On Sunday, with Tony Sparano and Yeremiah Bell returning to South Florida, the Dolphins fell in overtime to the division rival New York Jets, 23-20.
After taking an early 10-0 lead, the Dolphins were unable to keep the momentum in the third quarter, committing turnovers on consecutive plays. The Jets took advantage and pulled out what turned into a back-and-forth game.
Here are my five key takeaways from Sunday’s game:
- Don’t Be Down on Dan: Facts are facts. Carpenter missed a 48-yard field goal — one that was within his typical range — that would have won the game on Sunday. He also missed a 47-yarder early in the fourth quarter that could have helped the Dolphins avoid overtime altogether. This individual game, though, likely won’t be a predictor of future performance. It was probably just an outlier. Prior to Sunday’s game, Carpenter had only missed more than one field goal in a game three times in his five-year career. He’s made plenty of clutch kicks in his career, including a 44-yard game-winner in overtime at Lambeau Field in 2010. Carpenter will bounce back. He’s just waiting for his next opportunity to prove it.
- Let’s Hope Bush is OK: When Reggie Bush went down clutching his knee late in the second quarter, the Sun Life Stadium crowd collectively held its breath. Through two-and-a-half games, the Dolphins running back had been electric. Bush was well on his way to another 100-yard performance — he already had 61 yards on just 10 carries. An extended absence would create a lot of uncertainty for a developing offense. It isn’t really a question of depth. Running back is, perhaps, the Dolphins’ deepest position group, and the Daniel Thomas–Lamar Miller combo filled in capably. But Bush is the type of game breaker who single-handedly changes games. Early reports indicate he suffered a minor knee bruise . If that’s the case, Dolphins fans can exhale.
- Pressure Might Not Be Enough: Mark Sanchez spent nearly the entire afternoon being chased, but he rarely got caught. In fact, the Dolphins, who pressured the Jets quarterback often, only sacked him once. Some of this can be attributed to Sanchez’s shiftiness in the pocket. Sanchez, after a fairly uneven start, settled down late, finishing 21-of-45 for 306 yards. If the Dolphins front seven can turn pressure into sacks, it will help the secondary immensely, forcing opposing offenses into second- and third-and-longs. That alone could have changed the outcome of Sunday’s game. Cam Wake, still without one sack this season, has been in the backfield so much, you’d have to figure the law of averages will kick in pretty soon and the Dolphins defense will start bringing down opposing quarterbacks.
- Tannehill Looked Inside for Help: Ryan Tannehill attacked the perimeter of the Raiders’ defense at will last week, manipulating the soft spot in Oakland’s zone defense. The Jets defense presented a different type of challenge, though. The strength of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie took away the boundaries and forced Tannehill to look inside. Most of the chunk passing yardage up the middle of the field, except, most notably, on a 41-yard strike to Hartline up the right sideline in overtime. Up to that point, Tannehill had almost exclusively looked for Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano. Fasano was targeted 10 times (five catches for 47 yards). Bess was targeted seven times (five catches for 86 yards. Those two players need to help carry the offense until a third wide receiver emerges behind Bess and Hartline. If Sunday was an indication of how Fasano will be used in the West Coast Offense, the seven-year veteran may be on his way to career highs in receptions (39) and receiving yards (528).
- Let One Slip Away: When you’re facing a divisional opponent, the margin of error shrinks. An NFL team has six head-to-head chances to directly gain ground on its divisional rivals. When you have a chance to win one, you have to capitalize. The Dolphins need to find ways to win games that are decided by a handful of plays; it’s what separates fringe playoff teams from those on the outside looking in. As the team’s identity continues to materialize, I expect they’ll be able to close out games at a higher rate. The coaching staff’s philosophy early in the season — run the ball and stop the run — should help. In overtime, Tannehill put the Dolphins within range to pull out the victory. With a little bit more late-game experience, you may see him take control and lead the team on game-winning drives.