This game is one of those moments in a film where you predicted the ending.
The seven-game winning streak was terrific; however, the Miami Dolphins’ making the playoffs seemed a far reach, especially with the season’s final two games, beginning with the Tennessee Titans.
What could go wrong did go wrong for the Dolphins visiting the Titans.
With 4:31 to play in the third quarter, Dolphins missed a Field Goal that bounced off the crossbar bouncing short for a miss.
It was that kind of game for the Dolphins.
Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdowns against the team that drafted and traded him as the Tennessee Titans clinched their second straight division title Sunday, snapping the Dolphins’ seven-game winning streak with a 34-3 win.
The Titans’ problems are not the Dolphins’ problems.
The Titans (11-5) won their second straight overall and third in four games to clinch their first back-to-back division titles since the start of the AFL when this franchise was the Houston Oilers and won three straight Eastern Division championships. They also won 11 games for a second consecutive season for the first time since 2002-03 — and currently are the AFC’s top seed after Kansas City lost at Cincinnati.
Tannehill was 13 of 18 for 120 yards and a 127.1 passer rating. Tannehill is 31-15 as the Titans’ starter with his third straight playoff berth clinched. The ground attack of the Titans is what cooled down the Dolphins’ defense.
D’Onta Foreman ran for 132 yards and a TD. Dontrell Hilliard ran for a 39-yard TD as the Titans scored 10 points off a pair of turnovers by Tua Tagovailoa.
Historically, Dolphins (8-8) came in as the first team in NFL history to win seven straight after a seven-game losing streak. The Dolphins were in the third and final wild-card spot in the AFC entering the game, but the loss and the Los Angeles Chargers 34-13 win over the Denver Broncos ended their playoff dreams.
Miami wide receiver Jaylen Waddle entered the game needing six catches for the rookie receptions mark of 101 set by Anquan Boldin in 2003. Waddle caught a short pass for no gain in the first quarter, then didn’t catch another pass until early in the fourth quarter when Tagovailoa found him for a 45-yard gain. Waddle finished with three catches for 47 yards, giving him 99 receptions for the season.
Tagovailoa was sacked four times — a season-high for the Dolphins quarterback. Tagovailoa was 18 of 38 for 205 yards, the kind of performance that won’t help doubts about whether he’s the quarterback to lead Miami in the future.
Dolphins’ defense was unable to stop the run, with the Dolphins’ offense unable to score and keep the Titans offense on the field, wearing down the Dolphins’ defense.
Titans’ offense ran the ball north and south, and they were able to get the Dolphin defense out of their game plan, which is to pressure the pocket and crowd the line of scrimmage. That is how the Dolphins were successful on this win streak by getting turnovers and sacking the quarterback.
Dolphins fans will be frustrated after this game. This team won seven in a row; they expected to win this game and compete next week at home versus the New England patriots for the playoffs. Now they are officially out, and there is time to play spoiler beating the Patriots and finish the season 9-8 instead of 8-9. It is still a meaningful game for this team despite elimination from the post-season.
Tagovailoa’s worst game of the season arrived at the worst possible time. The Dolphins quarterback was part of a trade rumor leading up to the trade deadline; he had been good but not all-pro great. The Dolphins need to ask themselves are they content with a promising quarterback or want an All-Pro. Will they trade for Deshaun Watson or acquire an All-Pro quarterback elsewhere. It is a legitimate question the Dolphins have to consider, and they need to take a step back and get the proper people, including women, involved to see if this is the player you want around your franchise and front office staff if Watson is acquired.
Brian Flores and Chris Grier will be together next season for the fourth time. The defense is fantastic, making the steps to make the Dolphins a contender in the AFC. Jaelan Phillips, Jevon Holland are young and upcoming, to say the least, on defense. The offense is the area that needs to improve the most on all levels, with the bright side being Waddle. Dolphins need to develop on offense with the foundation of their defense to make the playoffs next season.