Here are some of the top takeaways from the Miami Dolphins’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Hard Rock Stadium:
It’s tough to keep Dolphins QBs healthy
When starting quarterback Skylar Thompson left the game in the second quarter with a right thumb injury it marked the fourth consecutive game the Dolphins’ starting quarterback was knocked out due to injury. Tua Tagovailoa missed time against Buffalo and Cincinnati (he didn’t return to the Cincinnati game), Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out of the New York Jets game last week, and Thompson, starting because Tagovailoa and Bridgewater were in concussion protocol during the past week, was knocked out of the Minnesota game. The Dolphins only opted for three quarterbacks on the active gameday roster once, and that was the Cincinnati game when Tagovailoa, Bridgewater and Thompson were active. — Chris Perkins
Penalties were plentiful again
The Dolphins had 10 penalties for 97 yards one week after having 11 penalties for 102 yards against the Jets. Against Minnesota, the Dolphins had a second-quarter drive that included five penalties for 36 yards. They had an ineligible man downfield, pass interference, two holding and a false start. The penalties took the Dolphins out of field goal range. Later in the second quarter a 24-yard gain was aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty that gave the Vikings half the distance to the goal. They scored one play later. In the fourth quarter guard Robert Hunt was called for holding to force at first-and-20 from their own 48. Although it wasn’t Hunt’s fault, the possession resulted in a lost fumble by Jaylen Waddle that Minnesota turned into a 24-10 lead. Keep an eye penalties going forward.
Goodbye misery, hello paradise
The Dolphins went 2-1, defeating New England and Buffalo and losing to Minnesota, with the NFL’s best homefield advantage. This was likely the final game with the infamous South Florida humidity. The next home game is next week’s Pittsburgh game, which is an 8:20 p.m. kickoff. After that, we’re into November and its likely great weather with the Browns game on Nov. 13. Sunday’s game didn’t provide much of an advantage because it was cloudy for much of the game. But at kickoff it was 85 degrees with 65% humidity and a feels like temperature of 91 degrees, which was good enough to make life a bit tougher on the Vikings. By the way, the humidity might have gotten the best of Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who had to go to the locker room in the third quarter because of cramps. He also had problems with cramps at Baltimore. But Hill ended the Vikings game with 177 yards on 12 receptions.
Run defense performs well
The Dolphins held Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who attended Miami Central High, under control. Cook finished with 77 yards on 13 carries, much of it after the game was decided in the fourth quarter, in his homecoming game. The Dolphins’ run defense, led by tackle Christian Wilkins, clamped down on anything the Vikings attempted whether it was up the middle or on the edge. The Dolphins entered the game 13th in run defense at 110.0 yards per game. Minnesota ended with 82 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Pass protection is leaky again
The Dolphins were without left tackle Terron Armstead, their best lineman, and it showed. Thompson was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a right thumb injury on a hit from linebacker Jordan Hicks as pass protection was shaky. Thompson absorbed two sacks and 16 hits last week at the Jets. Dolphins quarterbacks were under pressure all game Sunday by the Vikings, who sacked Bridgewater five times and had him constantly under pressure. The Dolphins put Brandon Shell at right tackle, his usual spot after having him make his NFL debut at left tackle last week. The Dolphins put Greg Little, who had been starting at right tackle in place of Austin Jackson, at left tackle. Still, pass protection, which also involves tight ends and running backs, didn’t improve much.
Punters were popular early
The Dolphins and Vikings traded punts on the game’s first seven possessions. The teams combined for eight punts in the first half, four in the first quarter. Dolphins punter Thomas Morstead was good, however. He nailed the Vikings at their own 6-yard line on a 26-yard punt, and at their own 16-yard line on a 54-yard punt. The Dolphins started at their own 11 late in the second quarter after a 41-yard punt. But Bridgewater threw an interception (on a nice pick by Vikings safety Harrison Smith) and the Vikings kicked a 34-yard field goal for a 10-3 halftime lead. Morstead ended with six punts for a 51.2-yard average. Vikings punter Ryan Wright ended with 10 punts for a 44.1-yard average.
Mike Gesicki maintains sense of humor
Credit Gesicki for his good attitude. Gesicki, who finished with a season-best (six receptions, 69 yards, two touchdowns) had a 4-yard touchdown reception with 10:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and revisited the Griddy, the social media dance that he attempted unsuccessfully but humorously after a touchdown at Baltimore. Gesicki, who had lots of fun with social media making fun of his Griddy attempt earlier in the season, did the dance all the way from the end zone to the sideline Sunday. It was enjoyed by all.
McDaniel has no fourth-down fear
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is a heckuva play-caller and a heckuva gambler. He called a comeback pass to Hill in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-5 from the Dolphins’ 48-yard line. The Dolphins trailed, 16-10, at the time and a touchdown would have provided the game-tying points with the extra point giving the go-ahead points. Hill made a nice grab on a 14-yard reception to the Vikings’ 48-yard line on a pass from Bridgewater, but Waddle’s lost fumble with 4:10 left ended the drive.
Injuries keep piling up
Cornerbacks Nik Needham (ankle) and Keion Crossen (knee), Thompson (right thumb), and linebacker Trey Flowers (foot) left the game and didn’t return. Defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah (back) left the game but returned. These injuries have been piling up at an alarming rate the past three weeks or so. It’s been most notably the quarterbacks but the Dolphins started the Vikings game without Armstead (toe), cornerback Kader Kohou (oblique) and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (previously in concussion protocol). Jackson (ankle) was eligible to come off the injured reserve last week but apparently wasn’t ready. Cornerback Byron Jones (leg) has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since the season started. He was eligible to be activated two weeks ago but isn’t ready.
Special teams problems surface again
Jason Sanders missed a 52-yard field goal attempt wide right late in the second quarter. That followed safety/punt returner Jevon Holland muffing a punt in the first quarter that linebacker Jaelan Phillips recovered. In the third quarter the Dolphins attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line but safety Clayton Fejedelem was tackled for no gain. You know the list by now: 103-yard kickoff return touchdown by Baltimore, the “butt punt” against Buffalo, the missed extra point and a blocked 52-yard field goal attempt against Cincinnati, and wide right on a 54-yard field goal attempt against the Jets. The Dolphins gave up a 25-yard punt return in the third quarter.
How was Connor Williams illegally downfield on a pass that was out in two seconds?
Of the disgraceful five penalties on the Dolphins’ second possession (you remember, the drive where twice it appeared Miami had first-and-goal situations), the flag against center Connor Williams was just inconceivable. Thompson dropped back and fired quickly down the left side to Chase Edmonds to the Vikings’ 7 for a seeming first down. Despite the rapidity of the throw and it not being a screen pass, Williams still meandered downfield and got the massive play negated. The import from the Dallas Cowboys was flagged 17 times last season. He has four penalties this season, so he is on pace for double-digits again. Can’t happen. Especially on inconceivable non-contact penalties. — Steve Svekis
Time to bring in a kicker for a tryout?
With Sanders’ 52-yard second-quarter shank, he plummeted to 2 for 9 on kicks from at least 50 yards, after having been 12 for 15 from such distance in the first three years of his career (2018-20). A team with a kicker whose reliability evaporates outside of 49 yards is a team with a hobbled offense.
Vikings’ skid in South Florida ended, leaving only one NFL team without a win in Miami Gardens
Minnesota hadn’t won a Dolphins home game since December of 1976 in the Orange Bowl and were one of two teams without a win at Hard Rock Stadium, which opened in 1987. That leaves the Los Angeles Rams as the only team to not have won a game in Miami Gardens, also last winning a Dolphins home game in 1976 in the Orange Bowl.
Dolphins’ interception drought is the longest since the Tony Sparano era
The amount of playing time since the Dolphins’ first interception of the season, 5:08 into the season opener against the New England Patriots has stretched to 354 minutes and 52 seconds. The previous long such drought in a single season is the 386:19 from 2011.
Dolphins falling to 3-3 after a 3-0 start isn’t unprecedented, but it has been rare
The Dolphins earned the franchise’s 15th 3-0 start on Oct. 25 against the Bills. The loss to the Vikings, though, marked only the second time Miami has falling to 3-3 after such a start, joining up with the 2013 team, which actually fell to 3-4 before registering another win. On five of the previous 14 occasions, Miami has missed the playoffs (1977, 1996, 2002, 2013, 2018).
The primary difference in the Dolphins’ schedule this year compared with 2021 is now underway
Both this year and last, the Dolphins played a powerhouse first five opponents (in 2021: 10-7, 11-6, 10-7, 13-4, 9-8 = 53-32, a .624 win percentage; in 2022, heading into Week 6: 2-3, 4-1, 3-2, 2-3, 3-2 = 14-11, a .560 win percentage). However, the next 10 opponents last year boasted one mediocre quarterback after another and had an almost inconceivably poor win percentage of .347 (59-111) to grease the way for a defense-driven 7-3 run that put Miami in position to make the playoffs as they went to play 12-5 Tennessee on Jan. 2, losing 34-3 and being eliminated from contention. This year? On top of facing the Pro Bowl passer Kirk Cousins and the Vikings in Game 6 on Sunday, the Dolphins will go up against five other passers with a career passer rating above 91, with four of those games on the road (the Bills’ Josh Allen, Chargers’ Justin Herbert, 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and Lions’ Jared Goff). The win percentage for the final 12 opponents headed into Week 6 was .492.
Tyreek Hill got back on pace to break the NFL single-season receiving yards record
Hill did his usual star turn against the Vikings, piling up 177 yards and ending Week 6 with 701 yards. That puts him on pace for 1,986 for the season. The record is the Lions’ Calvin Johnson’s 1,964 10 years ago, albeit in a 16-game season. Hill needs to average 115 yards a game in the final 11 to set that record.
On deck: Pittsburgh Steelers, Hard Rock Stadium, Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
More than one-third of the Dolphins’ 2021 schedule was pockmarked with teams who would go on to win five games or fewer (there were six such games). Especially with Jets’ vast improvement, the 2022 schedule has become much more rigorous. However, the Steelers, with superstar T.J. Watt sidelined by an injury, are a team bereft of talent to a degree where a six-win season would be a pleasant surprise. Entering their Week 6 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh’s offense was averaging 14.0 points a game and the Steelers have begun the starting career of rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett, known for having small hands for an NFL quarterback (measured at 8.5 inches at the 2022 NFL combine), had played a game and a half going into Week 6 and had generated 17 points while the offense spit up five turnovers, including four Pickett picks.