opening day victory over the Browns in Cleveland was an ugly affair,
unwatchable at times. Rumor has it that the NFL has ordered the first
half tape burned for the good of the game.
win over the Colts, another roadie, was a much cleaner affair. Yet
there were still enough mistakes to have easily cost the Dolphins
that day. Fortunately, they didn’t. The 24-20 win demonstrated
clear progress, a victory over a team the Dolphins lost to the
now we have the scintillating comeback in the sold out home opener
versus Matt Ryan and the Falcons. The Dolphins did not bring their
“A” game to this match. Far from it. The defense was shredded
early and often by the Falcons offense (377 yards, 146 on the
ground). QB Ryan Tannehill took another batch of hits and sacks (5),
and turned the ball over twice more on fumbles. Receivers dropped
balls, running backs missed blitz pick-ups, linemen didn’t block
the right people, defenders didn’t tackle, and defensive backs
struggled to limit WR Julio Jones (9-115).
the defense managed to tighten up just enough in the second half to
keep the home team in it, especially when it seemed the affair was
slipping away. Then Tannehill and the offense found the endzone in a
decisive drive, with rookie TE Dion Sims gathering in a lob pass over
his outside shoulder with just his left hand for the winning points.
big win makes the Dolphins a surprising 3-0, a place few felt they
would be after two road games and a home opener against a team that
was five points away from a trip to Super Bowl XLVII.
the Dolphins have been good. But they have also been fortunate. One
or two plays here or there, and it’s a disappointing 1-2 record.
how do we rationalize this performance, this team? How are they doing
start by understanding that good teams find a way to win even when
they don’t have their “A” games. Many of Don Shula’s 347 wins
came in games where his team found a way to “get the job done”,
especially when things just weren’t going their way. So give credit
to the current crew for overcoming mistakes and injuries against
quality opponents to earn Ws. This is what winners do.
also agree that offensive coordinator Mike Sherman appears to be
right about Ryan Tannehill; he may be the most improved QB in the
NFL. He has not had the benefit of a consistent running game or pass
protection, but has found ways to find receivers, complete passes,
and score TDs. Through three games, the Dolphins have the most points
in the AFC East division and Tannehill’s play is largely
responsible for that. He is a difference maker and is starting to
make people around him better. Only Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers
have a higher QB rating in the AFC.
Dolphins are also the second least penalized team in terms of yards
in the NFL, with only two fouls in the past two games. If not for the
ten flags incurred in the season opener, they would easily be the
least penalized team in the league (fouls and yards). This tells us
they don’t beat themselves, another Shula hallmark over the years.
Dolphins are winning on third down, which they didn’t do enough of
last year. Through three games, they are third in the NFL with an
even 50% conversion rate. One key conversion last week by WR Rishard
Matthews was vital in sustaining that game-winning drive.
generated by the defense have also been a key factor, as have been
timely pressures and sacks (top 10 in NFL). So have the number of
passes defended, second most in the league…which is extraordinary
given the number of injuries in the secondary. These are things good
defenses are known for, definite improvements over 2012.
we have the kicking game, where rookie K Caleb Sturgis has yet to
miss a field goal and P Brandon Fields boasts top 4 average and net
totals which have had a profound effect on field position. Sturgis
has been quite an upgrade over the departed Dan Carpenter, and Fields
will once again be considered for Pro Bowl honors.
of these things I’ve just mentioned are signs of a good team.
They’re repeatable and consistent behaviors, but not enough yet to
say with certainty that the Dolphins have a good team.
offense, the line and especially the running backs have to do better
to move the ball on the ground (currently 28th
in the NFL). And can Ryan Tannehill stay healthy for 16 games? He has
been sacked more than any other QB in the NFL (14), due to line
miscues, RB miscues, bad scheme designs, and Tannehill failing to
protect himself. At that rate, it is hard to see how he will stay
healthy over the course of the season. Protecting Tannehill is
probably the biggest concern on offense, if not the team, at the
they’ve struggled to consistently stop the run which is a big
surprise. And injuries are starting to become a concern here, with
several starters missing significant time such as Cam Wake, Paul
Soliai, and Dimitri Patterson.
say the win over the Falcons was a statement game that validates the
Dolphins as a legit playoff team. I wouldn’t go that far. Not yet.
We need to see more proof that this success is sustainable and not
just a lucky streak.
win on Monday Night Football, in the Superdome versus the 3-0 New
Orleans Saints will take skill. Win that game, and even the
staunchest skeptic will be convinced that the Miami Dolphins are for