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Week 15 Game Recap: Miami Dolphins 17, Minnesota Vikings 41


What you need to know

Miami Dolphins

After the Miami Miracle against the Patriots last week, the Dolphins were flattened by an angry Vikings team playing for their playoff lives. The Dolphins had an outside chance at the playoffs but needed a lot of help to make it happen. The Dolphins surrendered 21 straight points to open the game and only broke the streak on an interception returned for a touchdown. They briefly brought the game back to 17-21 before not scoring at all after their opening drive in the 3rd quarter. Frank Gore left in the first quarter with an ankle injury and dashed any chance at having a 1,000-yard season. Kalen Ballage had the best game of his career in relief but almost all of it came on a single 75-yard touchdown run. The offensive line had a horrible game and allowed 9 sacks on Tannehill. There is still a very small chance of a playoff berth with a lot of help and it all starts with a home game against the Jaguars next Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings

At this point in the season, it is a must win situation for the Vikings every week. They accomplished their first goal this week by dismantling the Miami Dolphins. Despite the crushing losses to the Patriots and Seahawks in weeks prior, the Vikings still control their playoff destiny. They have to win out to take that final spot and will need to keep playing like today in order to do so. After firing the offensive coordinator last week, the game plan finally changed, and the run game was featured heavily. The 40 rushing attempts were a season high for the team and almost doubled the number of passing attempts. Dalvin Cook looked every bit like the lead back they thought they had and the defense amassed 9 sacks in the dominating win. Kirk Cousins was not asked to do too much this week and let the team around him play. Adam Thielen did not have a major role in the offense this week, but neither did any of the other top receiving options for the team. Ty Conklin led all receivers with 53 yards and is pushing Kyle Rudolph for playing time. The Vikings travel to the Lions next week before closing things out against the Bears at home in week 17. Both games are must win if they want to make the playoffs this season.

Miami Dolphins

QB Ryan Tannehill, 53 offensive snaps, Pass: 11 - 24 - 108 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0
It was a very tough game for Tannehill this week. His offensive line let him down as he was sacked 9 times for a loss of 71 yards. He constantly had defenders in his face and it is amazing that he did not throw an interception. His longest play of the game was an 18-yard crossing route to Amendola. Tannehill's rhythm was thrown off this week due to the pressure from the Vikings and it showed with a completion percentage under 50%. After stepping up and making several big plays against the Patriots last week, Tannehill reverted this week and just could not make the plays. The Vikings are one of the best defenses he has seen all season and it showed. He is going to have another tough test against a Jacksonville secondary that is still one of the best in the league. It is going to be tough on Tannehill to close out the season, but they are must win games if the Dolphins want any chance at making the playoffs.

RB Kalen Ballage, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 123 - 1, Rec: 1 - -2 - 0 (1 targets)
After Brandon Bolden stepped up last week against his former team, Ballage got his chance this week against the Vikings. After Gore went down in the 1st quarter it was Ballage that got the carries out of the back field. He led the team with 12 carries and ripped off the longest play for either team. Ballage took the ball off the right tackles for the 75-yard score. The Vikings had committed to the other side and there was no defender close to making the play. Outside of the big run, he had 11 carries for 48 yards and it was not enough to help keep the Dolphins in the game. As a team, Miami averaged 7.8 yards per carry, but it was not enough. Ballage does not figure to see a starring role next week, even if Gore is ruled out. Expect Drake to take control of the back field again when the game is closer and on the line.

RB Frank Gore, 7 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 14 - 0
It has been a great season for Gore despite splitting playing time this season. He had an outside shot at 1,000 yards, but an early exit in the first quarter due to an ankle injury will dash any hopes of that. Gore had 5 carries before that point with a long run of 10 yards up the middle. With the game out of hand already, the Dolphins elected to not try and force him back into the game with the injury. Gore was not targeted in the passing game at all and looks like he would not have been helpful the rest of the game. Ballage ripped off a 75-yard run and was more or less shit down outside of that. It was not a great day on the ground overall for the Dolphins despite the high average and over 100 combined yards. They made runs when it did not matter and could not finish drives when the game was close. Gore should be back next week unless the team finds the injury was more serious than it originally looked.

RB Kenyan Drake, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 (3 targets)
With Gore going down early with an injury, you would think Drake would step in and take the reps. That was not the case this week as third string Kalen Ballage stepped in. Drake was only given a single carry (6 yards) and caught all 3 of his targets in the passing game. It has been a frustrating season for Drake. He has taken a back seat to Drake after being slated as the lead back coming into the year. Then he finally gets his chance with an injury and is leap frogged. Drake still appears to be the back of the future for Miami, but they have not committed to him in recent weeks. He scored the miracle touchdown last week and did not carry any of that over to this week.

WR Danny Amendola, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (8 targets)
The passing game was a nightmare for the Dolphins today. Amendola finally got looks from Tannehill today, but it was under duress. Tannehill attempted to get the ball out quickly and that threw off the rhythm with Amendola. The duo only connected on 3 of their 8 attempts this week. The 8 targets were his 3rd highest total of the season and he failed to reach 100 yards receiving again this week. Amendola has not surpassed 100 yards this season in any single game. His longest play of the game was a crossing pattern where he caught and ran for 18 yards. It was the longest play through the air for the Dolphin passing game. The Vikings did a great job tackling and none of the receivers were able to break free for the big play. Amendola is going to draw another tough game against the Jaguars next week.

WR Kenny Stills, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 17 - 0 (3 targets)
The frustrating season for Kenny Stills continues. After finally breaking free against the Patriots again last week, he was shut down again this week against the Vikings. Stills caught 1 of his 3 targets for 17 yards. It came too little too late in the game as the Dolphins had already gone down 21-0. Stills has been an enigma all season. He will have a big game with over 100 yards and a touchdown and then games where he only manages a single reception. A tough matchup against Jacksonville next week will most likely continue the frustration for Stills.

WR DeVante Parker, 19 offensive snaps (1 targets)
Another game and another single target for Parker. This week he did not even manage to catch is lone target. The Dolphins have been frustrated with Parker during his entire tenure in Miami. He has shown flashes of his high draft position but cannot sustain that success. Parker has the size and speed to be the best receiver in Miami but does not seem to fit their system. Look for Parker to be in a different uniform next season.


Minnesota Vikings

QB Kirk Cousins, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 14 - 21 - 215 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 5 - 7 - 0
It was not a banner day for Cousins, but you would not know that from looking at the final score or if you had watched the first 3 drives of the game. The Vikings roared out to a 21-point lead with Cousins and the run game clicking. Cousins kicked things off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Diggs. It was a play action pass with Cousins rolling to his right. Diggs broke free of his man in the end zone and it was an easy pitch and catch for the score. It looked to be a broken coverage by the Dolphins with Diggs as wide open as he was. Things started to unravel a bit in the second quarter with Cousins throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He targeted Diggs on a quick screen play and Minkah Fitzpatrick jumped the route and returned it 50 yards for the touchdown. This brought the Dolphins back to within striking distance, but the Vikings turned it on and never looked back. Cousins added a 40-yard touchdown pass to Robinson deep down the middle of the field. The 2-high safety look back fired when Cousins was able to find Robinson directly down the middle in the void between the 2 safeties. It was one of the best throws he made all day. Cousins was not very accurate this week (66%) and had a turnover, but the defense and the running game was able to carry them to victory. He will have another game against the Lions to try and work things out before an all-important showdown with the Bears defense in week 17.

RB Dalvin Cook, 42 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 136 - 2, Rec: 1 - 27 - 0 (2 targets)
It just took getting a new offensive coordinator for the Vikings to take the training wheels off Cook. He exploded with 163 combined yards this week and 2 impressive touchdowns on the ground. The offensive line did a much better job blocking for him and the play calling opened up all sorts of holes. Cook's first touchdown was of the 13-yard variety and he showcased his speed to the edge for the score. After bouncing to the outside, he outran the poor angle taken by the defender for the score. The second touchdown really put the game out of reach in the 4th quarter. After turning the Dolphins over on downs, Cook took a routine handoff up the middle. He was met at the line and spun away from the poor tackle of the defender. From there he sprinted 21 yards into the end zone and capped off his already amazing day. He added 27 yards on his lone reception on a swing pass down the sideline. Cook showcased his speed, power, and elusiveness this week in a dominating fashion. It was his best game of the season and is coming at a time when the Vikings desperately need it.

RB Latavius Murray, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 68 - 1
It can be tough to have enough carries to go around, especially when the lead back is hot, and the team has not featured the run all season. However, that was not the case this week as Murray still had 15 carries and scored a touchdown. He averaged a little over 4.5 yards per carry and still looks to be the go to back in short yardage situations. Murray seems to have an increased role in the new Viking offense, but it is a very small sample size so far. His biggest play was an 18-yard rush off tackle for the touchdown. He was not touched until well into the secondary and all that required was a stiff arm to a diving defender. Murray showcased his speed and vision on the impressive touchdown run. This put the Vikings up 21-0 at the time and they never looked back.

WR Stefon Diggs, 55 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 9 - 0, Rec: 4 - 49 - 1 (7 targets)
With Thielen struggling, Diggs stepped up this week for the Vikings. He led the team with 7 targets and 4 receptions. He was only a few yards behind Conklin for the team lead. His longest catch of the game was 17 yards, but the most important was his 13-yard touchdown. Diggs kicked off the scoring with one of his easiest touchdown catches of the season. The play action fake from Cousins go the defense to bite and a blown coverage left Diggs all alone in the end zone. Cousins rolled to his right and found Diggs all alone in the corner of the end zone. It was a perfect play to set the tone for the entire game for the Vikings. Diggs also did a great job blocking down field for Cook and Murray out of the back field and proved his all-around worth. The Viking offense looked good under their new coordinator this week but will have tougher tests in the next 2 weeks.

WR Aldrick Robinson, 15 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 44 - 1 (2 targets)
It was not an overly impressive game for Robinson this week, but he did step up and make a big touchdown catch. The Vikings were fading a little in the second half. Cousins had thrown an interception returned for a touchdown going in to half time and the defense gave up a 75-yard touchdown run to open the second half. In steps Robinson who made a 40-yard touchdown catch to stop the bleeding. He split the defense right down the middle of the field and caught a perfectly thrown ball by Cousins. He only had 1 other catch for 4 yards in the game but came up with the big touchdown when it mattered. Robinson has a ton of chemistry with Cousins from their days in Washington and could be a sneaky weapon for the Vikings down the stretch.

WR Adam Thielen, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 19 - 0 (2 targets)
After the spat with Belichick and then calling out the play calling in recent weeks, Thielen needed to have a big game to show that he was not all talk. Unfortunately, that did not happen this week and Thielen continues to struggle. He only saw 2 targets this week and caught both of them for less than 20 yards. This week, no receiver really stepped up and had a big game. Diggs and Robinson both had touchdown catches but did not reel off big yardage totals. The run game was working so well this week that Thielen was just not needed. Teams should not forget about what he did earlier in the year or they are going to get burned. Thielen is still a dangerous weapon in this offense and a lot is going to come down to the game plan put in by the new coordinator. The flow did not play to the strengths of Thielen, but that can easily change in the coming weeks. Look for a better showing and a more balanced attack next week against the Lions.

TE Kyle Rudolph, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 23 - 0 (3 targets)
With the new offensive coordinator taking control, we had to wonder if Rudolph was going to see a bigger role. That was not the case this week and he actually lost targets to backup Ty Conklin. Rudolph had the same number of targets, 1 more catch, but 30 fewer yards than Conklin this week. The run game imposed its will in the red zone and took away the best part of Rudolph's game. There is still the chance that the success of the run game will open up more play action passes for Rudolph, but Cousins will have to actually throw him the ball. It has been a frustrating season for the big tight end, but he needs to step his game up down the stretch if the Vikings want to have any playoff success.