Dolphins observations: Defense stout, offense solid late
In a defensive-oriented game featuring several head-scratching plays, the Miami Dolphins’ 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars was well deserved even though the offense struggled for most of the game.
With the win, the Dolphins secured their first win streak since December of last year and improved to 4-3.
The Jaguars were their own worse enemy on offense, and rookie quarterback Blake Bortles played poorly against a dominant performance from the Dolphins defense. Both teams suffered turnovers and penalties that overturned several game-changing plays.
Ryan Tannehill was inconsistent but rounded into form by the second half to put away the Jaguars.
Here are five takeaways from the Dolphins’ third straight road win.
1. Dolphins’ offense nonexistent in first half.
Miami was fortunate to be ahead at halftime after gaining just 56 yards of offense. They had four drives in the first half, with the first three ending in three-and-outs. The team had minus-4 total yards before their next drive ended with a Caleb Sturgis field goal.
Tannehill was sacked in their first two drives, with the offensive line unable to contain the Jaguars. When he had time, his accuracy was either off or receivers such as Brian Hartline failed to make plays to keep the offense on the field. They didn’t convert on their first third down until a little more than two minutes were left in the first half.
2. Jaguars’ miscues cost them.
Bortles and his shaky offense committed several blunders that cost the Jaguars in the early going. Their first field goal attempt was blocked by defensive end Olivier Vernon, and Bortles was intercepted on the first play of the second quarter by safety Louis Delmas, who returned it 81 yards for Miami’s first touchdown.
Delmas came back to haunt Bortles again with a fumble recovery after Jelani Jenkins poked the ball away from the struggling rookie.
The game was basically over once cornerback Brent Grimes returned another Bortles interception for a touchdown in the third quarter.
3. Defense dominant.
Miami’s defense made sure the Jaguars wouldn’t threaten to come back in the second half. Their four sacks continued their strong play from last week, when they notched three against Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Vernon was a monster, with his block on the field goal attempt and putting pressure on Bortles all game long. He even showed some agility with a spin move to sack Bortles in the third quarter.
4. Special teams and secondary come up strong.
After some uneven play recently, the special teams set the tone for the game with their blocked field goal on the Jaguar’s first drive.
Rookie Jarvis Landry continues to do well returning the ball, with one 32-yard kick return helping the Dolphins get good field position.
Another player who rebounded from a tough game last week was kicker Caleb Sturgis, who recovered from missing two field goals against the Bears to convert two Sunday.
It was another solid display for the Dolphins secondary unit to help limit any possible damage that the Jaguars could muster.
Delmas’ interception was a game-changer and he had two tackles along with his touchdown and fumble recovery. Grimes was especially good with his pick-six play in addition to his excellent coverage. He was beat on one play and made the smart decision to hook receiver Cecil Shorts and take the penalty instead of yielding a touchdown.
5. Tannehill, offense improves down the stretch.
When the offensive line wasn’t allowing a sack in the first half, Tannehill wasn’t accurate or decisive enough to mount any charge against a powerful Jaguars defensive line.
The secondary did their job with two touchdowns so it was up to the offense in the second half to put the game out of reach. Their 95-yard drive highlighted by an incredible catch by wide receiver Mike Wallace did precisely that.
With Tannehill’s 3-yard pass to receiver Rishard Matthews for the touchdown, the Dolphins made it 24-6 in the third quarter and had the victory in sight.