By Greg Fuchs
The South Florida sports world experienced a range of emotions over the weekend. Let’s start with …
The Ugly – If you are a Miami Hurricanes fan and you didn’t get to watch the Canes game on Saturday, be thankful. Their performance was ugly, pathetic and embarrassing. Favored by 26 points over Middle Tennessee State, they lost 45-31 and the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates. Halfway through the 3rd quarter Miami was down 31-10.
Miami’s offense turned the ball over on its first 3 possessions and was outgained by the Blue Raiders 507 yards to 367. While every part of the Hurricanes team and coaching staff should share the blame in this lackluster effort, the biggest finger of blame must be pointed at the secondary. They gave up touchdown passes of 98, 71 and 69 yards while also allowing another reception of 89 yards.
Blue Raiders QB Chase Cunningham was 16-25 for 408 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Canes QB Tyler Van Dyke was removed in the 3rd quarter after going 16-32 for 138 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. This was Van Dyke’s 3rd straight subpar game. Backup QB Jake Garcia energized the team a bit going 10-19 for 161.
The Canes have a week off before hosting North Carolina. That gives them 2 weeks to fix a host of problems. First & foremost may be coming out with the proper energy. They came out very flat versus Middle Tennessee State, which has been a common theme for this year’s team.
The Bad – The Miami Marlins announced on Sunday that Manager Don Mattingly won’t return next season to lead the Fish. They claim it was by mutual agreement, so we’ll have to take them at their word.
Mattingly has managed the Marlins since 2016. He has managed and won the most games by any manager in the team’s history, but his overall record was only 437-583. That is a lowly winning percentage of .428. This season the Marlins are 63-90, which is the 4th worst record in the National League.
Mattingly was named the NL’s Manager of the Year in 2020 after leading the Marlins to the playoffs during the Covid shortened season when Miami went 31-29.
Most managers lose their job because they don’t win enough games, which Miami certainly didn’t under Mattingly’s direction. But I still adhere to the belief that 90% of the time when teams lose a lot of games it’s because of a lack of talent provided by the team’s General Manager and/or owner. That definitely applies to the situation with Marlins. Mattingly wasn’t the problem.
The Good – Ah, the good. Or should I say great as the Miami Dolphins defeated the Buffalo Bills, the supposed best team in the NFL, 21-19. Miami had lost 7 straight games to Buffalo with most of them being blowouts, so this was a huge win for the Fins.
The Bills were favored to win the game at Hard Rock Stadium after blowing out their first 2 opponents, the LA Rams and Tennessee Titans, this season. But Miami is now the only unbeaten team left in the AFC after 3 weeks
While you should never apologize for a win, this game came close to requiring an apology as Buffalo dominated the game. They had 497 total yards vs. 212 for Miami and had 31 first downs while the Fins only had 15.
Buffalo also dominated the time of possession 40:40 vs. 19:20 for Miami. They had 4 drives of at least 10 plays during the game with their longest drive lasting 20 plays and 9:22 for 87 yards.
But Buffalo made several mistakes that cost them the game. Allen committed the only turnover of the game when he fumbled in the 1st quarter while being sacked by Jevon Holland. Melvin Ingram recovered the ball on the Bills 6-yard line with Chase Edmonds scoring on a 1-yard TD run a few plays later.
Bills kicker Tyler Bass missed a 38-yard field goal in the 2nd half. Buffalo also mismanaged the clock to close out both halves costing them the opportunity to kick a field goal.
Lastly, and most importantly, Buffalo came up empty in the 4th quarter after a 73-yard drive that lasted 8:19 when Miami stopped them on downs on the 2-yard line with 1:48 to go in the game. Allen’s 4th down pass was short to WR Isaiah McKenzie who was open in the endzone.
While the Dolphins defense had far from a great game, you have to give them credit for frequently bending but not breaking. Holding Josh Allen and the Bills offense to 17 points is something to be proud of. They harassed Allen most of the game and sacked him 4 times.
Buffalo took a 7-0 lead on their 1st drive of the game on a 2-yard touchdown pass to RB Devin Singletary. Miami tied the game at 7-7 on Edmonds’ run after Allen’s fumble. But the tie was short lived as Buffalo scored on their next drive capped off by an 8-yard TD pass to McKenzie.
Miami tied the game at 14-14 on a 10-yard touchdown pass from QB Tua Tagovailoa to River Cracraft that finished off a 9 play 83-yard drive.
Buffalo went ahead 17-14 on a 30-yard Bass field goal towards the end of the 3rd quarter.
After Bass missed a field goal, Miami got possession on their own 25-yard line with 14:09 to go in the game. Up to this point, Miami had been fairly conservative with the offensive play calling, especially when you consider Buffalo was missing their entire starting secondary. But on this drive Tua hit WR Jaylen Waddle on passes for 32 and 45 yards with the 45-yarder coming on a 3rd and 22 play. Edmonds finished off the drive with his 2nd touchdown run from 3 yards out to put Miami up 21-17.
After Miami stopped the Bills on downs on the Dolphins 2-yard line late in the 4th quarter, Buffalo scored its final 2 points on a safety when Thomas Morstead’s punt out of the endzone hit the butt of up-man Trent Sherfield and it bounced out of the back of the end-zone.
But the game wasn’t over yet. After Morstead boomed the ensuing free kick to Buffalo’s 8-yard line, the Bills returned it to their own 23-yard line with 1:33 to go in the game. Buffalo then marched 46 yards down field but couldn’t kill the clock to attempt a field goal after a 12-yard pass to McKenzie to Miami’s 41-yard line. Only then could Miami breathe a sigh of relief.
- Injuries were a big part of the game with the Bills missing 6 starters on defense plus their starting center. During the game they also lost their replacement center plus their right guard and right tackle to injuries.
- Miami was missing defensive tackle Raekwon Davis to injury plus corner back Bryon Jones and offensive tackle Austin Jackson, both of whom are on IR. In addition, right guard Robert Hunt missed a few plays while right tackle Greg Little left the game twice with injuries. Tua also missed the final few plays of the 1st half after a roughing the passer call on the Bills. What looked at first to be a concussion with the back of Tua’s head hitting the ground turned out to be a back issue and Tua started the 2nd half.
- Another major storyline was the heat and humidity, as several players for both teams cramped up. Bills WR Stefon Diggs particularly struggled with cramps.
- Speaking of Diggs, Fins cornerback Xavien Howard shadowed him for most of the game and did a decent job. While he did have 7 receptions, he only had 74 yards with no touchdowns.
- Allen completed 42 passes on 63 attempts for 400 yards and 2 TDs. He also rushed for 47 yards. RB Devin Singletary caught 9 of the passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
- Tua finished 13-18 for 186 yards and 1 touchdown. Waddle caught 4 balls for 102 yards while Tyreek Hill was held to 2 receptions for 33 yards.
Miami returns to action on Thursday night in Cincinnati vs. the Bengals. That will be a short turnaround for a defense that was on the field all day in the oppressive heat, so picking up their 4th straight win to start the season will be a challenge.