AZ-MIA grades: Dolphins WRs, defensive linemen play well in close win
Miami Dolphins 26, Arizona Cardinals 23
Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Dolphins’ 26-23 Week 14 win over the Cardinals:
Quarterback grade: Ryan Tannehill, 72.9 (passing grade)
Tannehill puts together a solid display, but injury cuts his game (and season) short
Ball-handling conditions were sub-optimal in Miami to say the very least, with Ryan Tannehill and Carson Palmer each contributing a fumbled snap to the game’s tally of turnovers. But aside from a comical fumble which resulted in a 21-yard loss (and caused his overall grade to take a hit), Tannehill managed the conditions well before his game was cut short late in the third quarter with a reported ACL tear that would end his season. An interception by Marcus Cooper was the only other notable blemish on his performance, as he dodged the cloud bursts to hook up with Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills to good effect. Backup Matt Moore came through in the clutch with Kenny Stills on the final drive to keep the Dolphins very much in the playoff mix.
Top offensive grades:
RT Ja’Waun James, 83.2
WR Kenny Stills, 81.6
WR Jarvis Landry, 75.5
RG Jermon Bushrod, 68.1
RB Jay Ajayi, 67.9
Stills and Landry overcome the conditions to lead Miami’s win
Weather created havoc on ball-handling in this one, as Jay Ajayi’s performance was marred by a fumble. His offensive line also failed to create the kind of lanes that led to some big games earlier in the year. Ajayi picked up more yards after contact (56) than he did in total on the ground (49), and broke four tackles to keep the Cardinals’ defense honest. Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills both had strong games. A slip by Stills contributed to Tannehill’s one interception in the game, but he made up for that on the final drive picking up two first downs against Arizona cornerback Justin Bethel to take the Dolphins first into field goal range and then to the Cardinals’ goal-line to set up Andrew Franks’ game winning chip shot.
Top defensive grades:
DE Cameron Wake, 90.1
DT Ndamukong Suh, 85.8
DT Earl Mitchell, 77.5
DE Andre Branch, 76.5
DE Jason Jones, 76.5
Defensive line leads the charge to the playoffs
The Dolphins got back into the top six in the AFC with this victory, and it resulted from a stellar display from their leaders up front. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh combined to rack up 12 pressures on Carson Palmer, combining a couple of times on the same play to collapse the entirety of the right side of Palmer’s pocket. Suh added a further three stops against the run. Andre Branch and Jason Jones each added a pair of pressures, with Branch racking up his fourth sack in the last five games in his first year as a Dolphin. The Miami defensive line will be integral to their success in the final three weeks of the season, as they seek to prop up their underwhelming linebacking corps and proceed without their starting quarterback.
Quarterback grade: Carson Palmer, 52.7 (passing grade)
Sloppy conditions lead to sloppy football from Palmer
When his offensive line could keep Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh off him, Carson Palmer was steady if not explosive in the moist conditions in Miami. When the Dolphins’ pass rush got to Palmer (16 of his 37 dropbacks), the Cardinals’ offense and Palmer saw their performance drop off significantly. Palmer completed only four of his 12 pass attempts under pressure, good for only 3.4 yards per attempt. The comeback was on in this game, and there were flashes of 2015 Palmer, but ultimately the turnovers and a wild game in the kicking game allowed the Dolphins to squeak away with the win.
Top offensive grades:
C A.Q. Shipley, 75.6
LG Mike Iupati, 75.2
WR J.J. Nelson, 73.0
RB David Johnson, 72.3
LT D.J. Humphries, 68.9
Johnson plays well despite rough weather conditions
The weather caught up even with David Johnson in this game, as he put the ball on the ground with a fumble and a drop. But even considering those issues in the slick conditions, he put in another strong showing. Continuing to show a knack for finding the right creases, Johnson was productive on the ground, and the Cardinals got him plenty of opportunities in the passing game, even splitting him out wide to pick up key conversions and the game-tying 2-point conversion. But ultimately, the story of this game was the Cardinals’ inability to control Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh. Injuries have taken their toll on this line, with second-year tackle D.J. Humphries lost in this game, and the combination of Earl Watford and Ulrick John simply couldn’t cope with the Dolphins’ elite defensive linemen.
Top defensive grades:
CB Patrick Peterson, 85.8
S Tony Jefferson, 84.7
DE Calais Campbell, 83.8
LB Deone Bucannon, 81.1
S D.J. Swearinger, 73.7
Defensive stars shine, but injuries expose depth in key situations
The Cardinals’ top defenders held their heads high in this game, with Patrick Peterson breaking up a pass and recording a third-down stop on his only two targets in the passing game. Calais Campbell racked up three stops, as did Deone Bucannon before he was lost to injury on a nullified Ajayi touchdown run. The disparity in the Cardinals’ defense was brought into sharp focus at corner, where the likes of Justin Bethel, Marcus Cooper and Tyvon Branch playing alongside Peterson in the secondary combined to allow 186 receiving yards on nine catches, providing the big plays throughout the game to prevent the Cardinals from getting back above .500.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Miami WR Kenny Stills
PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.