Dolphins humbled by 49ers defense, win streak ends at five games

Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins suffered their fourth loss of the season, 33-17, at the hands of Christian McCaffrey and the San Francisco 49ers.

Miami’s recent dominance subsided in a disappointing outing against one of the league’s top teams. After an exciting start to the game with a 75-yard touchdown to Trent Sherfield, Tua Tagovailoa and the offense could not find a rhythm for the remainder of the contest.

While Tagovailoa threw for nearly 300 yards with two touchdowns, Sunday’s performance was arguably his worst of the entire season. The third-year man had uncharacteristic problems with his accuracy, which ultimately led to the offense’s demise. From both over, and under-throwing his receivers on several occasions, to throwing his first two interceptions since Week 4, this was by no means a game he will look back and be proud of.

The loss, unfortunately, knocks Miami of the number-one spot in the AFC East after a Buffalo Bills victory on Thursday Night Football. Instead, McDaniel’s squad now holds sole possession of the second seed with an 8-4 record after a New York Jets loss over the weekend.

Despite the disappointing defeat, Miami is further along than many could have imagined at this point of the season. The Fins must regroup during the week and prepare to travel to Los Angeles for a prime-time matchup with Justin Herbert and the Chargers.

However, before that, here are a few things we learned from watching Miami’s loss over the weekend:

The Dolphins are by no means unstoppable

After a relatively dominant season thus far, Miami fans were reminded of how heroic comebacks aren’t always possible when playing elite competition. 

Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense dug themselves into a hole that was just too deep to crawl out of this time. This can be true, while also acknowledging that the opponent was no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. The 49ers rank at the very top of the league for almost all statistical categories on the defensive side, and they showed why against Miami on Sunday.

After allowing a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage, San Francisco hunkered down and allowed just three points until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Additionally, apart from Tagovailoa’s two interceptions, defensive end Nick Bosa forced a fumble on the Dolphin quarterback that was returned for a touchdown. 

To add insult to injury, McDaniel threw backup quarterback Skylar Thomspon into the game once it appeared out of reach, just for the rookie to throw yet another interception on his only pass attempt.

Miami would lose the turnover battle 4-1, and that was with San Francisco’s third-string quarterback, Brock Purdy, playing the majority of the game.

The Dolphins’ offense was far too sloppy, but also allowed a string of bad plays from early on in the game prevent them from regrouping and putting together any competent drives. On top of that, Miami got away from the run game quickly in this game, finishing with only eight rushes as a team. The rejuvinated run game, specifically after acquiring Jeff Wilson Jr., had been very beneficial for the Dolphins in recent wins

Tyreek Hill was the only bright spot on the offensive side with yet another dominant performance. The “cheetah” finished with nine receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown. Hill leads the league in both receptions and yards this season with 96 receptions for 1,379 yards in the first 13 weeks.

Miami’s defense did enough to win this game

The 16-point margin that separated the teams was slightly misleading when you delve deeper into the game.

Miami’s pass rush was a bright spot for the second straight week, this time recording four sacks with the first knocking Jimmy Garoppolo out for the season with a broken foot.

Despite having to insert Purdy unexpectedly, head coach Kyle Shanahan did not shy away from letting the 22-year-old sling the ball. The final pick of the 2022 draft, dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant”, was impressive, but largely carried by the many skill players in the 49ers office. He finished 25 of 37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Xavien Howard managed to secure the lone interception – his first of the season – against the rookie and played one of his better games of the year with three tackles and two passes defended, one coming in the end zone.

Miami’s defense, unfortunately, did not get much support from the offense in the scoring column, but nearly every turnover proved costly for the Dolphins. 

The 49ers cashed in two field goals following Tagovailoa’s interceptions as well as another following a turnover on downs by the offense. Add these nine points to the fumble returned for a touchdown and the offense essentially spotted San Francisco 16 points, the deficit Miami would ultimately lose by.

Had the defense received slightly more support from its counterparts, the Dolphins could have certainly looked more competitive in this game.

Looking ahead

Miami will take the week to prepare for Sunday Night Football’s matchup against the Chargers. Los Angeles’ quarterback, Herbert, is one of the most used comps for Tagovailoa seeing as he was drafted just one pick after the Hawaiin native.

The battle of the young, dynamic quarterbacks will be fun to watch despite the Charger’s 6-6 record on the year. Los Angeles will be hosting Miami after a 27-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders over the weekend.

The game will take place Sunday, Dec. 11 at 8:20 p.m. at SoFi Stadium. The game will be broadcast on NBC6 in South Florida.

Anthony Blanco is a senior majoring in Digital Journalism with hopes of pursuing a career in sports journalism. Anthony is passionate about covering sports and hopes to one day make his passion his profession.