In a shocking turn of events, the Miami Dolphins suffered a devastating 28-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season. The game was marked by a series of costly mistakes and a lack of execution from Miami. It left the Dolphins to rue what could have been a victory.

Week 14 Defeat

The way-too-early jubilation ensued following Raheem Mostert's second rushing touchdown within a mere 59 seconds of game time. With Mostert now sharing the franchise record for both rushing touchdowns (16) and total touchdowns (18), it seemed as though the Dolphins had sealed the victory with just 4:39 left on the clock. However, the Titans swiftly countered. They scored and executed a two-point conversion. They then stifled the Dolphins with a three-and-out, orchestrated a decisive drive down the field, and halted the Miami offense one final time. The loss was astonishing. It dropped Miami to second place in the conference, facing the NFL's most challenging remaining schedule in the last four weeks.

Miami's last glimmer of hope faded when Tua Tagovailoa succumbed to a sack on fourth down. That was one of five allowed by the beleaguered Dolphins' offensive line. The defeat marked a downturn in their record, landing them at 9-4 and trailing Baltimore by one game in the quest for the AFC's top seed. Notably, it was their inaugural home loss of the season. To compound matters, it was handed to them by a now 5-8 Titans team that had previously been winless on the road. Injuries played a pivotal role. None was more significant than an early ankle injury threatening to sideline Tyreek Hill for the remainder of the game. Despite the setback, Hill defied the odds. He returned in the second half to ignite the offense with several pivotal plays, ultimately finishing with four receptions for 61 yards. This marked only the second time this season that he concluded a game with fewer yards.

Here we will look at the Miami Dolphins who are most to blame for their Week 14 loss vs. the Tennessee Titans.

Coach Mike McDaniel's Responsibility

A total of nine penalties were called against the Dolphins in this game, showcasing a clear lack of preparation. While not all penalties were accepted, the evidence points to a coaching issue, particularly with head coach Mike McDaniel. The most detrimental penalty occurred when linebacker Bradley Chubb, frustrated for not securing a sack, tossed his helmet. They were supposed to have fourth-and-5 from Miami's 25-yard line, which likely would have resulted in a Nick Folk field goal attempt. Instead, the Titans gained a fresh set of downs and ultimately capitalized with a rushing touchdown by Derrick Henry.

The Dolphins had ample opportunities to put the Titans away, especially early in the game. However, the first three red zone trips only yielded six points. A blocked 44-yard field goal and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chubb further hindered Miami's progress. Again, this turned a potential fourth down into a first down for the Titans. As we said, this was when King Henry exploited the situation. He scored three plays later and created a four-point swing.

Defensive Coordinator Vin Fangio's Shortcomings

While Miami's defense showed strength at times, the blame for the disastrous ending falls on defensive coordinator Vin Fangio. The late-game situation exposed a lack of preparedness. Yes, some players may have been playing extended snaps due to injuries. Still, they should have been ready. This responsibility ultimately rests on Fangio.

Special Teams Struggles

In a weekend where a kicker made two field goals of 59 yards or more, Jason Sanders' 44-yard attempt late in the first half should have been routine. He missed. However, a closer look revealed blocking breakdowns. Christian Wilkins faced pressure from two Titans, and Denico Autry blocked the kick up the middle. Special teams played a role in this botched game.

Fading Offense

Tua Tagovailoa in middle of image looking stern, Will Levis and DeAndre Hopkins on either side looking happy, Dolphins and Titans logos, football field in background

The Dolphins attempted two fades in the red zone in this game. Both were unsuccessful. Fades have been a challenge for Miami this season, lacking a towering receiver with the necessary attributes. In the fourth quarter, Tua Tagovailoa targeted Tyreek Hill on a fade, resulting in an incompletion. Tagovailoa's subsequent slip forced Miami to settle for a 31-yard field goal, tying the game at 13-all. McDaniel and Tagovailoa should just stop using this ineffective tactic.

Looking Forward

With four games remaining, the Miami Dolphins still have a clear path to the top seed in the conference. Winning each game would secure a 13-4 record and a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Ravens, whom they face in Week 17. Holding a two-game lead in the division means that a Week 18 victory over Buffalo would clinch the Dolphins' first division title since 2008. While a tough loss can cloud the outlook, the 2023 team's ability to rebound will define its season in the NFL.