and Jackson (ankle) could be back for the Steelers game.
McDaniel said both were close to playing Sunday.
“They’ve really done everything in their power,” he added. “That’s one really cool thing that I’ve learned about both of those two players is how much they love to play the game. This was a circumstance where we came to a decision with both of them that it was in their best interest not to try to push through to go ahead and go with the guys that we went with, which our team was confident in.”
More Miami Dolphins Issues
In all, the Dolphins committed 10 penalties for 97 yards — including five in a span of seven plays. (“A flag-fest” is how McDaniel described it)
Their running backs managed just 3.2 yards per carry.
They had three killer turnovers — including two caused directly by Jaylen Waddle. He dropped a pass that was picked and lost a fumble late in regulation.
“I tried to make a play,” Waddle said. “Ball came out. They recovered it. I wish I had that one back, but it comes with the game.”
Finally, the Dolphins are basically out of cornerbacks. Two more went down with concerning injuries Sunday — Nik Needham and Keion Crossen.
That left Xavien Howard trying to stop Justin Jefferson basically by himself.
“It doesn’t matter who’s at quarterback — we still have to score touchdowns, make plays, special teams – everything,” Howard said. “I challenge everybody, we’ve got to make plays.”
The defense did — for the most part. The Dolphins forced the Vikings into three-and-outs on 11 of their 15 drives. But for the third straight game, Miami did not force a turnover.
And for the first time as Dolphins’ coach, McDaniel’s aggressiveness bled into recklessness. The Dolphins were fortunate to be down just four with under 30 seconds left in the first half. Backed up deep in their own end, prudence suggested they should kneel it out — especially since they were getting the ball first in the second half.
Instead, McDaniel went for points. The decision backfired. Bridgewater threw one of his two picks, gifting Minnesota three points.
“The thinking really is a lot of the stuff that when I’m making those decisions,” McDaniel explained. “It’s based upon the whole team and where we’re at, and I wanted to — there’s been some stuff that whether it’s true or not true, it feels on the field when you’re getting a slew of penalties, it feels like it’s out of your control.
“It always is in your control, but it feels, and knowing how the defense was playing, I think it was — we had the opportunity to get the ball back after halftime, so I saw it as a time that would really benefit the whole team if we could go get those points.
“I always do that based on what’s best for the team, fully knowing that it is result-based. Great calls if it works, terrible calls if it doesn’t. But I think at that point in the game, it would have best served us to have a little momentum going into halftime, and I’ll always make that decision if that’s the case.”