Quick Thoughts on Monday night loss

QB Drew Brees

The Dolphins missed a big opportunity on the national stage Monday night when they dropped a 38-17 against the New Orleans Saints, but they still stand at 3-1 at the quarter mark of the regular season. So things could be worse. That's one of the takeaways from the game, but there are plenty more.

-- Let's start at the beginning and the decision to defer after winning the coin toss. The initial knee-jerk reaction is to say: "What? Are you crazy? Give the ball to the Saints to start the game? Keep that offense off the field." And then the Saints take the opening drive and score a touchdown, which doesn't help things. But here's the thing: The game didn't become a rout right away or because the Saints scored on the first drive. Here's another thing: If you don't defer, the Saints will get the ball at the start of the third quarter. Is that much better? And here's one last thing: What would make a bigger statement and set more of a tone for the Dolphins: Taking the ball and scoring immediately, or stopping the Saints offense? Either way you stand on the issue, deferring had nothing to do with the outcome.

-- The Dolphins actually responded to that Saints touchdown with a great drive of their own, but it fizzled after Daniel Thomas was stuffed on third-and-1. The problem here was the play call, with the Dolphins running a sweep with zone blocking. Rookie John Jenkins just shot through a big hole on the Dolphins offensive line, which seemed to be John Jerry's responsibility, and got to Thomas in the backfield. Clearly, running laterally on third-and-1 is questionable and there's little doubt that's one play call the Dolphins would like to have back.

-- Offensively, the thing that stood out was the poor performance from Mike Wallace. The most disturbing aspect of it wasn't his low numbers, but rather the apparent disconnect between he and Ryan Tannehill.

-- On Tannehill, this is getting repetitive, but he simply must learn to secure the ball. The hit he took on his fumble wasn't nearly hard enough that it should have knocked the ball loose. That's a more troubling issue that the interception before halftime, where cornerback Jabari Greer obviously read the play and jumped the route.

-- The two interceptions in the second half should almost be dismissed because they occurred with the game already decided.

-- The pass protection was really porous in the second half, but it should be noted that Tannehill actually had solid protection in the first half before things got out of hand. What that says is that if teams can just line up and know the Dolphins are going to pass, Miami is going to have issues. That applies to most teams, incidentally.

-- On defense, the Dolphins were tremendous against the run and porous against the pass. The tone was set early when Reshad Jones thought he'd go for a big play and cut in front of Darren Sproles sprinting to the outside on the second snap of the game. Except that Sproles ran and out-and-up and left Jones way behind him. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, it wouldn't be the last time they took a bad angle.

-- Of all the bad plays on defense, maybe the one that stung the most was the third-and-20 that was converted with a screen pass to Sproles, leading to the Saints' second touchdown. Or was it the third-and-11 that the Saints turned into a touchdown — again, it was Sproles — right before halftime?

-- It was rookie Jamar Taylor, playing in his first NFL game, who got beat on Jimmy Graham's touchdown catch in the first quarter, but Taylor actually had good coverage on the play. He just wasn't in position to jump as the ball arrived and Drew Brees threw the ball high.

-- Speaking of Brees, did you hear he almost signed with the Dolphins in 2006 but wasn't cleared medically? Notice the year ... 2006. As in seven years ago. It's not a story anymore, ESPN.

-- Dolphins defensive tackles Jared Odrick and Paul Soliai both looked tremendous. Speaking of Odrick, I don't get tired of the Pee Wee Herman sack dance.

-- Here's the bottom line from the game: The Dolphins were playing neck-and-neck with the Saints, they were in position to drive for a field goal late in the half as they had against the Colts and Falcons, but then Tannehill threw the interception and everything fell apart. What that says is the Dolphins didn't respond well to adversity against one of the best teams in the league. It happens.

-- It also tells us the Dolphins aren't good enough to afford those kind of mistakes. They didn't make them against Indy or Atlanta and pulled out the victory in the fourth quarter. They made them against New Orleans and were out of the game by the third quarter.

-- The sign of progress for the Dolphins is that in 2013 they could have played mistake-free football but they weren't making the big plays at the end. So there's that.

-- Even after losing to New Orleans, the Dolphins are still 3-1 and they can go to 4-1 with a victory against the 2-2 Ravens. And who wouldn't have taken 4-1 at the bye before the season started?

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