three wins in a row but still one game at a time for these Dolphins.
makes Thursday’s game against the Detroit Lions the most important one yet.
week for sure, which means little time for rest.
rest is how this magnificent Dolphin defense gets the job done.
they were again, blowing up runners, harassing the quarterback, causing
turnovers, defending passes, scoring points, and stealing a win from the
the big reason why there’s still a glimmer of playoff hope in this season.
has been the key, as well as steady improvement. Really, with the exception of
the Green Bay
loss, the defense has played well enough to win every game.
steady improvement has come mostly within the secondary. Part of it has been
chemistry, of which time is the active ingredient in a formula with four new
starters. The other part has been having the right players in the mix, namely
the elevation of Mr. Yeremiah Bell as the starting Strong Safety.
move was a defining moment. Since his promotion, the defense has yielded just
14.3 points-per-game, versus the 20.7 ppg surrendered over the first seven
games. Not coincidentally, the Dolphins are 3-0 during Bell’s watch.
why is that? Simply put, Bell
is one tough hombre against the run and has a terrific nose for the ball. He
makes big plays and doesn’t let the other team make theirs.
goes for the incomparable Jason Taylor, truly liberated by Nick Saban’s scheme,
likely the best defensive player the team has ever had.
he was again, returning an interception for a touchdown, knocking down passes,
forcing fumbles, and just being an overall pain-in-the-neck to the opposition.
the normally reticent Saban, “I can’t tell you how important his leadership is
and the way he’s played and the plays that he’s making has affected every game
that we’ve played to this point.”
can’t make comparisons to other players, but in my opinion, the way he’s played
in the last three weeks, I don’t know how anybody could play any better and do
any more for their team.”
you say “NFL Defensive Player of the Year”?
no question that Taylor and his pals are a godsend to this offensively starved
team. Good thing, too. Yesterday, it was as if Alan Page, Carl Eller, and the
rest of the Purple People Eaters came back to life as the Dolphins finished
with minus-3 yards rushing (a new ignominious team record).
run defense is near impenetrable. Defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams are
why, figuratively and literally. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and
then, making the Dolphin ground assault against the Vikings beyond pathetic.
Joey Harrington. To those who say that Harrington is Jay Fiedler all over
again, I say you are wrong. Harrington (arm strength, quick release) is better
than Fiedler, just not good enough to consistently carry a team without some
semblance of a running game.
again, don’t forget the 17 points wasted by others’ mistakes (a fumble inside
the five yard line by Ronnie Brown, an illegal block penalty by Justin Peelle
nullifying a touchdown pass, and a missed field goal by Olindo Mare). Those are
unforced errors, the worst possible kind, endemic to this unit all season long.
Vermeil has a tried and true formula for predicting success: a combination of
runs and pass completions adding up to 50 or more. The Vikings passed this
litmus test (61) and the Dolphins failed it (40). Yet the Dolphins still won
the game because of scoring defense (14 points).
an odd way to get over for sure, but nevertheless a testament to the
resourcefulness of a defensive unit that simply refuses to give up on a season still
on the wrong side of the win column.
a forest-for-the-trees fact for all of Dolphin Nation to consider: this team
has now managed to find itself one game ahead
of last year’s 10 game pace (3-7 vs. 4-6).
more: a win on Thursday against the woeful Lions will get the Dolphins to 5-6
and on the doorstep of the land of the living. A win thereafter at home against
the Jacksonville Jaguars puts the Dolphins at .500 ball.
there, with head-to-head tiebreakers in hand over the Chiefs and Jaguars, a realistic
discussion on the team’s playoff chances can begin.
now, I’ll let others mull those long prospects over. This team is still in
pretty deep stuff. Finishing the season at.500 would be an excellent (and
realistic) achievement given the 1-6 start they had.
don’t tell that to Taylor
and the Dolphin defense. We get the sense that they won’t be satisfied with
them, there are at least six more games to