ARLINGTON, Texas — Quarterback Josh Rosen had promised aggression and hoped to provide a spark in his first start for the Miami Dolphins. He did some of that on Sunday, but a quick look at the scoreboard (a 31-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys) and evaluation of the team’s second-half struggles (67 total yards, no points) show how far away the Dolphins (0-3) are from their first win.
Miami has scored only one offensive touchdown this season, and it came in the second quarter of Week 1. The Dolphins have been outscored 133 to 16 in their first three games and certainly look every bit like the NFL’s worst team.
Pivotal play: With less than a minute left in the first half, the Dolphins were down 10-6 with first-and-10 from Dallas’ 12-yard line driving toward their first lead of the season when Rosen hit an open DeVante Parker on a slant pass that should have resulted in a touchdown. Instead, Parker dropped the pass. Two plays later, Kenyan Drake fumbled the ball from the Dallas 6-yard line, and the Cowboys recovered. Miami went from a potential 13-10 halftime lead and a huge momentum advantage to a 10-6 deficit. The Dolphins’ offense never got back on track.
QB breakdown: Rosen provided a strong initial spark, throwing for 156 yards in the first half, including what should have been two touchdown drives spoiled by receivers’ drops and other mistakes. He led four drives deep into Dallas territory, but the offense came out with just six points. In the second half, Rosen went 7-of-17 for 44 yards leading a completely stagnant offense that looked nothing like that bunch that showed progress in the first half. The final result ultimately wasn’t much different than when Ryan Fitzpatrick led the offense.
Buy/sell on a breakout performance: I’m buying Preston Williams‘ performance as the Dolphins’ leading receiver with a team-high 68 receiving yards on four catches. In fact, I’m buying Williams as the Dolphins’ No. 1 receiver going forward. Rosen and Williams have a great rapport, and the Dolphins’ offense will continue to take deep shots to Williams going forward. The undrafted rookie could have turned a solid day into a great day by holding on to a potential touchdown late in the second quarter (a play that looked like it could have been challenged by coach Brian Flores). Williams leads all Dolphins players in receiving yards this season with 155 yards.
Troubling play: Since they lack some talent, the Dolphins need their best players to play, well, their best. Cornerback Xavien Howard had his worst game of the season; he was victimized by Amari Cooper on several catches, including two touchdowns. To make matters worse, Howard was ejected late in the fourth quarter after a skirmish with Cowboys receiver Cedrick Wilson. Howard is the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback thanks to a new deal in May, and he had a strong first two games, but Sunday served as a setback.
Silver lining: The first-half Dolphins. Miami had 218 yards in the first half, eclipsing its season average of 192 yards. If not for numerous mistakes, it would have led at halftime. This is the second consecutive game in which Miami has gone blow-for-blow with a NFL contender before letting it fall apart in the second half. Now … about that second half.