MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Everyone in the stadium knew that the Miami Dolphins were going to beat the Houston Texans just a few minutes into Sunday’s game.
Three hours later, the inevitable was official, with the Dolphins handily improving to 8-3 for the first time since 2001. But what should have been a post-game celebration felt more like uneasy relief — and concern of what’s to come.
Because Terron Armstead — the team’s most important offensive player after Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and (maybe) Jaylen Waddle — is hurt again. And while the Dolphins didn’t have the full details post game, the circumstances surrounding the injury were quite concerning.
Terron Armstead Hurt in Miami Dolphins’ Week 13 Win
Armstead, the Dolphins’ excellent left tackle, injured his pec during the Dolphins’ final drive of the first half. He was quickly ruled out and not spotted in the locker room following the game.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, now a winner for the fifth straight game, did not have any update when he met with reporters. The same was true for Austin Jackson, who hurt his ankle late, a development that left Miami with two backup tackles.
Later in the evening, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that Armstead suffered a pec strain that is not as bad as originally feared. Rapoport said that Armstead will miss some time, but the hope is he would be back on the field at some point relatively soon.
Armstead is the key to a much improved offensive line in Miami, and his absence Sunday was felt immediately. After not allowing a sack in the game’s first 29 minutes — a stretch during which Armstead was healthy — they allowed four in the span of 10 plays after he left the game.
And much of the pressure came from the left side of the offensive line, where Brandon Shell filled in in place of the three-time Pro Bowler. What’s more, the Dolphins’ offense totally fell apart with Armstead in the locker room. Not only did they not score in the second half, but they also didn’t even cross the 50. (In fairness, backup Skylar Thompson was in at quarterback for most of that second half.)
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So what happened? Certainly, Armstead’s absence had a destabilizing effect on the offensive line. But both McDaniel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said they didn’t do their linemen any favors.
“I think with some of the plays that I told Mike I liked, I put some guys in some bad situations by doing. So like I said, that has a lot to do with kind of finding the rhythm of the game with your guys, your players,” Tagovailoa said. “I would say that one falls on me. But yeah, we’ll be better for it.”
McDaniel was more blunt.
“There were some play-calling decisions that I definitely learned from,” McDaniel said. “I put some guys in some unfair situations, was way too aggressive, and it was something that I told the team after the game that I’ll definitely learn from because it wasn’t fair to them.
“When you do have some lineup changes, you can’t play the way that — or put them in situations they were put in. I don’t think that was a fair representation of the group in general, even if there was some lineup changes. They were able to tee off, and we hadn’t established the run game, and it kind of put the tackles in some real, real tough situations, and so something that we’ll all get better from it.”
Miami Dolphins’ Season Enters Critical Phase
Armstead was a known injury risk when the Dolphins signed him to a five-year, $75 million contract in the spring. He’s appeared in just 107 of a possible 156 games since entering the league in 2013, missing time with injuries to most every part of his body.
But his impact when he’s on the field is undeniable, making him a risk worth taking for McDaniel and Chris Grier. It just would be terrible timing if his latest injury is more significant than what is being reported by Rapoport. A torn pec would end his season. More details will know after imaging Monday.
That uncertainty comes as the Dolphins’ season — which to this point has exceeded all expectations — is entering a critical phase.
Their five wins in their last five games have come against teams with terrible defenses that are a combined 24 games under .500. Now they embark on a three-game road trip against the 49ers, Chargers, and Bills — all playoff, if not Super Bowl, contenders.
Making that cross-continental trek without Armstead is a daunting prospect.
“There is nothing better in professional football than meaningful December and January games,” McDaniel said. “Nothing better. I’m very excited for our young team and a lot of guys to feel that for the first time. I think it was important that guys looked at this game through the lens of establishing good position for that competitive playoff run.”