MIAMI ESCAPE BLACK HOLE
Week 16 Game Review
How did that happen, this was a game that the Dolphins needed to win, yet they found themselves nineteen seconds away from disaster. We all new this wasn’t going to be an easy game because on a good day the Raiders can be very dangerous. The story coming into the match-up was whether Derek Carr was going to start the game with his injured groin. It turned out he was ok and even with limited mobility gave the Dolphins defense as much as they could handle.
The Raiders got on the board first thanks to a great punt return by Hunter Renfrow, seven plays and Carr was jumping over the goal line for a touchdown. The Dolphins responded with a dink and dunk drive that ended with a field goal, but it was far from convincing. The defense was putting Carr under pressure, but Jon Gruden’s men were making good yardage from the run and pass, and they managed to respond with a field goal of their own. Before the half each team would tack on a further three points leaving the home team with the advantage going into the break.
That didn’t last very long though as Tua took the kick-off and marched down the field for a tying score, and the game was back on. The only thing was the Miami offense was making hard work of it and the Raiders defense was starting to get the upper hand. Tua was getting sacked and was struggling to make anything happen against heavy pressure. It was still a close game but Carr was finding his favourite receivers far too easily. Darren Waller was making the spectacular look simple and there was nothing that Eric Rowe could do about it.
Las Vegas went up again and now had a three-point lead going into the fourth, Tua went three and out and Brian Flores had obviously decided that he couldn’t let the game slip away. For the second time this year he brought out Ryan Fitzpatrick in relief of the rookie to try an inject some extra life into the offense. It wasn’t that much of a surprise, critics point to the fact you can’t bench your starter just because there are having a bad day, especially a young guy, what will it do to his confidence?
It didn’t seem to affect him last time and what they seem to forget is the two quarterbacks appear to have a great relationship with Tua wiling to learn from the veteran. We get that you have to learn on the job and take your lumps but having Tua watch and learn the nuances and understand when a receiver is available to catch the ball can only be a good thing. There is talk about ‘Alabama open’ and that he had an elite squad of receivers at college that made his life far too easy. There may be some mileage with that argument because he has looked hesitant at times, and it could be that he thinks his guy isn’t open enough.
That should hopefully be addressed with a proper training camp and a receiver or two that can get open before the ball is thrown. Anticipation comes with experience and understanding and Tua hasn’t quite got that yet. However, when a player is open he delivers the ball with accuracy and with the right amount of touch, and that is something you can’t coach.
Fitzpatrick took over and brought with him the spark the team needed. He drove them down the field with a highlight pass to Mike Gesicki, it didn’t result in a touchdown as the Raiders D stiffened, so the game was once again tied. What happened in the remaining four minutes was as mad a finish as there has ever been. This is the type of situation that the Dolphins tend to win of late, but two plays and the Raiders were up as Nelson Agholor made a great catch with Byron Jones in coverage and took off for an 85-yard score. You can’t blame Jones for allowing the reception to much as Carr was scrambling around for what seemed like an eternity, expecting a corner to stay locked up for that long is a big ask. What you can blame him for is the poor tackle that sprung Agholor free. Fortunately, Daniel Carson missed the extra point which would come back to haunt the Raiders.
The Dolphins then had the task of having to score again with time running out. A couple of plays later and Myles Gaskin was sprinting down the side-line for the go ahead score after making something from nothing. The only problem being it was almost too quick as it gave Carr enough time to drive down for a last second field goal. It would need a big play and the refs obliged by calling a PI on Jones which put the ball on the Miami 22 at the two-minute warning. It was obvious that Grunden was going to milk the clock, not sure we have ever seen a defender trying to pull an offensive player over the goal line for a TD, but there was Bobby McCain giving it his best shot.
With Miami now out of time outs Carlson came out to seemingly win the game with 23 seconds left, the field goal was good and with it the Dolphins play-off hopes took a knock. Nineteen seconds is an eternity right? Fitzpatrick took the snap and under a collapsing pocket completed one of the most improbable passes ever seen. With his head being re-arranged on his shoulders he launched a deep ball to an unbelievably open Mack Hollins who caught the ball at the Las Vegas 41, tack on the facemask and Miami were in field goal range. Two plays later and Jason Sanders sealed the victory and boosted the Dolphins play-off chances. Lady luck must have been smiling down on the Dolphins, how else can you explain the end to the game and the fact that the Colts, Browns and Titan all lost, which means Miami now hold the fifth seed in the AFC for the time being.