72 hours after a rare off day for the Dolphins’ offense against the San Francisco 49ers marked by miscues and turnovers, head coach Mike McDaniel and players expressed confidence they could move past their struggles.
Miami’s 33-17 loss to San Francisco was a frustrating afternoon for an offense that has been of the NFL’s most explosive units but was often stonewalled by the 49ers’ top-ranked defense.
But in watching film from the 49ers game, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense found clear areas for improvement as they prepare for Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“It was good for us all of offensively to see the mistakes, to talk about the mistakes,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday after practice, “and we’re just looking to learn from that and hopefully transition into a really good week of practice this week and prepare for a good Chargers team.”
In the defeat, the Dolphins were held to 308 yards — their lowest total since Week 1 — and failed to convert on any of their seven third-down opportunities. It was particularly a struggle for Tagovailoa, who has been playing the best stretch of football in his young career but turned the ball over three times, including on a pair of interceptions. The normally accurate passer also missed pass-catchers on several attempts, even when provided a clean pocket.
“That is part of the NFL experience,” McDaniel said. “You can have some hot streaks where you’re doing well more often than not and then you can have a game where there are a lot more plays that you would like to have back.
“Everything that went wrong wasn’t a direct result of the quarterback,” he added. “It never is exactly like that. However, we all know that he wants to play as well as he can and he thinks he could have done better in that game.”
With right tackle Austin Jackson placed on injured reserve Monday and left tackle Terron Armstead’s status still in question because of his pectoral injury, Tagovailoa could once again be dropping back to pass behind a pair of backup tackles. He was sacked three times against the 49ers, including on a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown as he tried to mount a late comeback.
Though Tagovailoa was pressured at the third-highest rate this season, according to TruMedia, he said the protection issues weren’t all on the offensive line.
“My spot in the pocket, there were many points in the game that I wasn’t in the spot that I told the guys up front I would be in,” Tagovailoa said. “Therefore, it kind of put me in bad situations. And there are also some plays that were missed that I wish I could get back. Can’t be playing wishful football. “This game, we’ll hopefully take everything that the Chargers give us and take advantage of our opportunities.”
A lack of balance also doomed the Dolphins against the 49ers. Miami rushed eight times for just 33 yards, both season-low marks.
McDaniel said the low attempts were partly due to the game flow but improvements need to be made.
“You have to get into a rhythm in the run game,” he said. “Whether that’s the amount of play calls or — every play is tied to another. So, you convert on some of those third downs and we’re probably not talking about as drastic of a ratio as well.”
The prime-time game against the Chargers’ defense presents the type of matchup that could get the Dolphins’ offense back on track, even if Armstead is unable to play. Los Angeles is allowing a league-worst 5.43 rushing yards per attempt, which is currently the worst single-season mark for any team in the Super Bowl era. The Chargers are also allowing 6.1 yards per play; only the Detroit Lions have allowed more yards per play this season.
“We all have bad games. We’re all human, and we all go through certain stuff,” wide receiver Tyreek Hill said. “My message to [Tagovailoa] is just come out refocused and allow people to forget about what you did, and you go out here and throw for six touchdowns or something crazy. It’ll all be forgotten.”