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Week 10 Game Recap: Miami Dolphins 21, Carolina Panthers 45

What you need to know

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins lost to the Carolina Panthers, 45-21 on Monday night, dropping their record to 4-5 on the season. After having his best game of the season in week nine, Jay Cutler took a step back, completing 22 of 37 passes for 213 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Running back Kenyon Drake continued to impress as a starter, rushing seven times for 82 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for 10 yards. Fellow running back Damien Williams had a harder time finding running room, totaling 19 yards on nine carries. He also chipped in with two receptions for 20 yards. DeVante Parker caught six passes for 66 yards, which trailed only Kenny Stills (five receptions for 67 yards) for the team lead. Jarvis Landry had five receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown, which was his fifth touchdown reception in his last six games. Julius Thomas had a disappointing night, catching only two passes for eight yards, although he did catch his second touchdown pass in as many games after not scoring in the Dolphins first seven games.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina offense presented Miami with problems it couldn't solve. Backfield action, play fakes, zone read and veer concepts doomed them to a night of missed assignments. The ground game's success was the key to unlocking that part of the offense, which suddenly resembles its 2015 form. Jonathan Stewart looked revived behind a solid effort from the offensive line. A two-touchdown performance from Devin Funchess, featuring some beautiful timing connections between he and Cam Newton, is very encouraging for the outlook of his QB-WR duo. Christian McCaffrey got into the end zone twice and continues to look quick, nifty and nigh on impossible to corral.

Miami Dolphins

QB Jay Cutler, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 37 - 213 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0
Jay Cutler completed 22 of 37 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. While his stats do not too bad, Cutler was far from sharp on the night and a majority of his passing yards came in the second half with Carolina holding a commanding lead. Cutlerís untimely interception late in the first half (deep in his own territory) allowed the Panthers to score a touchdown, which put them up 17-7. Carolina then received the second half kickoff, marched 78 yards in eight plays and scored another touchdown, stretching the lead to 24-7, which effectively put the game out of reach for Cutler and the Dolphins. The Miami offensive line did a good job of giving Cutler time to throw, as the Panthers did not sack him once throughout the game, but he still only completed 59% of his passes. This was not an instance of Cutler taking deep shots repeatedly either, he just flat out missed open receivers and at times looked rushed in the pocket despite having time to go through his progressions. Cutlerís inaccuracy nearly ended Jarvis Landryís season too. Landry ran a crossing pattern to the middle of the field and Cutler threw a soft ball out in front of his receiver only to have an oncoming Panthers defender crush him right as he attempted to make the catch. It is the type of throw that you cannot make in the middle of the field, especially to an undersized receiver who makes his living gaining yards after the catch. This was an important game for the Dolphins, as a win would have put them in second place in the AFC East and tied for a wild card spot. A week after playing his best game of the season, Cutler threw away a great chance to put the Dolphins in the playoff hunt, a fact that may not be lost on the Dolphins coaching staff moving forward.

RB Damien Williams, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 19 - 0, Rec: 2 - 20 - 0 (3 targets)
Damien Williams rushed nine times for 19 yards and caught two of three targets for 20 yards against the Panthers on Monday night. Although Kenyon Drake remains the starter, he and Williams split time evenly, and Williams actually had one more touch than Drake against Carolina. Williams runs with a natural toughness and absorbs hits without losing his balance, but he is also at the mercy of his offensive line as he is neither fast nor quick. His effectiveness comes on his ability to gain the tough yards that Drake cannot, and for this reason he is seeing time on all three downs and in the red zone. Williams is tough to bring down in space which is why he has been very good catching passes out of the backfield, especially when the Dolphins are able to spread out defenses and get him in one on one situations. The Panthers were able to dominate the Dolphins offensive line which is why Williams only averaged 2.1 yards per carry. Even on the plays where he was able to break off an arm-tackle in the backfield, there was always one or two more Carolina defenders waiting to take him down. He will continue to split carries with Drake, and will be an interesting fantasy asset as the season goes and more running backs miss time with injuries.

RB Kenyan Drake, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 82 - 1, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (2 targets)
Kenyon Drake played another fantastic game on Monday night, rushing seven times for 82 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for 10 yards on two targets. Drakeís biggest asset is his speed and he showed that off with a 66 yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter. Drake took the handoff on an off-tackle left and hit the hole decisively, cutting back once to the middle of the field and exploding through the line. He ran away from the linebackers and turned a Panther safety around with a quick juke where he barely slowed down. From there, he used his speed to outrun the rest of the Panthers secondary and was not touched the entire play. Drake is never going to be a bell-cow back, but in his first two games as the Dolphins starting running back, heís rushed 16 times for 151 yards (9.4 yards per carry) and played a big part in their ability to move the ball on offense. It is a shame that the Dolphins could not find a way to involve him when Jay Ajayi was still in town, as they would have made a potent combination. This is especially confusing when you factor in the Dolphins inconsistency in the passing game. Drake will have weeks where he is unable to break a big play, and those will be frustrating weeks for fantasy owners. With that said, his natural pass catching skills and big play ability will make him an important part of the Dolphins offense moving forward.

WR DeVante Parker, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 66 - 0 (9 targets)
DeVante Parker caught six passes for 66 yards on nine targets against the Panthers. It is the fifth time in six games that Parker has caught at least four passes for 66+ yards, and has led the Dolphins in receiving yards in four of those games. Parker is normally targeted heavily in the intermediate and deep passing game, but in this contest he saw six of his nine targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He did a good job of creating yards after the catch and also adjusting to Jay Cutlerís inaccurate throws, including a nifty catch on the sideline on a comeback route. Even so, Parker did most of his damage after the game was well out of hand and the Panthers were more focused on keeping the clock running and avoiding big plays deep down the field which explains why he saw most of his targets in the short passing game. Parker has shown no lasting effects from the injury that kept him out of three games, and continues to be the Dolphins big play threat in the passing game. Parker only has one touchdown in six games, which is disappointing because he is really the only big bodied receiver that the Dolphins have and is a mismatch in the red zone where he can use his elite athleticism and jumping ability to high point the ball on fade routes and jump balls.

WR Jarvis Landry, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 42 - 1 (10 targets)
Jarvis Landry caught five of ten targets for 42 yards and a touchdown, which marked the fifth touchdown that heís caught in his last six games. Opposing defenses know that Landry runs a majority of his routes in shallow space, where he looks to get into space and exploit one on one coverage by gaining yards after the catch. The Panthers did a great job of containing Landry after the catch, and Jay Cutler did him no favors by throw inaccurate passes that he was either unable to corral, or had to slow down to make the catch. Considering the high percentage routes that he runs, it is rather pathetic that Landry is only catching 62.8% of his targets. He has great hands, so it is not his fault and even as a smaller receiver, he is able to take punishment and hold onto the ball. This fact was evident on his touchdown catch where Cutler was able to scramble outside the pocket. Landry lined up on the right side of the formation and ran a shallow crossing route to the middle of the field. As Cutler scrambled, Landry ran into the end zone (from the five yard line) and then moved with Cutler toward the right sideline. Cutler hit him open in the end zone, but as soon as Landry caught the ball he was drilled by a Carolina defender but managed to hold onto the ball. Landry is a tough player, but even he has limits and if Cutler keeps hanging him out to dry in the middle of the field, it is going to be hard for him to stay healthy for 16 games.

WR Kenny Stills, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 67 - 0 (8 targets)
Kenny Stills caught five of his eight targets for 67 yards, which led the Dolphins pass catchers in receiving yards on the night. While Stills is the #3 option in the passing game, his eight targets were more of a function of the Dolphins having to throw nearly the entire second half, as opposed to a consistent number to rely on each week. Stills is often used as a deep threat in the Miami offense, but with the Panthers secondary slacking off the Dolphins receivers to keep them from making big plays, Stills had to settle for intermediate routes 10-15 yards down the field. His two catches of 17+ yards made him the only Miami receiver to eclipse that mark on Monday night, however it should be said that both of those catches came on play-action where Stills was wide open and he was quickly tackled after making both catches.

TE Julius Thomas, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 8 - 1 (5 targets)
Julius Thomas caught two passes for eight yards and a touchdown on five targets against the Panthers. Thomasís touchdown catch came on an interesting play where he lined up on the right side of the formation and ran behind his offensive line while Jay Cutler scrambled left and then threw him a shovel pass. Thomas was used mostly as a blocker against the Panthers and the small number of targets he did see were either thrown inaccurately by Cutler where he had no chance of making the catch, or dropped by Thomas, including one easy pass where he just took his eye off the ball trying to look downfield before securing the catch.

Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 71 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 35 - 254 - 4 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 95 - 0
In what was a controlled and mature performance from Cam Newton, the offense really came together in every way possible. After an early hiccup or two with inaccurate passes, Newton fired a pass off play action into Russell Shepard that seemed to ignite him. The Panthers utilized his legs once again on the quarterback draw on a few occasions, and he was able to break off a 50+-yard scamper late in the game on a zone read play. Newton was fortunate not to be picked off on a throw back across his body in the red zone; the defensive back allowed the ball to trickle free of his grasp. A couple of inaccurate throws Ů one to Ed Dickson and the other to Curtis Samuel Ů would have frustrated Newton, but he bounced back. His first touchdown pass was an incredible job of ball placement on a post route to Dickson in the red zone. Newton fired the pass high and away from the defender, and Dickson made his quarterback look good with a sprawling grab. Newton could have added a touchdown pass on a perfect pass to Curtis Samuel in the end zone had the rookie not dropped the ball. Newton's second touchdown pass came on a wonderfully executed bubble screen after an audible. Seeing an all out blitz look from Miami, Newton changed the play and had only to flick the ball out to Devin Funchess, who scooted up the sideline to score. Newton's third touchdown pass came on a zipped effort to Christian McCaffrey, who had run a quick out. Newton rolled that direction and fired a low ball to the rookie, who impressively hauled it in with two knees down. Newton finished off what was a near-perfect game with a back shoulder pass to Funchess for a fourth score. The cornerback in coverage was in no man's land, and the ball placement was such that Funchess could twist away and score easily.

RB Jonathan Stewart, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 110 - 0
After fumbling twice last week against Atlanta, Jonathan Stewart looked like a new man on Monday night. His first few touches were indicative of what was to come, as the Panthers offensive line blew open holes and allowed Stewart to find his rhythm. He showed good patience on a toss play to the left before later tiptoeing along the sideline to get a first down. The constant backfield movement and window dressing caused Miami problems, and Stewart was able to take advantage in the second half as the Dolphins' gap discipline faltered. Stewart ran with authority to close out the game, but was unable to break any long ones.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 23 - 1, Rec: 3 - 27 - 1 (7 targets)
While the yardage totals were not eye-popping for Christian McCaffrey, his impact was once again felt. The spry rookie showed off his incredible shiftiness in space on the Panthers' first third down, juking Kiko Alonso out of his shoes on a quick pass into the left flat. McCaffrey would repeat the feat on his rushing touchdown in the red zone. The Panthers ran a veer, with Cam Newton putting the ball into McCaffrey's belly as he came across the formation left to right. Newton pulled the ball after making the correct read, allowing McCaffrey to make a man miss and score. McCaffrey would add a second touchdown in the red zone, this time with an incredible catch near the pylon. Put in motion to the slot right, McCaffrey ran a quick out and continued to move with Newton, who had begun to roll right. Newton fired a pass low for McCaffrey to haul in, and the rookie had the presence of mind to put both knees down in bounds while making the grab.

RB Cameron Artis-Payne, 12 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 68 - 1
The third member of the Carolina backfield was able to get involved in the mauling of Miami, but most of his important touches came with the game well out of hand. However, he was able to get into the end zone on a well executed counter play. Artis-Payne has excellent feet at the line of scrimmage and is able, like backfield mate Christian McCaffrey, to stop and change direction with a suddenness that leaves defenders grabbing at air. His touchdown was an excellent example, as he delayed his burst until the gap appeared, before bursting up the middle. Artis-Payne finished the game with a fantastic gallop up the left sideline after once again showing sweet feet at the line of scrimmage in traffic.

WR Curtis Samuel, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 45 - 0 (7 targets)
In a game that finally saw Curtis Samuel become a consistently involved piece of the passing attack, he unfortunately had the injury bug bite again. Prior to the injury (early reports indicate an ankle sprain), Samuel was dragging tacklers on bubble screens and was unlucky not to haul in a back shoulder pass from Cam Newton. His most impressive catch came on an íover' route as he crossed the field between defenders. Newton's zipped pass found him in a tight area, and despite absorbing a huge hit he held on. Samuel showed his quickness and route-running ability on a couple of shorter routes before sustaining the injury. Bizarrely, the play that he was injured on could have been a touchdown. Samuel seemed to track the ball all the way, but ended up dropping it.

WR Devin Funchess, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 92 - 2 (6 targets)
A two-touchdown performance from Carolina's new full-time split end Devin Funchess will have quieted the lingering doubts about trade of Kelvin Benjamin. Funchess was slow to get into the game initially, but as the Panthers began to establish the run he came to life. Funchess found a soft spot in the zone coverage of Miami to secure a first down catch to kick things off before converting a key third down in the red zone on a slant pattern. Funchess' first touchdown came on a brilliantly executed audible from Cam Newton. Seeing an all-out Miami blitz look, Newton changed the play to a bubble screen. A quick toss out to Funchess - and a pair of great blocks to spring him - left him an easy jaunt to the end zone. The big receiver wasn't done yet and he added his second touchdown on a beautiful back shoulder hook-up with Newton. The pass was perfectly placed, allowing Funchess to pivot and waltz into the end zone.

WR Russell Shepard, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 40 - 0 (7 targets)
Russell Shepard was perhaps the only part of the offense that didn't shine on Monday night, dropping a pair of simple passes - one of which would have been a 20+-yard completion. Making up for his early errors, Shepard aggressively attacked the next target that came his way, a bullet pass on a slant off play action. This time he didn't disappoint. Shepard seemed to up his game from that point on, looking explosive on a bubble screen and converting a third down by settling down at the sticks to give Newton an easy pitch and catch.

TE Ed Dickson, 73 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 33 - 1 (5 targets)
On a night the Carolina offense was firing on all cylinders, even oft-forgotten pass catching weapon Ed Dickson got in on the act. After Cam Newton missed him on a straightforward sideline pass that was floated too high even for the towering tight end to catch, Dickson got involved with some short catches and a nice grab on a corner route. It was his sprawling effort to haul in a zipped Newton pass in the red zone that was most impressive. Dickson ran a post route to box out the defender in coverage and bobbled the ball before securing it for a touchdown.