A Moral Victory is Still a Loss

By Greg Fuchs

I have to admit that prior to the start of the Dolphins/Bills playoff game on Sunday I felt that in light of all of Miami’s injuries they likely would lose by at least 20 points. With the Bills up 17-0 in the 1 st quarter I felt a 30+ point loss would be more likely.
But there is a reason games are played on the field and not on paper. Miami’s defense turned up the pressure on Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen forcing him into 3 turnovers in addition to sacking him 7 times. Zach Sieler’s return of Allen’s 3rd quarter fumble for a touchdown actually gave Miami a 24-20 lead.
But the Dolphins’ resilient and valiant effort went for naught as the Bills eked out a 34-31 win. It may have been a moral victory due to all of the injuries Miami had to overcome, but it is a loss nonetheless.
And a playoff loss to boot. The Dolphins have lost their last 5 playoff games with their last win coming in 2000. Yikes! Tom Brady has won 7 Super Bowls during that time.
The deck was stacked against the Fins from the get-go in this game due to the bevy of injuries they had. First and foremost they were starting rookie and 3 rd stringer Skyler Thompson at quarterback. And he was playing behind a patchwork offensive line.
Left tackle Terron Armstead did suit up despite dealing with 4 separate injuries. If this had been a regular season game he likely wouldn’t have played. Left guard Liam Eichenberg was out with a hand injury. He was replaced by a guy just called up from the practice squad.

Reserve lineman Robert Jones started at right guard as the Dolphins had to move the normal starter, Robert Hunt, to right tackle where Miami’s first 2 options were both out with injuries.
A 3rd string QB playing behind an injury depleted O-line is not the recipe for playoff success and it showed on the field. Miami only rushed for 42 yards with a paltry 2.1 yards per carry. Thompson, who often looked confused, was under constant pressure and was sacked 4 times while also throwing 2 interceptions. The offensive line also had 4 illegal procedure penalties.
Miami’s defense kept them in the game, but in the end Bills QB Josh Allen was just too much. Despite the 3 turnovers, he still threw for 352 yards with 3 touchdown passes. He also ran for 20 yards.
If quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, out with a concussion, had played in this game Miami may have won the game. But you can woulda, coulda, shoulda all day long. Injuries are a part of the game, Tua didn’t play,
and Miami lost.

With the season now over for Miami, thoughts quickly turn to next season. Tua should be even better in his 2nd season in Mike McDaniel’s offense and McDaniel should also be better in his second season as a
head coach. He needs to make a bigger commitment to the run game and get receivers besides Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle involved in the passing attack to make the Fins offense less predictable.
And somehow they need to get healthier. In addition to the injuries to Tua and the O-line, Miami’s secondary was riddled with injuries all season and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah missed most of the season. There’s not much you can do to avoid injuries, but since Tua and Armstead have a long history of injuries, Miami needs to have a Plan B for both positions as it is highly likely both will miss multiple games in 2023.
“There’s always next year” has been a popular refrain over the past 2 decades for the Dolphins and it applies again after the conclusion of the 2022/2023 season. Be strong Dolfans, as next year will be here before you know it.