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Revisiting the Win: Defense Shines, Offense Struggles

I can’t stress enough how huge yesterday’s win was for the Dolphins. Taking into account how badly they got out of the gates in the first two years under Sparano, and how daunting the schedule is about to become in the next 8 games, I was on record saying Sunday was a must win.

Sure, it wasn’t the blow out some fans were looking for, but at the end of the day, it counts as a win just the same. Honestly speaking, I would have been more surprised if the Dolphins took it to the Bills by two or three touchdowns, than if they were upset. It’s just a tough place to go in and get a W, and it’s been that way for years for Miami, regardless if they are the better team, or not.

But really, and I’m not saying this to insult the Bills, the Dolphins were a play or two away from running away with that game. They didn’t cease those opportunities obviously, but at least they squeaked out a win in a game that they were clearly the superior team, and didn’t win a game in which they were outplayed.

Anyway, more on that in a second, let’s get to the positives and negatives from Sunday’s win. I’m the type of guy who likes to get the negatives out of the way first, but if your the opposite, you can always skip ahead to the positives and come back to the negatives, or completely bypass the negatives if you don’t want them to spoil the victory.

Negatives

Offense was too conservative: Whether it was Dan Henning’s play-calling or Chad Henne’s decision making, it was pretty evident that the offense was extremely conservative. I mean, a three yard completion on third and five, numerous check downs, and really only one deep ball, kind of prevented the Dolphins from pulling away, and gave the Bills a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. That could have been the plan, though, with the Dolphins possessing an early lead, and with the defense playing so well. Henning may have decided he’s just going to let the defense hang on to the win, and not risk a turnover that would have compromised that. Make no mistake, though, he’s going to have to take the leash off Chad Henne, and let the offense come out of it’s shell as the Dolphins begin their most important stretch of the season.

Six mistakes nearly cost Dolphins: There were six mistakes that allowed the Bills to hang in there until the end, and kept the outcome in doubt until the final whistle. Without them, the Dolphins probably win that game convincingly. Of course, I’m sure Bills fans could point to plays where they made mistakes that cost them too. But when evaluating the Dolphins’ performance, Carpenter’s kickoff out of bounds and his missed field goal, Brandon Marshall’s dropped/Chad Henne’s under-thrown 40+ yard bomb, Tyrone Culver’s blown coverage on 4th and 11, and the two dropped interceptions by Jason Allen and Benny Sapp that would have undoubtedly been returned for touchdowns, left some points on the field and surrendered 10 more to the Bills.

Poor clock management: Is anyone else a little puzzled by the Dolphins’ clock management towards the end of that game? What was the purpose of snapping the ball with over 10 seconds on the play clock in a one score game with under three minutes left? If they would have waited until at least five seconds or less, they wouldn’t of had to run that 2nd and 5 play before the two-minute warning. Speaking of that play, what in the world was Henne thinking? The running game was pounding the rock right down the Bills’ throats. There was no need to audible to a pass there. Simply run the ball, get to the two-minute warning, and if you want to take a chance at sealing the deal with a first down, do it on third down.

Positives

How about that run defense?:
Some may point to C.J. Spiller’s preseason performance as fool’s gold. Not me. I believe Spiller, Jackson, and Lynch provide the Bills one of the most dangerous trios in all of football. That also means I’m completely sold on the Dolphins’ run defense. They contained the edge, made sure tackles, refused to concede holes up the middle, and overall, only allowed 50 yards on the ground and 2.9 yards per carry. It may be early, but it could already be safe to say Randy Starks is a true nose tackle, and the Dolphins now have all the pieces to the puzzle in their front seven.

How about that pass rush?: Karlos Dansby set the tone early, sacking Trent Edwards from the blind side on the game’s first series. The Dolphins only sacked Edwards twice more, but it was clear the pass rush was forcing him into some hurried decisions and he never really looked comfortable out there after that first hit. Word is, the Dolphins only gave us a glimpse at their new defensive playbook because they were winning their individual battles, and didn’t need to unload all of Nolan’s exotic looks. That should scare opposing offenses out there, but it won’t just yet. If they can play this well defensively against some of the top tier teams on the slate in the coming weeks, though, this defense won’t be flying under the radar for much longer.

Running game began to get going: Ronnie and Ricky didn’t exactly have their way on the ground, but combining for over 120 yards is about where we expect them to be week in and week out. I still didn’t see many holes out there, as Ronnie and Ricky were often times breaking tackles and making plays out of nothing, but the offensive line is only going to get better once they begin to establish some continuity.

Small Talk

-Numerous reports said Jared Odrick suffered a bone bruise yesterday and was limping badly after the game. Today, though, Armando Salguero reported Odrick went in for an MRI on his foot. Hopefully this is purely precautionary and nothing serious, because Odrick played a fine game yesterday and looked the role of long term answer opposite Langford.

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