Wow. Hard Knocks is about to get really interesting this week. The Miami Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to be up by 14 points with less than three minutes remaining and lose without overtime. Or so I’ve read.
Classic road underdog situation for Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans. In case you’re unaware, Vrabel is a bad man to bet against when he’s a dog. Somehow, the Titans manage to keep damn near every game close, against all odds, with a subpar roster. I think Vrabel might even have a record north of .500 straight up when he isn’t favored. Or at least he did before this season.
Understanding all those positive, historical trends working in Tennessee’s favor, this was something else entirely. A legit WTF finish. Two awful giveaways by the visitors helped the Dolphins punch it into the end zone on short fields, after they’d gone 0-for-3 on the evening getting TDs in the red zone. I mean…look at this:
An updated look at the most improbable comebacks in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016):
While rookie Titans QB Will Levis deserves credit for orchestrating two quick scoring drives to stun the Fins in Miami, there were larger implications at play than just Monday night’s outcome. Superstar Dolphins wideout Tyreek Hill injured his ankle early on, and with him unable to play as many snaps, or explode like he usually can with his electrifying speed, that dynamic passing attack suddenly wasn’t so dynamic.
Good thing Tyreek’s wife told him to go back in (I guess? Hope he’s OK going forward). Otherwise, Miami would’ve looked even worse the whole night.
Tyreek Hill: “It was a lot of pain. It sucked. I’ve been dealing with ankle injuries this whole season. I texted my wife it hurt. She said ‘You better get your ass back in that game.’” pic.twitter.com/3NfCQhIucg
The Titans managed to sack Tua Tagovailoa five times and got pressure on him all night. Now, it doesn’t help that center Connor Williams went down with a knee injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. Pretty immediate, dire consequences for that absence.
Nor did it help that the Fins were already down three starters on the o-line. But hey, Miami has overcome injuries left and right this season. Vrabel and Tennessee just happened to catch them at a tough time, and Levis capitalized on the Dolphins’ defense falling asleep down the stretch.
You could just tell the home team took their foot off the gas. The penultimate offensive possession for Miami, before the Titans’ go-ahead score, was ultra-conservative. Tyreek wasn’t able to break open from a double team. Tua was under duress. Fitting that his night ended with yet another sack.
Anyone who was touting Tua as an MVP candidate could still defend him based on the Fins’ banged-up o-line. However, there’s no denying that Mike McDaniel, Tua and the rest of the offense struggled to adapt the passing game on the fly once Tyreek was unable to play like himself. In the eyes of many, that reality only furthered the Cheetah’s MVP case.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins *actual* MVP wasn’t out there/right the whole game, and all of a sudden the operation grinds to halt.
Very similar to situation out West when the team’s *actual* MVP caliber players aren’t out there.
Now, the Dolphins have fallen out of a record-tie with Baltimore for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The schedule doesn’t get too much easier down the stretch. Tyreek is banged up. The o-line is in shambles. The defense had a perplexing meltdown. How Miami battles back from blowing such a winnable game, with the Jets’ defense on deck for Week 15, will be telling in terms of how seriously we should take them as a Super Bowl contender. Not looking great at the moment.
Somebody check on my ex-colleague Frank. He down bad RN.