Just when the season seemed to take a turn for the worst, Miami surprised us in typical Dolphins’ fashion by dominating one of the NFL’s best teams 30-15. The Pittsburg Steelers came into this game with a Top 10 offense, and 2 of the NFL’s best offensive weapons—WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell.
However, to the dismay of many Steelers fans who attended Hard Rock stadium in hopes of an almost definite victory, it was Miami’s offense that shined in the Florida Sun that day—and it all started with the offensive line.
For the 1st time this season, Miami’s projected starting offensive line played at full strength. Center Mike Pouncey, LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, RG Jermon Bushrod, and RT Ja’Wuan James were all healthy for the 1st time which lead to Miami’s best offensive and defensive performance this year.
The Dolphin offense won every major phase of the game:
TIME OF POSSESSION
Overall, Ryan Tannehill and the offense had 11 possessions and scored on 6 of them(it could have been 8 if it wasn’t for the blocked and missed FG’s.)
Let’s recap Miami’s scoring drives of the game…
1st drive – 9 plays, 53 yards, 3:39
Miami received the ball at 12:13 after a Steeler’s punt on their own 35. After a Ja’Wuan James unsportsmanlike penalty the Dolphins found themselves in a 2nd and 20 situation, and Ryan Tannehill passed short left to Jarvis Landry for a gain of 22 yards and a 1st down. An extra 15 yards were tacked on thanks to a penalty on Steeler’s Malcolm Mitchell for Unnecessary Roughness which put Miami into Steeler’s territory at the 38.
A couple plays later from the Steeler’s 26, Ryan Tannehill fired to Devante Parker on a post route to the endzone but the pass was dropped. The Dolphins inched closer, but were eventually forced to kick a 30-yd field goal. 3-0 Dolphins
3rd Drive – 12 plays, 85 yards, 7:08
After a Steelers touchdown and a punt, the Dolphins got the ball back at the Miami 11 with 26 secondss left in the 1st quarter. They then went on a methodical drive using a balanced attack of runs and short passes, until pressure on passing situation on 1st and 10 at the MIA 46 caused Ryan Tannehill to scramble left out of the pocket and find a wide open MarQueis Gray deep for a 53-yd gain. Miami had 1st and goal at the Pittsburg 1-yd line, but an Illegal Formation penalty on JaWuan James negated a Tannehill TD pass to Dominique Jones, and negative run by Jay Ajayi forced the Fins to kick a 23-yd FG.
4th drive- 4 plays, 1 yard, 2:43
After defensive pressure forced Big Ben to throw an interception to pro-bowler Rashad Jones, Miami got the ball at the Pittsburg 13. But again, JaWuan James caused another penalty (this time it was Holding) which turned a 2nd and 4 situation into a 2nd and 14. That later became a 3rd and 14, and Miami was forced to kick another FG.
5th drive- 9 plays, 71 yards, 2:26
The Dolphins D forced the Steelers to go 4 and out and their punt put the Dolphins at the Miami 29. An Ajayi run put Miami at the 43 before the 2 minute warning, and a couple plays later Ryan Tannehill found an open Jarvis Landry deep for 39 yards which put Miami at the Steelers 2-yard line. This drive was capped off by a Damien Williams TD run.
7th Drive- 6 plays, 52 yards, 3:31
After a Dolphins blocked field goal on their 6th possession, the Steelers turned over the ball once more at the Miami 48. The Dolphins 1st play was a handoff to Jay Ajayi who took off for 33 yards. A couple plays later, Tannehill converted a 3rd and 7 to DeVante Parker for 11 yards to the Pittsburg 5. 2 plays later, Ajayi punched it in for a TD.
10th Drive- 1 play, 62 yards, 12 seconds
Miami had a missed FG and punted on their 8th and 9th drives, but their 10th made up for all that. The Dolphins only ran 1 play. Tannehill handed off to Jay Ajayi, who demonstrated his speed and took it to the house for a 62-yd TD.
The offensive line was the key factor in this victory and a key factor to the loss to the Titans the previous week. With all the starters healthy, Miami was able to create holes for the ground game, and protection for the pass game. This led to a balanced attack, which allowed the Dolphins to control the pace of the game and the time of possession.
Ryan Tannehill looked a lot more comfortable on Sunday. He went 24/32 and threw for 252 yards. Without pressure coming to him immediately, he was able to go through his progressions and make smart throws. He also scrambled out of the pocket to extended plays, something he has been highly criticized for not doing. Let’s hope that trend continues.
Jay Ajayi was the Sunday Star. The Jay-Train rushed for 204 yards and 2 TDs on 25 carries averaging 8.2 YPC. He didn’t always have holes up the middle, but he got positive yards with his physicality. When he did have holes, he burst threw them with his power looking like a leaner Eddie Lacy. Although he doesn’t have the quickest step, he has enough speed to get around the edge for outside runs, and outrun defenses as he showed on his last carry. He solidified himself as the Dolphins starter with his performance.
Damien Williams was used as the number 2 back, but he only had 6 carries and didn’t demonstrate power to pushed the pile. Outside from his lone TD and his steady hands, he showed that he is serviceable but not startable.
Arian Foster was back for the 1st time since the Patriots game. The Dolphins used him in limited fashion. He had 3 carries for 3 yards—1 of which was a key 3rd and 1 which he did not convert, but I blame that on Adam Gase. He also had catches for 12 yards. His hands and smooth running are an asset for the passing game. But his lack of power and physical running leads me to believe he will be the number 2 back and mostly used as a passcatcher and breather for Ajayi.
Jarvis Landry had 7 catches for 91 yards on 9 targets. He again played the role of Possession receiver and the safety blanket for Ryan Tannehill. Most of his yards came from the 39-yard catch he had in the closing minute of the 1st half. He remains highly involved and continues to demonstrate his quickness and power by not shying away from the contact of defenders.
Devante Parker had 5 catches for 28 yards on 7 targets. His statistics could have been better had he not dropped the 26-yard TD pass from Ryan Tannehill. However, being a 1st round talent and the most skilled WR on the team, it’s curious why he is not involved more in the passing game and is usually thrown to on short passes.
Marqueis Gray had 3 catches for 81 yards on 3 targets. Gray made up for his 3rd down drop against the Bengals. On the 53-yard catch, he made a smart effort to recognize Tannehill was under pressure and made the correct route adjustment to help his quarterback out. He seems to be similar to what Charles Clay was for the Dolphins. A TE/FB hybrid. Although he made plays, His involvement is mostly attributed to Jordan Cameron’s and Dion Simms injuries.
Adam Gase finally called a near perfect game. The only play call I didn’t like was the handoff to Arian Foster on 3rd and 1(basically using your least physical back in a short-yardage situation). His offensive gameplan was the perfect way to attack the Steelers and make best use of his personnel. He changed his offense from pass-happy to balanced and it totally worked. By slowing the game down and committing to the run, he kept the Steelers’ offense off the field, and increased the Dolphins Time of Possession. He also took Tannehill out of the Brady-role of carrying the offense, and put him in the role he is meant for—game manager. If Gase stays patient and sticks to this type of playcalling, the Dolphins will win more games