Thursday night we turned our televisions to a contest being billed as The Mustache vs. The Beard. On one side there was Ryan Fitzpatrick, The Beard, heading into Jacksonville at the helm of a Miami Dolphins team searching for their first win of the season. On the other side stood Gardner Minshew, The Mustache, with the keys to an offense that had dazzled so far this season.
The facial hair lived up to the hype, but the Jaguars fell behind early in this game and never recovered. Fitzpatrick willed the Miami offense down the field with sheer grit and emotion, fitting passes into tight windows and moving the sticks with his feet. He started the game hot, completing his first 12 passes, the most to start a game in his career. He finished the game 18/20 with 160 yards passing and 38 yards rushing, throwing for 2 touchdowns and rushing for another.
Minshew, on the other hand, struggled all night to crack the Dolphins’ secondary and finished the game 30/42 with 275 yards and one interception. Most of his passing yards came on check down throws and screen passes, as he leaned heavily on running back James Robinson who had 6 receptions for 83 yards. Robinson was also leaned on in the running attack but only managed 46 yards rushing, although he was responsible for the only two touchdowns that the Jaguars had all night.
On offense the struggles revolved around the inability of Jacksonville to find a deep threat in the absence of DJ Chark Jr., who missed the game with a chest/back injury. Chris Conley dropped two passes early that could have changed the course of this game, and late in the third quarter Minshew missed him on a blown coverage in the end zone.
The defensive side of this game was no better for the Jaguars. The secondary continues to be absolutely porous, and the only time the defensive backs weren’t surrendering large chunks of yardage was when they were committing numerous defensive pass interference penalties. Jacksonville has given up a touchdown on the opening drive in all 3 games this season, and found themselves down by 14 after the second drive last night. For Miami, it was their first time since 2011 with 3 touchdowns on their first 3 possessions in a game.
The only good news is that James Robinson continues to look like an absolute stud. The undrafted rookie out of Illinois State has shown he can get the job done in the backfield. Minshew also seemed to find some of his mojo in garbage time, actually leading the Jags on a 5 play, 49-yard drive before throwing an interception.
Jacksonville falls to 1-2 after last night, their next game is against the Bengals.