This was it for the Miami Dolphins, the showdown against defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City, Miami’s biggest test of the “first half” of its season.
The Dolphins (6-3) entered Sunday’s game with a 4-8 record under coach Mike McDaniel against teams that made the 2022 playoffs, and Miami was 2-7 on the road in such games. The Dolphins were 2-2 this season against teams that made the playoffs during the 2022 season having defeated the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants while losing to Buffalo and Philadelphia.
Worse, Miami’s five punts in the first half were more than they’ve punted in a game this season, and the Dolphins’ 21-0 halftime deficit represented their lowest-scoring first half in 40 games and the first time they were held scoreless in a half since last year’s Green Bay loss on Christmas.
Here are some other takeaways from Sunday’s game:
Miami offense vs. 2022 playoff teams
The Dolphins offense entered Sunday’s game averaging 21.8 points per game in 12 contests against teams that made the playoffs in 2022, and 29.1 points per game in 14 games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs in the 2022 season.
Miami didn’t help that number against the Chiefs, ending with 14 points. — Chris Perkins
QB-snap exchange a problem again
Miami’s final play of the game, on fourth-and-10 from the Kansas City 31-yard line, resulted in a botched snap between quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and center Connor Williams. It appeared that the snap hit Tagovailoa in the hands.
Regardless, this was yet another bad exchange between Tagovailoa and Williams. It cost them a possible touchdown in the opener against the Chargers, and cost them a long-shot chance to comeback and tie the game Sunday.
The trend this season has been if Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill struggles, the offense struggles. That held up against Kansas City.
Hill was largely a non-factor Sunday. The lowlight was when Hill was stripped of the ball by cornerback Trent McDuffie after a reception. The loose ball was scooped by safety Mike Edwards, who then lateraled to fellow safety Bryan Cooks for the 59-yard touchdown.
And Hill dropped pass in the second quarter.
Hill had five receptions for 40 yards in Miami’s 24-17 victory over New England, three receptions for 58 yards in Miami’s 48-20 loss at Buffalo, and 11 receptions for 88 yards in Miami’s 31-17 loss at Philadelphia. Those were the only three games Hill failed to reach 100 yards receiving entering Sunday, and they were Miami’s three lowest-scoring games of the year.
Hill, of course, was traded to Miami in March 2022, and last season he had a career-best 1,710 yards receiving, and this season he became the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl era to surpass 1,000 yards receiving through eight games.
Ramsey does OK in low-key performance
You could argue Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey had a low-key day, or you could maintain he shut down one half of the field.
This was the first game Ramsey joined fellow star cornerback Xavien Howard as starters. The duo had good results overall although neither provided any individual fireworks such as Ramsey’s interception in last week’s season debut against New England.
Wide receiver Christian Watson had a six-yard gain on Ramsey in the third quarter on first down.
It’s unclear how frequently Kansas City threw at Ramsey in the first half. It wasn’t often. Ramsey drew a flag for holding on rookie Rashee Rice but that came on a touchdown so it was negated. In the third quarter, Ramsey surrendered a six-yard reception on second-and-5 to tight end Noah Gray.
But Ramsey was strong in this game.
Ramsey, acquired in March 2023 in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, made his season debut vs. the Patriots after being sidelined due to knee surgery to repair an injury sustained on the second day of training camp.
Chubb coming alive
Edge rusher Bradley Chubb had a strip-sack in the third quarter, creating a fumble by quarterback Patrick Mahomes that defensive lineman Zach Sieler recovered. That play continued a play-making trend for Chubb, who now has 5.0 sacks and three forced fumbles in his past four games.
Dolphins get the call and capitalize
Kansas City defensive end Chris Jones had a dumb unnecessary roughness penalty late in the third quarter that allowed Miami to score a touchdown and cut its deficit to 21-14.
Jones shoved a Miami offensive lineman after a 10-yard completion to running back Jeff Wilson Jr. on third-and-20. The Dolphins would have had to settle for a field goal. But Jones’ infraction gave Miami an automatic first down and running back Raheem Mostert scored on a 13-yard run one play later.
It was quite a turnaround for Miami, which might have gotten the benefit of the doubt on a borderline late hit on Mahomes by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, and after having a 10-0 penalty deficit at Philadelphia.
Dolphins’ OL does nice work
Miami started an offensive line of left tackle Terron Armstead, left guard Robert Jones, center Connor Williams, right guard Lester Cotton and right tackle Austin Jackson, and they did OK.
In the fourth quarter the Dolphins lost Jones to a leg injury, bringing in Liam Eichenberg, and not long afterward Kansas City had back-to-back tackles for losses on a Salvon Ahmed run and Tagovailoa sack.
The Dolphins allowed a sack in the first quarter, Tagovailoa was under a moderate amount of pressure, and the run game struggled, especially early. But the offensive line did OK, all things considered.
This is only the second time this season Armstead, Williams, and Jackson have started together. The Denver game was the only other time Miami had its offensive line’s backbone in place.
And although pass protection also includes tight ends and running backs, the offensive line is at the center of it all. Miami entered Sunday’s game having allowed just 12 sacks, tied for third-fewest in the league.
The makeshift offensive line held up its end of the deal, for the most part.
Miami’s run game
Miami had a disappointing 98 yards rushing on 19 carries, but the run game came alive late.
The Dolphins entered Sunday’s game No. 1 in the league in rushing at 151.8 yards per game, led by running back Raheem Mostert (520 yards rushing, 5.4 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns).
Miami gets standout rookie running back De’Von Achane (knee) off injured reserve at some point after next week’s bye week.
Tua vs. Mahomes … Mahomes wins
Tagovailoa and Kansas City’s Mahomes are two of the favorites to win NFL MVP and their performances were key to Sunday’s outcome.
Tagovailoa ended 21 of 34 for 193 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 87.0 passer rating.
Mahomes ended 20 of 30 for 185 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 105.6 passer rating.
Tagovailoa entered Sunday leading the league in passing yards (2,416) and passer rating (108.8) and tied for the league lead in touchdown passes (17). But he also had seven interceptions through eight games, on pace to surpass last year’s total of eight interceptions in 13 games.
Mahomes entered Sunday third in passing yards (2,257), 10th in passer rating (95.8) and fifth in touchdown passes (15). He had eight interceptions.
Neither quarterback did anything spectacular, but Mahomes played a more efficient, effective game. Mahomes, by the way, completed passes to nine receivers.
Miami’s defense does well, especially in second half
The Dolphins defense was mostly being watched for the pass defense that featured Ramsey and Howard but the run defense allowed 93 yards, which isn’t great but isn’t bad either, and essentially made Kansas City one dimensional.
The Chiefs ended with 93 yards rushing on 24 carries, which is 3.9 yards per carry. Kansas City entered 21st in the NFL rushing at 105.1 yards per game and Miami was 16th in the league in run defense at 107.9 ypg allowed.
Kansas City ended with 267 yards Sunday. The Chiefs entered fourth in total offense at 381.4 yards per game.
Dolphins linebackers David Long Jr. and Jerome Baker were effective shooting gaps and the defensive front did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Therefore they made Kansas City’s offense one-dimensional early.
Miami was 0-for-5 on third downs in the first half. Miami entered the game 10th in third-down conversions at 41.7%.
Miami’s first third-down conversion came in the third quarter when Tagovailoa hit tight end Durham Smythe for a six-yard gain on third and three from the Chiefs’ 47-yard line.
Miami ended 3 of 12 on third downs.
Chubb found his Miami footing in the playoff game and has caught fire
In his first eight games in Miami, the former Bronco had only 2.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble, but he began a massive turnaround at the wild-card playoff game in Buffalo in January. He had a sack and a forced fumble in that game, and in the 2023 season he has tacked on six sacks, seven tackles for loss and four more forced fumbles, including a strip sack of Patrick Mahomes on Sunday that came a couple snaps after he batted a Mahomes pass that was nearly intercepted. So, in the past 10 games, that comes to seven sacks, seven TFLs and five dislodgements of the football. Further, he was all over Mahomes in Germany. — Steve Svekis
Had the Dolphins been shut out in the first half of a previous game under Mike McDaniel?
The fewest first-half points Miami had scored in a first half under their new coach had been three, twice last year, at home against the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. But both of those futile efforts had come in each of Skylar Thompson’s regular-season starts. The fewest points scored in the first 30 minutes of a McDaniel-coached game started by Tua Tagovailoa had been seven, on the road in 2022 against the Ravens and Chargers.
Chiefs game began a run against better pass defenses for Miami
Kansas City, ranked second in the NFL in pass yards allowed, began a stretch for the Dolphins against better pass defenses that will go till the end of the season. The remaining opponents and their ranking in the category entering Week 8: Raiders (ninth), Nov. 19; At Jets (fifth), Nov. 24; At Commanders (29th), Dec. 3; Titans (20th), Dec. 11; Jets (fifth), Dec. 17; Cowboys (fourth), Dec. 24; At Ravens (third), Dec. 31; Bills (10th), Jan. 7.
The rankings of teams faced so far, from worst to best: Chargers (32nd), Broncos (27th), Eagles (26th), Patriots (18th), Patriots (18th), Giants (12th), Bills (10th), Panthers (sixth), Chiefs (second).
What do the remaining schedules look like for the AFC two-loss teams?
With the season now squarely in its second half, let’s take a look at the future schedules of the Dolphins and also the AFC’s three two-loss teams headed into Monday.
The 6-3 Dolphins (36-30, .545): Raiders (4-5); At Jets (4-3); At Commanders (4-5); Titans (3-5); Jets (4-3); Cowboys (5-3); At Ravens (7-2); Bills (5-4)
The 7-2 Chiefs (34-34, .500): Eagles (8-1), At Raiders (4-5), At Packers (3-5), Bills (5-4), At Patriots (2-7), Raiders (4-5), Bengals (5-3), At Chargers (3-4)
The 6-2 Ravens (43-30, .589): Seahawks (5-3), Browns (5-3), Bengals (5-3), At Chargers (3-4), Rams (3-6), At Jaguars (6-2), At 49ers (5-3), Dolphins (6-3), Steelers (5-3)
The 6-2 Jaguars (36-37, .493): 49ers (5-3), Titans (3-5), At Texans (4-4), Bengals (5-3), At Browns (5-3), Ravens (7-2), At Buccaneers (3-5), Panthers (1-7), At Titans (3-5).
Tagovailoa’s tepid play in nationally televised games continued
The Dolphins quarterback saw his passer rating when the Dolphins are playing the the NFL’s only game in a time slot fall to 88.1.
Tagovailoa’s nationally televised games, in order of passer rating, from best to worst: 104.0, At Bills, 2022, 32-29 loss; 104.0, Ravens, 2021, 22-10 win; 99.4, At Raiders, 2020, 26-25 win; 95.1, Jaguars (London), 2021, 23-20 loss; 92.7, Steelers, 2022, 16-10 win; 92.2, At Patriots, 24-17 win; 91.5, At Saints, 20-3 win; 87.5, At Eagles, 2023, 31-17 loss; 87.0: Chiefs (Germany), 21-14 loss; 80.8, Packers, 26-20 loss; 65.3, At Chargers, 2022, 23-17 loss; 52.7, at Bengals, 2022, 27-15 loss.
Tagovailoa has gone 214 for 336 for 2,497 yards with 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions and seven fumbles.
In all other games, he has completed 708 of 1,050 passes for 8,127 yards, 59 touchdown passes, 22 interceptions (100.5 passer rating) and 17 fumbles.
If the Player of the Month Award had started three years earlier, Dan Marino would have had a pile of them
When Tyreek Hill won the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October last week, the news of course was accompanied by accounts of the instances when previous Dolphins players had won the award. I was stunned that Dan Marino had won it only twice. So, I took out the stats shovel. Sure enough, 1986 was the first year of the award. Marino won in November of 1986 and October of 1988.
What is a bit mind-blowing about those two months is that in a game in each of them, the Hall of Famer had one of his four career games where he threw more than three interceptions. His passer rating in November of 1986 was 97.4 in five games and 198 pass attempts. In October of 1988, he had a 73.0 over five games and 224 passes.
Meanwhile, here are the five blazing pre-1986 months he almost assuredly would have taken home player of the month: October of 1983 (five games): 102.2 passer rating (137 passes); September 1984 (five): 121.6 (155); October 1984 (four): 113.4 (123); December 1984 (three): 105.2 (138); and December of 1985 (four): 97.9 (128).
A further reminder of Dan Marino’s virtuosity
Another stat that was publicized this past week was how Patrick Mahomes is closing in on Dan Marino’s record for games with multiple touchdown passes in the first seven years of a career. Heading in to Sunday, Mahomes had 63 such games, with Marino at 65. Mahomes, if he doesn’t miss a game this season, will have played six fewer games than Marino did in their first seven seasons.
That disadvantage, however, is minor compared with the massive restrictor plate that Marino had to deal with from 1983-89. The median passer rating in 1986, Marino’s fourth season (midpoint of seven), was 73.6 (compared with the 94.0 average of 2020 and 2021 in the middle of Mahomes’ first seven seasons). For perspective, in 2020, a 73.6 passer rating would have put a QB 33rd in the NFL among starters. While a 94.0 passer rating in 1986 would have been the best in the NFL, ahead of Tommy Kramer’s 92.6 (followed by Marino’s 92.5).
Dolphins allowed their third non-offensive touchdown this season
The Chiefs stripped Hill and scored their third touchdown on a 63-yard recovery and run after a lateral. It was the third time and opponent has scored a touchdown this season on defense or special teams. Earlier, the Denver Broncos took a kickoff back 99 yards and the New York Giants grabbed an interception and went 102 yards the other way. The last time the Dolphins allowed more than three such scores was in 2018, when it occurred four times.
Mostert’s talent is obvious, but the fumble bug bit again
The Dolphins were fortunate that new acquisition Chase Claypool was able to recover the loose ball, but that was Raheem Mostert’s fourth fumble in his past 76 touches.
Tagovailoa’s one sack in his first 119 dropbacks seems like a long-distance memory
Since then, the pressure has been felt, with the Miami quarterback being sacked 13 times in his past 203 dropbacks (15.6 dropbacks per sack).
Dolphins are making a bee-line for the club record of games with at least 31 points scored
Miami didn’t add at least four touchdowns and a field goal against the Chiefs in Germany, but they have accomplished the feat five times in 2023, at home in four instances. The most 31-plus-point games by Miami in franchise history: 1984: Nine (three at home, six away); 1985: Seven (six, one); 2023: Five (four, one).
On deck: Las Vegas Raiders, Hard Rock Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 19, 1 p.m.
The Raiders are on their 13th coach in their past 317 games (24.4 games per coach) with former linebacker Antonio Pierce. … In their first eight games, the Raiders have given with ball away 16 times and entered Week 9 with a league-worst minus-8 turnover differential. … The Raiders do have an inarguable NFL superstar on each side of the ball. On offense, there is Davante Adams, who, despite shoddy quarterback play and him being missed wide open deep on multiple occasions, entered Week 9 on pace for 1,145 receiving yards and six touchdowns. On defense, there is pass-rush wrecking ball Maxx Crosby, whose 47 pressures led the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.