The Miami Dolphins might have lost their season opener in devastating fashion on the road in Seattle but find a way to wipe away the emotion and look past the result — there are plenty of positives to take away from Game 1 of the Adam Gase Era.
First off, losing at home is something the Seattle Seahawks RARELY do. Over the last four seasons and one game — 33 games total — they’ve lost at CenturyLink Field just five times. In a game of inches, this is astounding.
And of course, in the epitome of a coulda-woulda-shoulda moment, had Kenny Stills not dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball in the first half (with no defender in sight) that would have been a 71-yard touchdown, Miami likely cruises to victory in the most hostile stadium in the NFL.
Kenny Stills, drop it like it's hot 🔥😳 https://t.co/LigUeLojTJ
— Fanly (@fanly) September 11, 2016
Let’s assume for a second the drop never occurs. Ryan Tannehill’s line would read 16 of 28 for 257 yards and a touchdown, which are respectable raw numbers against a defense that hasn’t ranked outside the Top 4 since the 2011 season, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Now obviously altering that one play would affect the rest of the game but it’s just to give you an idea of how much damage one drop can have on a quarterback not at fault.
Tannehill didn’t play excellent but quarterbacks rarely do against Seattle — in Seattle. He played well enough to get them a win.
Next, we have the blocked field goal, a 27-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter. The last time Seattle blocked a kick? 2012. It’s a highly unlikely occurrence, especially from that short of a distance.
Even with the drop from hell and the blocked field goal, Miami was in excellent position after Tannehill scooted in for a two-yard score, granting the Dolphins a 12-10 lead in the final four minutes. Miami’s win probability when Russell Wilson took over at his own 25 with 4:08 remaining was 60 percent, per Football Reference. Though every Dolfan in the universe surely felt impending doom in the pits of their stomachs, I’ll take those odds.
There were two fourth-down situations on that same drive, where Miami wins if they get a stop. With Seattle at 4th and inches from their own 34, Miami’s win probability was 65 percent, and when they were 4th and 4 on their own 47 with 2:08 left, the Dolphins were expected to win 74 percent of the time.
These are excellent odds, odds you’ll absolutely roll with in a sport flooded with arbitrary sequences. Sometimes the football gods just decide to unzip their pants and relieve themselves on your team, though it sure feels like it occurs more frequently on the Dolphins than any team outside of the Browns.
Miami’s defense, which was dominant until this point despite so many questions entering the season, of course ended up breaking as Wilson led the Hawks on a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to put them up for good but the point is the Dolphins had so many opportunities to take this game, a game they not only were never expected to win but one they weren’t expected to compete in. The Seahawks were favored by 10.5 points, the biggest spread of any NFL game this weekend. The Dolphins lost by two.
If that defense is able to sustain its stellar play, it completely transforms the outlook of this team. It’s tough to consistently win in this league without two staples: an elite defense and a special quarterback. While Tannehill likely isn’t in the latter category he is serviceable — at least average — and can lead a winning team with strong support from the opposite side of the ball.
While there’s no such thing as a “good loss” and fans have every right to be disappointed with the result, Miami’s process was good enough to put them in a position to beat a high-quality team in an incredibly futile environment.
Considering where this franchise has been in recent years, that’s all we could’ve asked for. Several pivotal moments — the drop, blocked field goal, and the final drive — went uncharacteristically south. Not all losses are equal and this one, while painful, feels like evidence of a team clawing itself towards respectability.