Dave Hyde: Splat! Dolphins embarrassed in 56-19 stink bomb in Baltimore
Generally, the worst thing you thought might happen to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday was some player, some unit — some specific part of the greater team — might get embarrassed at Baltimore and cost the top prize of the regular season.
What happened instead was everyone got embarrassed.
The Dolphins defense watched Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Pompano Beach native, basically cement the league’s MVP award. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s big plays in an offense known for big plays were two interceptions. The special teams gave up a long kickoff return when the script was still in the rewriting stage.
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh even took an accelerator-down move of Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel. Harbaugh went for it on fourth-and-7 in a 20-13 game. Fourth-and-7! Jackson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to define the day.
“We came into this game with high hopes of playing to the standard that we wanted to play,” Tagovailoa said after the Dolphins were beat down, 56-19. “And when those standards aren’t met, it feels like it’s very disappointing.
“So, I would say in the locker room, that’s sort of the feel. But you’ve got leaders stepping up for next week and the games that follow.”
Yes, it’s all still out there for the Dolphins, as you’ll hear all week. Beat the Buffalo Bills next weekend and you win No. 2 playoff seed and AFC East title. That’d make things right, yes? That’s the kind of season this franchise hasn’t had in decades.
“I talked to the team about that and their eyes were laser-focused,” McDaniel said about next week.
But the end of this season wasn’t to be about intangibles like focus and attitude. It was to be about the tangibles. Wins. Losses. Points. Takeaways. A season’s work to set up Sunday’s game for the top AFC playoff seed.
That’s no typo. And, again, it’s not the loss. It’s the embarrassment. Maybe it’s something more, too. The Dolphins haven’t traveled well against good teams. That’s why the home-field playoff advantage means so much for them.
Go down the schedule. Drubbed at Buffalo, 48-20. Handled in Philadelphia, 31-17. Down at half to Kansas City, 21-0, before rallying in Germany to a seven-point loss.
Now this stink bomb in Baltimore.
“We played into their hands,” McDaniel said of his offense. “I wouldn’t look at it as a road thing. Road things I look as operations, getting in and out of the huddle, assignment stuff — I didn’t feel that. Watching the tape, maybe there’s some of that. But on the field I don’t think it was caused because we’re not at home.
“I thought it was just going against a good defense.”
That defense went against the league’s top-rated offense, too. Sure, the Dolphins missed Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert. But the Ravens missed their secondary. Ask Tyreek Hill.
“We were trying to take advantage of it,” he said. “But just like every team we play, they seem to find their way to Cover 2.”
There’s the strategic book on this team by now. Play deep. See if they can beat you with paper cuts before beating themselves.
“I probably played one of the worst games of my career,” Hill said of his six-catch, 67-yard day that included a dropped touchdown on the second drive.
Still, McDaniel thought everything was fine until Tagovailoa’s interceptions. One came when Baltimore linebacker Roquan Smith followed Tua’s eyes to the ball. The second game when Tagovailoa threw into tough coverage trying to make up the deficit.
“That’s exactly what we didn’t need to do,” said Tagovailoa, who also threw two touchdowns and left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. “We didn’t need to press. And I say ‘we’ as in me. I didn’t need to press and force throws down the field that weren’t there with certain looks. I should’ve just [taken] the check-downs. Yeah, I’ve just got to be better.”
So that’s how the Dolphins failed in the MVP showdown segment of the day. The polling sites closed by the third quarter. Jackson threw five touchdowns, had a perfect 158.3 rating, and was serenaded with “M-V-P” chants from Baltimore fans. Give him the trophy.
That wasn’t the worst part of the Dolphins defense’s worst day. That came with just under three minutes left. Bradley Chubb, still on the field, had to be carted off the field in a manner that looks like he’s done for the season. Should he have been in the long-decided game? No way.
“I wish I had a time machine,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel wasn’t hiding from anything. That’s not his way. But a day that started as a chance to show how close the Dolphins are to a Super Bowl ended with Baltimore showing it’s the class of the league. It drubbed San Francisco last Monday. It embarrassed the Dolphins on Sunday.
“Hopefully, we’ll see them again,” Tagovailoa said.
If so, take your pick of who improves the most off Sunday. The offense. The defense. The strategic thinking. All of them were embarrassed by Baltimore.