Dol­phins lose but move up to 3rd in draft or­der

Vet­er­ans’ day: Man­ning out­du­els Fitz­patrick in bat­tle of bot­tom-feed­ers

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS MONDAY - By Safid Deen

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. — The Mi­ami Dol­phins tried to spoil Eli Man­ning’s home farewell.

Dol­phins de­fend­ers Vince Biegel, Nik Need­ham and Jerome Baker all in­ter­cepted passes from Man­ning in his fi­nal home game at MetLife Sta­dium as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Pa­trick Gra­ham’s fa­mil­iar­ity with Man­ning from coach­ing against him in prac­tice paid off for Mi­ami’s young de­fense.

That’s un­til the Giants handed the football off to Saquan Barkley, their stand­out run­ning back and former No. 2 over­all pick, who helped his team end a nine-game los­ing streak while hand­ing the Dol­phins their 11th loss of the sea­son.

Barkley scored two rush­ing touch­downs to over­come three in­ter­cep­tions from Man­ning as the Giants beat the Dol­phins, 36-20.

“He’s one of the great backs in this league,” Baker said of Barkley, who turned 24 car­ries into 112 yards against Mi­ami’s strug­gling run de­fense. “He did ex­actly what we ex­pected. You can’t stop a guy like that. You can only con­tain him, and we did not con­tain him at all.”

The tri-state area has been un­kind to the Dol­phins these past two weeks, with losses to the Jets and Giants.

But Sun­day’s loss was ben­e­fi­cial af­ter the 4 p.m. slate of games that helped the Dol­phins in the 2020 NFL draft or­der.

Af­ter the game, they re­mained stag­nant at the No. 4 pick, but wins by other teams in­clud­ing the Ari­zona Car­di­nals (over the Cleve­land Browns) and a loss by the Wash­ing­ton Redskins helped even Mi­ami’s strength of sched­ule with Wash­ing­ton.

The Cincin­nati Ben­gals fell to 1-13 Sun­day, and re­main the fa­vorite to land the top pick af­ter a blowout loss to the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots. The Giants re­main at No. 2 de­spite the win over the Dol­phins with the lower strength of sched­ule (.471).

The Dol­phins own the No. 3 pick in the draft or­der ahead of the Redskins de­spite both teams hav­ing the same strength of sched­ule at .491 due to Mi­ami’s loss to Wash­ing­ton ear­lier this sea­son.

The Giants, Dol­phins and Redskins are all tied with a 3-11 record with two games to go.

Mi­ami has an­other de­feat in hand, a slightly bet­ter draft po­si­tion for the fu­ture, and an­other re­minder of how dire this re­build­ing ef­fort could be for the fran­chise.

“We kinda beat our­selves in a lot of ar­eas,” coach Brian Flores said. “We didn’t do enough to win.”

The Dol­phins left six points on the board in the first quar­ter due to a missed field goal and a failed fourth-and-1 run by Pa­trick Laird that was a pre­cur­sor for a mo­men­tum-chang­ing play in the sec­ond half.

Quar­ter­back Ryan Fitz­patrick threw the first of two touch­down passes to DeVante Parker early in the sec­ond quar­ter, Man­ning threw a 51-yard touch­down pass to Golden Tate, and Dol­phins kicker Ja­son San­ders made a 24-yard field goal to help the Dol­phins take a 10-7 lead into half­time.

The Dol­phins opened the sec­ond half giv­ing up a touch­down drive to Man­ning, who threw a 5-yard pass to rookie Dar­ius Slay­ton that gave New York a 14-10 lead.

Fitz­patrick, who fum­bled af­ter be­ing hit on scram­ble, and Man­ning, who threw his third in­ter­cep­tion to Baker, traded turnovers in the third quar­ter. San­ders kicked a 47-yard field goal to help Mi­ami trim the lead to 1, be­fore the Giants took the reins of the game.

The Giants pinned the Dol­phins of­fense at the 1-yard line, got a tackle for loss on Laird to force a safety and a 16-13 lead for New York.

Then, Barkley scored two rush­ing touch­downs on the next two drives to de­flate the Dol­phins.

Parker added his sec­ond touch­down catch with 1:54 left in the game, which ended in a tribute to Man­ning, who likely played his fi­nal home game of his ca­reer for the Giants, com­plet­ing 20-of-28 passes for 283 yards and two touch­downs.

“They def­i­nitely caught a lot of mo­men­tum, and they fed off that,” Need­ham said. “We didn’t re­spond as well as we should have. We have to come out harder than that de­fen­sively.”

If the team records were an in­di­ca­tion, the quar­ter­back matchup was a greater in­di­ca­tor of where these fran­chises are cur­rently.

Man­ning re­ceived a rous­ing ova­tion from fans in at­ten­dance af­ter leav­ing the game on the Giants’ fi­nal drive. Two Su­per Bowl wins and MVP hon­ors in both games against the sto­ried New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots boost his 16-year re­sume that will be sub­ject of Hall of Fame de­bate.

It may be eight years since the Giants won their last the Su­per Bowl in 2011, and 12 years since Man­ning’s first ti­tle in 2007. But the Giants have been for­tu­nate enough to ex­pe­ri­ence NFL suc­cess at the high­est level in the last decade or so.

For the Dol­phins, that joy and achieve­ment hasn’t been ex­pe­ri­enced in 47 years and count­ing — nearly five decades.

Mi­ami will look to se­lect their next fran­chise quar­ter­back, among other stand­out play­ers in next year’s draft, which will be the next phase in the fran­chise re­build un­der Flores and gen­eral man­ager Chris Grier.

The Dol­phins could find them­selves in po­si­tion for the No. 2 pick in the draft — where they could se­lect a player like the tal­ented Barkley — af­ter next week where they will have their fi­nal home game of the sea­son against the Ben­gals at Hard Rock Sta­dium.

A Dol­phins loss to the Ben­gals, and a Giants win over the Redskins next week could put Mi­ami right be­hind Cincin­nati in the draft or­der. Mi­ami will travel to New Eng­land for its sea­son fi­nale on Dec. 29.

That sce­nario may be ei­ther near or far-fetched de­pend­ing on how this Dol­phins team per­forms in the fi­nal two weeks of the sea­son.

“I be­lieve in all these guys in the locker room. We want to get bet­ter,” Biegel said. “The ef­fort is not the ques­tion. It’s be­ing able to ex­e­cute at a high level.”

ADAM HUNGER/AP

Giants wide re­ceiver Ster­ling Shep­ard holds onto the ball as he sails out of bounds af­ter beat­ing Dol­phins de­fen­sive back Nik Need­ham on Sun­day in East Ruther­ford, New Jersey.

ADAM HUNGER/AP

Giants quar­ter­back Eli Man­ning (10) em­braces Dol­phins quar­ter­back Ryan Fitz­patrick af­ter the game. It may have been Man­ning’s last game.

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