The Miami Dolphins are going to get ripped on television for a few days. On Sunday, they faced a Super Bowl contender for the second time this season, and were again defeated by a double-digit margin — the Philadelphia Eagles won 31-17. Last season, Miami’s five-game winning streak was criticized because each victory was against a team that would go on to miss the playoffs, especially when they followed that run up with five consecutive losses.
This season, the Dolphins lost in Week 4 on the road against the Buffalo Bills, 48-20. They suffered their second defeat Sunday, 31-17, in Philadelphia. Both losses were the result of similar shortcomings— penalties, turnovers and a less than All-Pro performance on defense. While Sunday’s final result can lead to the assumption of a trend with the Dolphins against top competition, their performance against the Eagles showed they are a team that should still be looked at as a championship caliber unit.
The Dolphins’ defensive backfield has been without Jalen Ramsey all season, and in Week 7, they were also down Xavien Howard. Sans both starting cornerbacks, the Dolphins had to battle DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown. On offense, they were without their starting left tackle, center, their left guard went down with injury during the first half and Jaylen Waddle fought through a back injury the whole game.
On the Eagles’ side, cornerback Darius Slay returned to the lineup after missing their Week 6 loss to the New York Jets. During that defeat, they lost two-time All-Pro offensive tackle Lane Johnson to an ankle injury, but he was ready to play against the Dolphins.
Even though the Dolphins were outmanned, they remained competitive for most of the game. A corner blitz tin the third quarter resulted in a pick-six that tied the score at 17. That followed a rough Tyreek Hill drop where he would have scored a touchdown. Instead, the Dolphins turned the ball over on downs.
At that point the Dolphins were up on the Eagles in the turnover column, 2-0. However, the Eagles scored on the next drive following the pick-six, and then Tua Tagovailoa threw a bad interception in the fourth quarter deep in Eagles’ territory. The Eagles then finished off the Dolphins with a body-crushing, soul-sapping, stamina-stomping, 83-yard drive to go up by two scores.
That drive was the Eagles’ repetitively sending abdomen-crunching body shots into the heart of the Dolphins. It was a reminder to the NFL that the loss to the Jets was a bump in the road. A defeat like that is capable of tripping up any good team. Any team that wishes to beat the Eagles this season, had better be ready to match physicality with arguably the strongest offensive and defensive lines in the league.
Even in defeat, though, the Dolphins largely met that challenge. Although Haason Reddick clobbered their usually dependable running game in the first half, the game was still very much in reach with a 17-10 score at the break. In the second half, the Dolphins finally found consistent success running the ball on the drive in which Hill dropped the touchdown. A drive that probably should have been extended past the fourth-down failure, because Cedrick Wilson’s facemask was yanked by a defender but a penalty was not called.
The Dolphins had their moments on Sunday, but 10 penalties on the road to Eagles’ zero, along with the injuries, forced them to fight from behind. Yet, for most of the night, the Dolphins stayed the course. Even with their offense down four starters and De’Von Achane, they still generated big plays.
Better health would not have guaranteed a road victory against the Eagles, but it would have allowed the Dolphins to dodge a blow or two. As the second half of the NFL season fast approaches, Ramsey has been activated from injured reserve, and the Dolphins’ other injured key contributors are also expected to return to action while the calendar still reads 2023.
The Dolphins are also fortunate that their most difficult upcoming opponents are not scheduled in consecutive weeks. They play the Kansas City Chiefs in Germany the first week of November, a game that is sandwiched between a home matchup against the New England Patriots and a bye week. When they return to action, their toughest stretch of the season against the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens and Bills doesn’t begin until Christmas Eve — and they play the Cowboys and Bills at home.
Sunday’s loss to the Eagles is not the sign of future Dolphins’ futility. It instead revealed a team hungry for postseason glory that is simply waiting for reinforcements.
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