Sloppy and ill-disciplined, the Miami Dolphins got exactly what they deserved against the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium. Playing against a team with little to offer offensively, the Saints handed the Dolphins a 20-0 shutout loss.
New Orleans Saints Dominate Miami Dolphins in London
It was notable in the pre-game warm-up. Drew Brees on the one hand – all fist-bumps and snappy passes and meaning business. Cutler on the other hand – helmet off, lackadaisical. What was Jay Cutler doing while Brees gave this speech to his team during the warm-ups? Who knows, but he certainly wasn’t practicing fade passes.
The first Dolphins drive actually started well. Short passes and a fired up Jay Ajayi – running hard in front of his ‘home’ crowd – got them down into the red zone. Unfortunately, that was when Cutler threw an ugly fade pass towards Julius Thomas. Ken Crawley made the adjustment in coverage for an easy pick.
That interception was notable because – other than a turnover on downs right at the end of the game – it was the only Dolphins drive that didn’t end in a punt.
It Starts With The Quarterback
It starts with Cutler, who looked like he wasn’t really bothered if he was there or not. And he was certainly not bothered about being there when they were running the wildcat.
But Cutler didn’t lose this on his own. There were seven penalties on the Dolphins in the first half alone. They were beset by holding calls, false starts – any way their offense could manufacture a way of stalling drives, they found it. As Cutler said after the game, “third and long is hard enough. Third and 15 is just about impossible in this league.”
Penalties. Third Down Failures. Problems All Over The Field
Penalties meant they were often in third and long. But whether short or long, they just couldn’t convert. They were one of eight on third downs. They made an average of just four yards per passing play. They simply weren’t very good. Adam Gase acknowledged as much when he said, “every time we get something fixed, something else goes wrong.”
In the press room after the game, Gase looked lost, freely admitting he had no idea what was wrong with his offense. He offered that there were simply “too many good players there for us to put out performances like that every week.” Dolphins fans should be worried. The coach seemingly has no idea where even to look for answers, let alone what those answers might be.
A Strange Start To The Game
The game actually started strangely. Both teams were playing a quick pass game, seemingly trying to keep the other side off the field. For the Dolphins, what better way to combat Brees than not have him on the field at all? For the Saints, what better way to protect their defense than making sure they didn’t need to be on the field. The end result of this was a first quarter with just two drives, and a first half where the ball never travelled more than ten yards in the air.
The ending of that first Dolphins drive took the wind out of the sails. Cutler admitted after the game that the pressure caused him to misplace the throw. “Got a little pressure and put it on the inside for Julius. I got to put that more on the outside.” That was enough to allow the Saints to get the interception and end the drive.
No Clear Role for Peterson
But in the first half the Saints weren’t much better, their offensive line perhaps creating a bit more space for their runners. What is clear is that there isn’t a natural role for Adrian Peterson on that team. Alvin Kamara looked fast out of the backfield and had good hands catching. Mark Ingram ran with power when brought in on relief. It’s simply not clear what role Peterson has.
The Saints were better in the second half, at least enough to score some points. On the first drive of the third quarter, aided by defensive penalties, the Saints moved the ball into Miami’s half. They went for it on fourth and one on the 17-yard line. The spot seemed to be short by millimeters. But the refs called it the other way. By the slightest of margins it was first down. The Saints ran a draw on the next play, a smart call with angry Miami defenders over-pursuing. Kamara ran it inside the five, and the next play Brees rolled out and passed to Michael Thomas for the touchdown.
Down By Ten, The Dolphins Still Had No Answers
10-0 down, the Dolphins just had no answers, or even any idea where to look for them. Hamstrung by penalties and poor blocking, they gave up several sacks. The play calling too was predictable, slants and other short routes leaving the receivers with too much work to do after the catch.
On the other side, Brees was just about varied enough. He mixed in a few longer passes, one in particular to Ted Ginn Jr that had the crowd on its feet. Kamara ran well, with power and speed, and it was his run after a shovel pass from the 12-yard line that ended the game as a contest. Powering his way through half-made tackles, Kamara found the end zone and the extra point made it 20-0.
The Saints On The Ascendence. The Dolphins In A Downward Spiral
The Saints will be happy with this result and what it means for their season. After another 0-2 start, New Orleans is now 2-2 and looking competitive.
The Dolphins have bigger problems. They’re 1-2 after two terrible performances and a less-than-convincing win against the Chargers. The problem is they don’t know why they’re not performing up to scratch. Cutler said after the game, “we’re a little humbled and a little embarrassed … we feel like we’re better than that.”
The problem is, in the NFL you’re only as good as your record. And the Dolphins are losing, with no idea why. Ajayi, playing in front of his family, was the most visibly frustrated after the game. He summed up the feeling well, “it doesn’t make sense because we have the talent … it’s very frustrating because we have the skills but we’re not putting it out there.”
With a tough game at home coming up next week, the Dolphins have got plenty to ponder on the flight home.