MIAMI GARDENS — Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel had a tough day after arriving back in Miami early Monday morning from the West Coast.
“You talk about a frustrating film to watch,” McDaniel said. “It was just taking that to the face.”
That frustration came in the form of revisiting Miami’s 23-17 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday night, a game that was not as close as the score indicates.
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The Dolphins were dominated offensively with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa having the worst game of his career (and second consecutive underwhelming performance) and Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert picking apart Miami’s defense. While Herbert passed for 367 yards, Tagovailoa was 10 of 28 for 145 yards.
In their second meeting, Herbert slammed the door on any comparisons between him and Tagovailoa, the player the Dolphins selected one spot ahead of him in 2020.
McDaniel was philosophical Monday when talking about the psychological and emotional fallout for the Dolphins after losing both games of their West Coast trip – and going from leading the AFC East to being one loss Saturday night at Buffalo from fighting for their playoff lives. Miami is 8-5, two games behind the Bills.
McDaniel used the day to identify reasons for the recent poor play and learned the Dolphins are not unlike any other young team playing pressure games in December.
“Part of where we’re at has to do with certain guys possibly pressing, playing outside of the scheme to try to make plays,” he said.
“I think it’s been a very, very valuable experience going against, specifically the last last two weeks, some playoff caliber teams. Whether or not that benefits us moving forward is for the team to determine.”
McDaniel identified issues on both sides of the ball, finding players going away from what they were taught trying to be a hero.
“You don’t do that in 11-on-11 football with any sort of consistency or success,” he said.
McDaniel said he saw players adjusting a route, attacking a read that wasn’t primary in the progression, guys trying to “engulf” a defender at the expense of blocking techniques and jumping the gaps.
“It wasn’t one player,” he said. “It wasn’t one position. It wasn’t one side of the ball. So to me that’s very telling of there’s a lot of guys pressing.
“To me that’s where people are made or broken this league. It’s how you respond to stuff.”
McDaniel is not panicking, that’s not in his nature. Not even when you face a third straight daunting road game and this one at your rival and AFC leading Bills, who will be looking to made a statement after losing a bizarre September game in Miami, 21-19.
The Bills are on the upswing and Las Vegas has noticed, making the home team more than a touchdown favorite.
Though a first-year head coach, this is McDaniel’s 16th season in the NFL and he’s seen teams face adversity and come out better on the other side.
That’s not guaranteed. But he believes it’s a right of passage for a young team.
“I’ve never witnessed firsthand any sort of team that hasn’t gone through some sort of turmoil, adversity or losing games that they feel they’re very capable of winning that’s not gone through that and then had success,” he said.
“You got to pay the piper at some point. This is what the National Football League is about. It’s about giving your all and when it doesn’t work out, getting better from it, not worse. So we have to find a way to do that. see it as an opportunity.”
Even if the next assignment will come in near freezing temperatures with the possibility of snow.
“It’s kind of like playing in Miami,” he said. “It’s hot. We’re used to it being hot. Does that mean we win every game?
“Of course, the game can be influenced but you still have to play in the same temperature and climate are the opposing team. Just one’s more used to it than the other. I think that’s something that you have to be upfront that, ‘hey, it’s going to be cold,’ but it’s also something that no one cares. The box score doesn’t read, ‘asterisk, it was cold.’ “
Hill, Wilson injuries not as bad as first feared
There was some good news Monday for Miami. McDaniel’s injury updates were mostly positive.
Receiver Tyreek Hill played the second half on an injured ankle, but McDaniel said “I think it’s bumps and bruises that he’s going to be able to work through.”
Running back Jeff Wilson was carted to the locker room in the second period with a hip injury. McDaniel said “it looks like we’ve avoided the worst-case scenarios for sure and we’ll be day-to-day.”
Safety Eric Rowe suffered a hamstring injury early in the second half.
“That seems more up in the air, day-to-day type stuff that will take a couple more days to figure out,” McDaniel said.