Watching the Dolphins play defense in the past few years has been frustrating to say the least. Yards after yards given up bring out a collective sigh among the fanbase, that's until the opposing team reaches the redzone. The "Bend but don't break" mentality in football may not look good on film, or on the statsheet when it comes to the stats people pay the most attention to, but when it comes to the number that is the most important, points given up, the bend don't break mentality shines through.
Last Sunday against the Colts, there were four examples of this style of defense. Four drives in which a touchdown would have proven costly at the end of the game. The first two Colts drives produced 3 points despite amassing 115 yards. After giving up a touchdown on the next drive the Dolphins defense toughened up. Other than a touchdown late in the second quarter, the Dolphins didn't give up more than 35 yards on another drive until the final Colts possession of the game.
While this drive may not have the final yardage total to fully support the bend and break mentality, the final play is a perfect example of how you win games when you have a tendency to give up a lot of yards. After starting at their own 39 yard line, Andrew Luck drove his team down the field to Miami's 34 yard line. This is well in Colts' kicker Adam Vinatieri's field goal range so simply getting them off the field on third down at this position of the field would probably have resulted in 3 points for the Colts, which would have allowed them to be much more conservative on their final drive. Luckily for the Dolphins, new addition Brent Grimes was there to save the day.
The Brent Grimes interception was the most important play of the game. Indianapolis had all the momentum and looked certain to score before a fantastic play from the former-Falcon. Luck escaped pressure from Randy Starks before launching the ball towards Reggie Wayne. Grimes adjusted his position and got in front of Wayne as the ball was thrown in their direction, an athletic play that saw Grimes get his first interception of the season.
When the Colts got the ball back with 3:57 left on the clock, they were at their own 14 yard line needing a touchdown and nothing less to have a shot at winning the game. Within the blink of an eye they were gaining huge chunks of yardage. With just over 2 minutes left on the clock, Andrew Luck found Reggie Wayne to complete a pass that would see them reach the Dolphins 23 yard line. This is where the Brent Grimes interception becomes crucial. As I said before, if they get 3 points from the previous drive all they have to do here is run the ball and kill the clock, allowing Vinatieri to kick a game winning field goal in the dying seconds. Instead they had to be aggressive, the Dolphins took full advantage and on 4th down sent several linebackers on the blitz, resulting in Philip Wheeler getting the sack to almost certainly end the game. The fact that they couldn't convert on 4 chances after getting the ball on the 23 yard line shows the strength of the Dolphins "bend but don't break" defense.