Given how jittery young quarterback Mason Rudolph looked to that point, one might have expected a short quick pass to try to pick up a few yards and attempt a long field goal and avoid a big mistake.
In those situations many defenses play a zone, keep defenders in front, make the tackle and get to halftime with at worst an eight-point lead. Given that Miami had just thrown an interception near midfield, this would be an OK result for the defense.
The Dolphins instead Engaged Eight like a “Madden” player hopped up on too many Mountain Dews.
Coach Brian Flores’ team sent everyone but three defensive backs who were man-to-man against three Steelers receivers. Diontae Johnson took Rudolph’s easy hot read to the house 45 yards scampering through wide-open grass like a thoroughbred on a late-night jaunt in a pasture. Pittsburgh closed a woeful half down just 14-10 portending the onslaught that was to come in the final two quarters of the 27-14 tilt Monday night.
Flores doesn’t second guess the decision to blitz the kitchen sink.
“You know, I think the guys did a good job defensively getting pressure on him,” the coach said, via the Miami Herald. “We wanted to stay with it. I don’t have any regrets on the call. They made a play just like we had made a play prior to that defensively and we just move on.
“We wanted to be aggressive. You can sit and second guess a lot of calls. I’m not going to second guess that one. We had success with the call. They made a play. But at the same time, it’s 14-10 at halftime. We got opportunities in the second half, we didn’t take advantage of them. I’m not going to sit here and say that was the play that [determined] the game. I mean, we turned the ball over four times. As a total team we didn’t enough to win the game. It’s easy to look at one play and say that’s the one, but there’s 150 other plays in the game.”
Tis true. The butt-whipping the Dolphins took in the second half eased the sting of giving up the big play to close the second quarter. It doesn’t mean it should be totally ignored.
Just as all his players are being evaluated, so too is the first-year coach. While he’ll likely get another year or more to guide the tanking Dolphins regardless of this year’s record, continually getting mauled while making few second-half adjustments isn’t a good look for Flores. The call to end the first half highlighted the coach’s own questionable decisions through an 0-7 start.
If the Steelers were already in field-goal range, the decision to bring the house would have made sense to try to get a sack that pushes them back. But at the 45, Pittsburgh was well behind Chris Boswell‘s range. The Steelers would have needed 13 yards to match Boswell’s season-long 49 yards at Heinz Field. The kicker’s miss from 54 yards later in the tilt underscored Flores’ flub.
Sure, even blitzing there isn’t terrible, but why eight men? Why not seven, or even six? Give your defensive backfield a little help, eh?
“We felt like that was the right call in that situation,” Flores said. “We blitzed them a few times and had some success. They got us on that one. It’s one play in the game. We’re still up at halftime. We still had an opportunity to play well and win the game, so, look, there’s bad plays in the game, there’s good plays. You have to be able to overcome the bad ones. We just need to play better in the second half.”
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The final two minutes of the second quarter and the entire second half washed away all the positivity Flores’ team built early in the tilt, sprinting to a 14-0 lead. If the coach plans to get even one win in his first season, he’s going to have to show he can get his team to play better down the stretch of games, when they’ve been blown out of the water with regularity.
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